The annual FOOD & WINE Classic (June 15-18) is undoubtedly Aspen’s tastiest…and toughest ticket of the summer. This year marks the legendary festival’s 35th anniversary, and more than 5,000 foodies will descend upon Aspen to indulge in the three-day culinary celebration. The Grand Tasting Pavilion is the epicenter of the weekend, with endless food and wine tastings, while lively cooking demonstrations, interactive seminars, and panel discussions are held at additional venues all over town.
Despite the hefty price tag (around $1,400 per pass), access is long gone—the event sells out by March. But, if you’re a local sans pass or decide on a last-minute weekend getaway, you can still be a part of the action. Thanks to the Food & Wine Classic folks, open-to-the-public events continue to get added into the mix of other unofficial festivities every year.
In a fun, superfan twist to this year's scene, keep an eye out for "Top Chef" camera crews, who have been filming the Bravo hit's latest season in Denver since May, and will be taping an episode on Friday, June 16. While guest spots to the challenge filled up instantly (there was an open casting call on the Food & Wine Classic's Facebook page, ICYMI), you never know if they might be looking for last minute extras.
Follow us (and your favorite celebrity chefs) around the Food & Wine Classic all weekend for the best bites, standout sips, and chef shenanigans on social media @aspensojourner and share your experience with us using the hashtags #SOJOEATS #SOJOSIPS #FWCLASSIC. And if you’re a lucky passholder, don’t forget to download the official Food & Wine Classic app to help you navigate the tents.
1. The Little Nell Champagne Party
Thursday, June 15 & Friday, June 16, 10:30 p.m.–1:30 a.m, Chair 9 at The Little Nell
With a 20,000+ bottle wine cellar and award-winning cuisine, the iconic Little Nell is pretty much the unofficial headquarters during the Classic. For the second consecutive year, Chair 9 opens its lounge to the public for a trio of late night soirees presented by Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot featuring electric violinist Kat V of Chicago. No cover, no list, no reason not to stay up with The Little Nell. Cash bar with drink specials and bar menu available, thelittlenell.com
2. Rustic Grind
Thursday, June 15, 6:30–8:30 p.m., Snowmass Base Village
Snowmass Free Concert Series has teamed up with Cochon555 for an ultimate al fresco evening on Fanny Hill to kick-off Food and Wine Classic festivities. Pairing musical guests SEE-I Reggae Funkmasters with culinary experiences curated by the dynamic team behind Heritage Fire, expect wood-fired grills loaded up with heritage breed proteins from animals raised with safe, honest methods on family farms in Colorado. The smoky fare will be paired with premium tipples like Breckenridge Distillery Bourbon Punches and Smoked Old Fashioneds, Courvoisier Cognac slushes, and artisanal wines. $40 wristband (all-inclusive), free (music only), cochon555.com
3. Jimmy's 20th Anniversary Benefit
Thursday, June 15, 11 p.m., Jimmy's Bodega
Celebrate 1997, the year that started it all for Jimmy Yeager with a late night bash in support of Share Our Strength and the Helen David Relief Fund. A team of guest bartenders from Occidental in Denver will serve up a special menu of signature craft cocktails and fried chicken. No cover, jimmysaspen.com
4. Food & Wine Classic 5K Charity Race
Friday, June 16, 7–9:30 a.m., Rio Grande Park
Earn those extra calories on this early morning run through downtown Aspen with your favorite foodies. Proceeds from registration benefit Wholesome Wave, the national non-profit founded by Chef Michel Nicshan and dedicated to supporting small and midsize farms, and making fresh, healthy, locally grown produce available to underserved communities. $30 (advance), $40 (on site), foodandwine.com
5. The Great Domaines of France Dinner
Friday, June 16, 7 p.m., element 47 at The Little Nell
Hosted by Master Sommeliers Shayn Bjornholm and Jay Fletcher, this five-course, wine paired dinner is a benefit for the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation, an organization that sends supports sommeliers in their wine studies, including sending them on enrichment trips around the world. Just 20 seats are available for this exclusive, private dinner on the patio. $850, thelittlenell.com
6. Krug Champagne Lunch & Legacy of Opus One Dinner
Saturday, June 17, 12 p.m. & 7 p.m., element 47 at The Little Nell
Executive Chef Matthew Zubrod and Wine Director Carlton McCoy, M.S., are the masterminds behind this two-meal wine and culinary experience in partnership with two of the world's most esteemed wineries. Krug will present a special lunch with a national representative leading you through the entire portfolio, beginning with different bottlings of its multi-vintage–dating up to 20 years ago. Among the exclusive bottlings, you’ll also enjoy Krug’s Single Vineyard Blanc de Blancs Clos de Mesnil.
Opus One will present a vertical tasting from the first vintage in 1979 to the current release of 2014, focusing on the most highly rated, best vintages.” The Vice President of the winery will be present to speak to the history of the partnership between the Rothschild and Mondavi families, their winemaking vineyards, and the past, present and future of Opus One. $2,000 per person, thelittlenell.com
7. Portugese Takeover: George Mendes x Abe Conlon
Saturday, June 17, 4–7:30 p.m., Chefs Club at The St. Regis
Chef George Mendes, chef and owner of New York City’s Michelin-starred Aldea and Lupulo, and Chef Abe Conlon, of celebrated Chicago restaurant Fat Rice come together for one evening celebrating the vibrant food of Portugal. Through a special four-course menu, the two chefs will showcase their unique take on the region. The menu will be offered as a prix-fixe, which will include wine pairings from Wines of Portugal with select dishes also available à la cart. Reservations required, chefsclub.com
8. Heritage Fire
Saturday, June 16, 4 p.m.–7:30 p.m., Snowmass Base Village
This epic live-fire feast showcases local chefs Andrew Helsley (Elk Camp), Jim Butchart (Elk Camp), Flip Wise (Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar), Patrick Kennedy (Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar), Steve Nelson (Plato's), Ashley Jenkins (Viceroy Snowmass), and Will Nolan (Viceroy Snowmass), along with more than 50 notable chefs and butchers who go nose to tail on 3,500 pounds of heritage breed meats and plenty of wine and cocktails to wash it all down. VIP ticket holders will be welcomed with fried chicken at a pre-reception and will have access to a specially prepared menu and priority tastings. $125 (general admission), $200 (VIP), cochon555.com
9. Breckenridge Distillery's Bourbon & Brass Night
Saturday, June 17, 9:30 p.m.–1:30 a.m., Rickhouse Social
Breckenridge Distillery presents the official Heritage Fire after party for a night of New Orleans style sounds, food, and cocktails with live music from the Denver-based brass band Guerilla Fanfare. No cover, RSVP required, nightout.com
10. Farewell Feast: A Bubbly Brunch
Sunday, June 18, 11 a.m., Hotel Jerome
For the first time ever, Food & Wine is hosting a festive send-off brunch featuring delicious dishes from celebrity chefs including award winning pastry chef and author Johnny Iuzzini, Alvin Cailin of eggslut, the LA cult favorite, and more. Bottomless sparkling wine and bubbly cocktails inclued—all at the historic Hotel Jerome. $125, foodandwine.com