Image above: The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen offers plenty of bites to sample. Photograph by Marc Fiorito, courtesy Food & Wine
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
It means something when you’re everyone’s favorite party of the year in a town known for its parties. The annual bacchanal put on by Food & Wine magazine for the past 36 years overtakes Aspen like nothing else. In addition to 80-plus seminars and cooking demos, five grand tastings at the huge tent complex in Wagner Park, and evening special events, a sideline festival of sorts takes place: wineries, liquor brands, nationally known restaurants, and others vie for the attention of the culinary luminaries and big spenders in town for the weekend by hosting invite-only parties and dinners at bars, event spaces, and private homes. Though Classic passes are spendy ($1,600–$1,700), hundreds of locals volunteer for the fest, giving it more of a community feel than one might expect. On the menu this year, appearances by Classic regulars Jacques Pépin, Hugh Acheson, Richard Blais, Alex Guarnaschelli, Carla Hall, Marcus Samuelsson, Gail Simmons, and Andrew Zimmern. Various venues in downtown Aspen
Best over-the-top seminar: Every year, wine expert Mark Oldman hosts sessions with tongue-in-cheek names for exponentially wealthier audiences; this time it’s Wines for Quadrillionaires (June 14 and 15). For the occasion, Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars bottled its Cask 23 cabernet in a custom-made 27-liter primat—the equivalent of 36 bottles. The bottle, sourced from Italy, weighs 120 pounds when full, and a refrigerated truck will transport it to Aspen in time for Oldman’s seminar.
Two Classic “rookies”: The legendary Martha Stewart gives a summer entertainment cooking demo (June 14)—expect no less than perfection. And Food & Wine Editor in Chief Hunter Lewis interviews celebrated food writer and TV host Ruth Reichl (June 15); her new memoir, Save Me the Plums, covers her time at Gourmet, where she was editor in chief until the magazine closed in 2009.
Special plates: On June 15, three new, separately ticketed collaboration dinners showcase Rick Bayless and Jason Vincent (at the St. Regis); Andrew Carmellini and Kate Williams (at the Hotel Jerome); and Jonathan Waxman and his team, who will re-create the soon-to-close NYC restaurant Barbuto for a night at The Little Nell.
Extra course: It’s not technically a part of the Classic, but Cochon 555’s Heritage Fire (June 15) has become no less of a Food & Wine–weekend tradition. The Snowmass Base Village culinary extravaganza showcases open-fire, whole-animal cookery, as 50-some chefs and butchers from around the region set up their “kitchens” on Fanny Hill for the day, then serve up the delicious results in creative ways. Wine and cocktails enhance the festive event, which raises money for Piggy Bank, a nonprofit that champions heritage-breed swine. For a more affordable take on the same theme, check out Rustic Grind, a preview of the main event that coincides with the free Thursday night Snowmass concert (June 13).
Instead of sampling random wines in the main tent, pick a theme. For example, study up at the seminar The Rosé Lifestyle of St. Tropez (June 14), then focus on pinks at that afternoon’s grand tasting.
Snowmass Wine Festival
With dozens of big-name vintners and spirits makers—including local favorites like Woody Creek Distillers and Marble Distilling Company—this festival offers much of the fun and less of the hassle than the grand tastings at its distant Aspen cousin (the Food & Wine Classic)—plus a more reasonable price tag ($95–$105). Organized by the Rotary Club of Snowmass Village, the festival raises funds for both local and international nonprofits, as well as college scholarships. The night before the grand tasting, travel in spirit to South America at the Argentinean Wine Dinner at the Viceroy Snowmass, a four-course meal with eight pairings. Town Park, Snowmass Village
Bring your kids to ogle cool cars and motorcycles at the Aspen Snowmass Motoring Classic, which takes place simultaneously in the other half of Town Park; alternate with another parent between watching the youngsters and sampling wines.