The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen returns—and the wine pros give us a preview of three amazing days in September.
After a one-year hiatus, the Aspen Food & Wine Classic (Sept. 10 to 12) triumphantly returns to the Rockies. For those who love wine and this mountain town, last year’s break was almost too much to bear. But come fall, it will be time to again make toasts with familiar faces and friends from Classics past.
Attendees will once more raise glasses alongside Ray Isle, a perennial presenter of wines at the Classic and the executive wine editor at Food & Wine, who is just glad to be back. “Most of all, I missed just being in Aspen,” he says. “It felt really strange and, honestly, sad to have it not happen last year.” This year, he will conduct a seminar pairing wines with… potato chips? Yes, that’s how this unpretentious wine personality rolls. “Potato chips are great for talking about how food interacts with wine, because the flavors you can get are so clear,” he says, noting the tastes include saltiness, black pepper (spiciness), salt and vinegar (sour), and barbecue (sweet). “It’s incredibly fun. Plus who doesn’t want to eat potato chips and drink wine?”
Wine educator Anthony Giglio will regale guests at his “Italian Happy Hour” seminars.
Celebrating a quarter century of pouring great juice at the Classic is the always-gregarious and ebullient Anthony Giglio. “I’m beyond thrilled to be back for my 25th Food & Wine Classic,” he says. “I’m looking forward to morning coffee at Victoria + Co. (Victoria often keeps a stash of an Australian hangover cure.) I’m also looking forward to just being in Aspen—mountain air, blue skies and some of the nicest people on the planet.” This year, Giglio hosts a pair of seminars under the moniker “Italian Happy Hour.” “The drinks will be bubbly and eye-opening,” Giglio says. “And it will be 6PM in Rome. Perfect time for an aperitivo.”
Mark Oldman, seen here with chef Jacques Pépin winging their way to a previous Classic, will guide attendees through a flight of “Wines for Quintillionaires”
Also look for wine entrepreneur Mark Oldman, whose wildly popular wealth- and wine-themed seminars have escalated from “Wines for Millionaires” to billionaires and, this year, quintillionaires. “Schrader Cellars, the auction-grade cult cabernet, is providing big bottles of its sublime juice,” Oldman notes with pride. “And the biggest bottle of all is being custom-made by Napa’s venerable Beaulieu Vineyard. They’re putting the 80th-anniversary vintage of the vineyard’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve cabernet into one of the largest bottles ever to grace a food festival.” (Oh, and a quintillion is a one followed by 30 zeros. A big number, even for Red Mountain.)
There are Classic opportunities to taste great varietals.
And everyone is looking forward to convening with the crew from Wines from Spain. Since 1992, the trade association representing Spanish winemakers has been an icon at the Classic. At the Grand Tastings, they offer a taste of Spain in a glass and a plate of paella. “My first stop every year is the Wines from Spain Tent,” says Giglio. “I love the energy there. They decorate it beautifully, and the producers are often congregated in the middle as if in a giant, tented European piazza-plaza. Usually holding court is Katrin Naelapaa, director of Wines from Spain, who takes me around to meet new producers or old friends.”
Naelapaa says opening parties and luncheons have made Wines from Spain such a part of the Aspen summer experience. “I remember when we were setting up our opening party at the Baldwin Gallery—maybe 2008—when we heard about this chef in Washington, D.C., who had worked at El Bulli. We brought José Andrés into Aspen, and he stole the show.” For the next 10 years, Andrés was a fixture at the Classic’s unofficial opening parties. Naturally, look for more surprises this year.
Photography by: ZAN WRUE/UNSPLASH, ANTHONY GIGLIO, MARK OLDMAN, ELLE HUGHES/UNSPLASH