December 8, 2019
The story behind the Aspen Art Museum’s wine fundraiser is one worth toasting.
Master sommelier Jay Fletcher sources nearly 800 bottles of wine for three days of ArtCrush.
Ruby red. That is the color to wear for this year’s WineCrush dinner, held at the home of Amy and John Phelan. “I’ve never been to an event that has so many old and rare wines in one room as there are at the WineCrush,” says master sommelier and Aspen Art Museum wine director Jay Fletcher of the lineup of fine wines he will be pouring. He should know, as he has been procuring the wines and providing a staff of master sommeliers to serve them for the last 20 years—going back to the day when the event was still called Howl at the Moon.
This is the 15th anniversary of ArtCrush, Aspen’s most prestigious gathering celebrating art, philanthropy and wine. Not necessarily in that order. Over the previous 14 years, approximately $28 million has been raised in support of the AAM’s mission to bring the newest, most important evolutions in international contemporary art to the people. “ArtCrush is simply the AAM’s most vital source of annual funding for all our programming,” says Heidi Zuckerman, the Nancy and Bob Magoon CEO and director of the museum.
“In 2005, my first summer as director, we put a tent up over the parking lot of the old AAM facility at 590 North Mill Street for our very first, single-night event,” says Zuckerman about the genesis of the current ArtCrush. Now, the globally recognized soiree extends over three stellar evenings and includes, along with the WineCrush dinner, a night of auction previews and happenings at the Baldwin and Casterline|Goodman galleries for PreviewCrush Thursday, Aug. 1, and the Gala ArtCrush dinner and live auction at Buttermilk Friday, Aug. 2. The festivities wrap up with AfterPartyCrush that night at Belly Up with guest DJs The Bloom Twins.
For those who consider wine an art form, ArtCrush is a world-class exhibition. As curator, Fletcher handsources close to 800 bottles of wines of impeccable pedigree from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and the SommFoundation’s Old and Rare Cellar for both of the featured dinners. “For ArtCrush, we pour wines that you just don’t see in one place. Great wines from Burgundy [Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti 1988 in the 6-liter format], Bordeaux [Château Haut-Brion, 1961], Italy [Aldo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Granbussia 1990] and Australia [Penfolds, Grange Hermitage 1985] are all represented.”
Fletcher’s handpicked staff of sommeliers from Matsuhisa, The Little Nell, 7908, Caribou Club, Cache Cache and Jimmy’s synchronize service of two flights of wine with each of four formally plated courses served during the dinners at WineCrush. The ArtCrush evening at the base of Buttermilk sees 650 diners and art bidders enjoying top vintages of wines from the likes of legendary names Heitz Cellar, Joseph Phelps and Caymus. Over the years, 11 master sommeliers, all previously mentored by Fletcher, have poured at ArtCrush events.
The process is daunting even for a wine professional like Fletcher. Consider that before the events, he decants each of the rare wines in his home and transports them so they have time to breathe before being served. “Aspen is one of the greatest wine towns on earth,” says Fletcher, “and ArtCrush is Aspen’s premier wine event.”
ARTCRUSH 2019 AGENDA
Hosted by Amy and John Phelan at private residence
PreviewCrush – Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, 6-8pm
Preview Extra – Casterline|Goodman Gallery, Aspen, 6-8pm
ArtCrush – Buttermilk Ski Area, 6pm
AfterPartyCrush – Belly Up Aspen
Photography by: BFA/Owen Kolasinski/Aspen art museum