Telluride Wine Fest 2017: “Choose Your Own Adventure” & More

Telluride Wine Fest 2017: “Choose Your Own Adventure” & More

The 2017 Telluride Wine Festival takes place Thursday, June 22 – Sunday, June 25. Don’t have a pass? Don’t pass. This year’s weekend is billed as Choose Your Own Adventure” – though some events are reserved for pass-holders and patrons only. For a full schedule, go here. For ticket information, go here. 

Please scroll down for details galore, including about this year’s Science of Cocktails event, a fundraiser for the Pinhead Institute in collaboration with Wine Fest.

And if you like to pair jazz with your wine, check out the performance schedule of the Kevin McCarthy Band. The group is playing at select venues all weekend.


The times they are a changin’.

In the world in general – for better (ask Paul Hawken) and for worse (ask almost everyone else).

Ditto in the world of wine.

Thanks (or not) to a technological revolution, including chemical shortcuts – pumps and powders– the gap between fine and commercial wine is shrinking. And some believe these mass-marketed bottles from companies like Treasury Wine Estates, E & J Gallo, and Constellation Brands provide the rough equivalent of training wheels for future oenophiles.

If you are a cork dork, please lose the scowl right now: holier than thou belies the facts.

Turns out winemaking has mixed art and science forever and a day. Ancient Romans, for example, doctored their grapes with pig’s blood, marble dust, lead, and sulfur dioxide. French winemakers have been treating their wines with egg whites (for mouth-puckering tannins) for centuries. And chemicals like tartaric acid already occur naturally in grapes. Except for the preservative sulfur dioxide, more than 60 additives can be legally added – and undisclosed – by winemakers.

The Telluride Wine Festival is an annual celebration that brings together wine experts, sommeliers, winemakers, distributors, famous chefs, foodies, guests, and locals to eat, drink, and make merry all over town and in Mountain Village at seminars, picnics, luncheons, and dinners. But if your thinking has been that Wine Fest is strictly an uptown affair targeting peeps who prefer crystal to KOTO plastic, think again. Rather than an “us” and “them,” the focus this year at the 36th Annual Telluride Wine Festival, in lockstep with this national movement to democratize decent wine, is all about choosing your own adventure.

Should it really have to matter if a person can’t tell a good Bordeaux from a bottle of Boone’s Farm?

Shouldn’t it really be all about individual preferences? What a person finds yummy? High and low brow comfortably coexist in the world of music, art, fashion, film, and theatre. Why not in the world of wine? After all, “Wine is the only thing that makes us happy as adults for no reason,” (cartoonist Saul Steinberg).

“This year’s Wine Fest is not about being tied to a pass. We designed the weekend as an opportunity for attendees to choose their own adventure by cherrypicking the schedule to decide which events feel unmissable and fun,” explained Sarah Harkness, pr & marketing director.

With that sparkling thought in mind, read on about the weekend highlights.


Telluride Wine Festival 2017, Overview:

Featuring over 30 events, this year’s Telluride Wine Festival introduces a Culinary Village and a Thursday night Speakeasy to its lineup. The 2017 Festival includes an expanded offering of both beer and spirits to complement the numerous wineries in attendance. After being named a qualifier for the World Food Championships in 2016, this year marks a movement towards a larger focus on international and regional culinary arts.

Kicking off on Thursday, June 22, the Telluride Wine Festival opens with the iconic Toast of Telluride, a progressive wine and food tasting hosted by various galleries, shops, and restaurants around town. Later that evening, attendees are encouraged to find the late-night Speakeasy held at a secret location, stocked with handcrafted spirits and other diversions of questionable repute.

On Friday the celebration continues with the grand opening of the Inaugural Culinary Village in Mountain Village’s Heritage Plaza. This new addition to the festival features live cooking demonstrations on the Colorado Ag Stage, performances by local musicians, an artisan food and craft tent, Colorado wines and food tastings, and a spirits tent complete with mixologist demonstrations and signature cocktails.

Later that evening, the Telluride Wine Festival ventures into experimental territory with its first ever cannabis, wine, and food pairing dinner in one of the area’s finest private homes. The “Consumption with Intention” Cannabis Pairing Dinner provides an opportunity for guests to enjoy four different strains of locally-grown cannabis paired with complementary wine varietals and culinary creations. The orchestrated pairing provides a relaxing, yet structured environment for attendees to learn directly about Colorado’s newest tourist attraction, guided by a dispensary owner, a professional chef, and a master sommelier.

Throughout the weekend, guests will have the option of attending individual luncheons and seminars at unique venues and homes throughout the area. Each restaurant luncheon hosts a single winery, which gives attendees a greater understanding of the vineyard and the wines being poured that day. In contrast, picnics in the surrounding area are learning events, each one featuring a different topic and at least four different wines.

Also in 2017, the Telluride Wine Festival brings wine country to the San Juans with its new Private Reserve Tastings. Lasting 45 minutes each, these tastings provide attendees an intimate opportunity to taste a flight of wines from one of six world-class wineries alongside its principal or winemaker, all at different locations throughout Mountain Village.

The culmination of the Telluride Wine Festival remains the iconic Grand Tasting on Saturday afternoon. Set against sweeping views of the Wilson Range in Mountain Village, the Grand Tasting is America’s highest wine tasting, featuring four hours for attendees to sample and enjoy wines from all over the globe and food from regional restaurants.

The brand new Sunday Brunch on Main Street is meant to showcase Telluride’s best restaurants as they whip up breakfast offerings for over 600 attendees. Guests will be seated at a three-block long banquet table stretching down the median of Colorado Avenue, framed by Telluride’s iconic views.

Telluride Wine Festival prides itself on bringing some of the top personalities from the worlds of wine, spirits, and culinary together in one place and this year is no different.

The 2017 Telluride Wine Fest features the following culinary artists: Tuscon’s Chef Charleen Badman; James Beard nominated Chef Dean James Max; kitchen magician, Chef Ian Kleinman; 2003 James Beard Centennial Honoree and returning guest, Chef James Reaux; President & CEO of the American Culinary Federation Pikes Peak Chapter, Chef Dathan Dirnberger; and one of the best butchers in the country, Chef Jason Nauert.

Winery principals include Mike Sullivan, winemaker at Benovia; Randall Watkins of Laurel Glenn; Lise Ciolino of Montemaggiore; Tres Goetting of Biale; Michael McCullough of Drew Family Wines; and James MacPhail of The Calling.

Chef Ian Kleinman,. kitchen magic

New & Newsworthy Highlights, a brief review:

Speakeasy $65, Thursday, June 22, 9 – 11:30 p.m., Sheridan Opera House Side Bar.

Channel your inner Gatsby or Daisy and party down a dark alley at the secret entrance to Thursday night’s roaring party. Step back in time when Prohibition was the law of the land and elegant parties still raged in hidden speakeasies. Flappers and gangsters should feel free to dance the night away, while imbibing beer, wine, and spirits, including signature cocktails.

There will be live entertainment too, plus music, dancing, and a men’s and women’s costume contest. (The winner will receive a VIP ticket to next year’s Festival.)

Drinks are included in the price of the ticket.

The event: a perfect pairing of naughty and nice.

Attendees will have to know the password to get in…”Red Truck.”

Consumption with Intention: A Mountaintop Food, Wine, and Cannabis Culinary Pairing Private home, Friday, 7 – ? p.m.

No, you aren’t seeing things, this is Colorado after all.

This cannabis, cuisine, and wine pairing dinner is for attendees who might enjoy a walk on the wildish side and are a bit, well, experimental and adventurous.

For further details, see above.

Private Reserve Tastings ($20), Friday, June 23, 11-6 pm at Madeline Hotel & Residences, Inn at Lost Creek, Franz Klammer, and Lumiere, all in Mountain Village.

Telluride Wine Festival is bringing the tasting room to Telluride. Meet the principals of some of the country’s premiere wineries as you taste through flights of their most iconic wines.

Tastings are held every hour on the hour at various locations throughout Mountain Village (indicated above).

Participating wineries include: Lasseter Family Wines, Michael David, Montemaggiore, Robert Biale, Laurel Glen, Benovia, The Calling, Gloria Ferrer, and Oakville East.

Culinary Village, Friday, June 23, 1-7 p.m. Saturday, noon – 7 p.m, Heritage Plaza, also in Mountain Village.

Immerse yourself into the magic of Colorado with local wines from across the State. Meet the Father of Colorado wine, Bennett Price, at his Debeque Canyon winery table and learn the history of Colorado winemaking.

Taste local spirits brands in the Spirits Tent and sample new concoctions every hour prepared by one of the experts on Wine Fest’s roster of master mixologists.

Relax with a brew from the Biergarten and watch a free culinary demonstration hosted by a celebrity chef on the Main Stage and sponsored by the Colorado Dept of Agriculture. Demonstrations include the carcass cutting of an entire pig on-stage by butcher Jason Nauert.

Later, dance to the sounds of local bands all day, while you shop and peruse artisan and gourmet kitchenware, bar ware, crafts, and specialty food items.

Pinhead Institute’s 7th Annual Science of Cocktails, Elks Park, Saturday, June 24, 6 – 9 p.m.

For this fundraiser, the Telluride Wine Festival partners with The Pinhead Institute. The nonprofit invites everyone to enjoy an intoxicating evening featuring libation creations from some of Telluride’s best and most imaginative mixologists.

Brunch on Main Street, Colorado Avenue, Telluride, Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m.

A three-block-long banquet table running down the center of Colorado Avenue? This is the first time that Main Street Telluride has shut down for a communal dining experience. The only thing better than the food and drink might be the view.

Sport your best Sunday bonnet or SPF: brunch is not tented.

Event sponsors include Gloria Ferrer Vineyard & Caves,Tito’s Vodka, Chateau D’Esclans.

Participating restaurants are: RBG, Kendra’s Kitchen, High Pie, Shanghai Palace, La Cocina del Luz, and more.

(Further details above.)

Kevin McCarthy Band, all weekend.

Kevin McCarthy performs with his jazz band all weekend at Wine Fest.

Thursday, June 22, Mountain Lodge,  5 – 6 p.m. and 7 – 9 p.m.

Friday, June 23, Mountain Village Core, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 24, Mountain Village Pond, 2 – 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 24, Element 52 Terrace, 7 – 8p.m.

Sunday, June 25,Telluride Main Street, 10 – 11:30a.m.


Events for Patron/Saveur Pass Holders Only:

Walk on the Wild Side Patron Dinner, Private Home 7 – 10 p.m.

Every year, the Telluride Wine Festival’s Patron Dinner is the culinary capstone of the weekend. Featuring wild game from the bounty of the Colorado wilderness and beyond, paired with super-premium wines from the best wineries in the country, this exotic farm-to-table feast will no doubt be an eyes-wide-open (mouth too) culinary adventure.

VIP Poster Signing with Nicole Finger, Gold Mountain Gallery, 135 W Colorado Ave, 5 – 6:30 p.m. for Patrons; 
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. for Saveurs.

Telluride’s Gold Mountain Gallery is proud to host Wine Fest’s VIP Champagne Reception and Poster Signing. Meet the 2017 poster artist, Nicole Finger, indulge in some bubbly, and rub elbows with fellow Patrons. Stay for a while or mosey on down the street to your next stop on the Toast of Telluride tour.

Free Events:

Seminar: Introduction to Wine Tasting, Elk’s Park, Friday, 3:30 pm – 4:30 p.m.

Clueless about Cabernet? Could not pick out a Chardonnay – never mind pronounce the word? This seminar is for newbies who are wading cautiously into the world of wine, but also for long-time oenophiles looking for a refresher course.

Learn tasting basics, understand varietals, and more.

Seminar: The Ultimate Sundae Cooking Demonstration, Elk’s Park, Friday, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. 

Join Chef Ian Kleinman of Denver’s Inventing Room as he prepares “The Ultimate Sundae” with creme brûlée ice cream, strawberry caviar, mosaic chocolate, brown sugar-braised mangos, frozen butterscotch, pomegranate bubbles, and exploding whipped cream.

Following the cooking demonstration, Chef Ian plans to invite guests to come up to the stage to build their own sundae.

There should be time for a Q&A too.


In addition to the Pinhead Institute, the Colorado Department of Agriculture is a sponsor of the Telluride Wine Fest’s Main Stage in the Culinary Village and is donating game for the Patron Dinner.

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