Telluride Wine Fest: Taste for the Good Life? Go!

Telluride Wine Fest: Taste for the Good Life? Go!

The 37th annual Telluride Wine Festival takes places June 28 – July 1, 2018. Don’t have a pass? Don’t pass. Though some events are reserved for passholders and patrons only, individual tickets can be purchased for most events. For a full schedule, go here. For ticket information, go here. When you check in, ask about the new Telluride Wine Festival app. With it you will be able to scan the label of any of your favorite wines and even place your order right there on the spot.

Any self-respecting poet of pinot can rattle off a list of reasons why grape is good.

For starters, wine complements and enhances the taste of food and makes a meal into a ritual it otherwise might not be.

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food,” W.C. Fields.

On dark days, wine can help shoo away the clouds.

“Give…wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember misery no more,” Proverbs 31:6-7

And science has proven that drinking wine (in moderation of course) contributes to health. One ingredient in wine, resveratrol, may enhance longevity; certain chemicals in wine are known to counteract the nasty effects of fat and cholesterol – which might helps explain the “French paradox.”

“Wine is the only thing that makes us happy as adults for no reason,” cartoonist and wit Saul Steinberg.

So forget your troubles – like today’s headlines – come on, get happy. Join wine geeks, food freaks, sommeliers, winemakers – almost half the wineries this year are being represented by the winemaker and/or winery owner –  distributors and chefs, all gathered at the 37th annual Telluride Wine Festival.

Makes no never mind if you can’t tell a good Bordeaux from a bottle of Boone’s Farm. Guaranteed you will be charmed, entertained and educated at the seminars (at the Ridge Club, top of the Gondola), and at the blowout tastings, intimate meals and cooking classes held at historic venues all around town including the Elks Lodge, the Sheridan Opera House SHOW Bar, and Sidework.

Telluride Wine Fest, Highlights:


Chef Anthony Mantuano is an influential culinary force on the world stage – and a chef/partner at Spiaggia, Chicago’s only four-star Italian restaurant.

Awarded the 2005 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Midwest, Mantuano worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy before opening Spiaggia in 1984 to critical acclaim. He has since gone on to win The Chicago Tribune’s highest culinary prize, The Good Eating Award. His other ventures include Mangia Trattoria in his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin and chef/partner of Terzo Piano at new The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, where we can enjoyed a wonderful lunch overlooking the chrome brightness of Millennium Park.

The Mantuanos were honored with the keys to San Martino in the Italian region of Molise, Cathy Mantuano’s ancestral home, for serving authentic Italian cuisine to President Barack Obama, a long-time guest who celebrated his Presidential election victory at Spiaggia, his favorite watering hole in his hometown, the Windy City, in 2008.

Chef Anthony partners with his sommelier from Spiaggia, Rachael Lowe, plus Caprice, Buglioni, Carpineto and other wineries, for “Big Red Italian Pranzo.” The luncheon is scheduled for opening day of the festival, Thursday, June 28, at the Elks Lodge, 472 West Pacific Street.

The Progressive Winemakers’ Dinner is hosted by homeboy and chef Will Nolan of the Madeline Hotel & Residences in Mountain Village, Telluride, (an Auberge affiliate), and features the Foley Family of Wines:

“Begin the evening with the Laurent Perrier/Black River Caviar-sponsored welcome reception, then join world-class Master Sommelier Robert Smith, who will serve as the master of ceremonies for THE culinary event of the festival. Madeline’s Executive Chef, Will Nolan, is joined by a coterie of brilliant chefs, each award-winning, their gifts celebrated with honors including the Maitre Cuisiniers de France,“Extreme Chef,” and a James Beard Centennial Honoree, coming together to create a five-course progressive, farm-to-table experience. Each course will be paired with specially-selected wines from the Foley Family portfolio, an unparalleled collection of quality wineries located in the prime regions of California, Washington State and New Zealand and dedicated to handmade, yummy wines that capture the character of the varietal and personality of the site with labels you will recognize and appreciate. A taste extravaganza not to be missed!,” explains Wine FestIn October 2017, Chef William Nolan was named Executive Chef of Madeline Hotel & Residences’ contemporary signature restaurant, Black Iron Kitchen + Bar. Nolan’s rugged culinary style and love for the campfire spirit, bold ingredients, and Heritage-breed meats are highlighted in dry-aged steaks, hearty sandwiches, Dutch-oven cooked soups, innovative vegetable dishes and sustainably-sourced wild game and seafood, ingredients sourced from many of the local farms and purveyors in the region to provide healthy, yet hearty options to suit every palate.

Chef Will Nolan of the Madeline hosts a progressive dinner featuring a star-studded cast of chefs, winemakers and somms.

Nolan has been in the kitchen since childhood, cooking alongside his family in their hometown of Louisiana and originally cultivating his skills based on the region’s French, Creole, and West African heritage. The University of New Orleans graduate then went on to hone his techniques, enhancing his diverse roots with knowledge gained on South Asian travels, all seasoned with the expertise of the chefs he worked with en route to Telluride. Before helming the kitchen of the Madeline, Nolan served as Executive Chef at the Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass.

In addition to his daily work at Black Iron, Nolan also participates in top industry culinary events such Cochon 555, a nose-to-tail culinary event dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating buyers about the agricultural importance of eating heritage breed pigs. Perhaps next year at Wine Fest?

Vintner, William P. (Bill) Foley II, established the Foley Wine Group in 1996, with the acquisition of Lincourt Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County.

Bill Foley, entrepreneur, winemaker.

From there, Foley founded Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery, a premiere Pinot Noir and Chardonnay house located in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara County. Highly regarded by leading wine critics and sommeliers, Foley’s Burgundian-influenced portfolio has become a flagship property in the South Central Coast.

The acquisition of Las Hermanas Vineyard, formerly known as the iconic Ashley’s Vineyard, followed thereafter. Also located in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, the esteemed vineyard  provided fruit not only to the Lincourt Vineyards program, but also to critically successful wineries such as Brewer-Clifton, Samsara and Tantara.

Merus, in the Napa Valley, is Foley’s nod to his love of benchmark California Cabernet Sauvignons. Considered by many to be one of the most coveted “cult Cabernets” in the United States, Merus has added breadth and depth to the FWG portfolio.

Foley Family Wines also includes Firestone Vineyard, which Foley acquired in 2007. Long considered a destination for visitors to Santa Barbara County’s wine country, Firestone produces an array of Bordeaux-influenced wines in competitively-priced categories.

By adding Three Rivers Winery to Foley Family Wines, Foley expanded his thoughtfully composed wine portfolio into the Pacific Northwest. Located in Walla Walla, Washington, Three Rivers Winery is recognized for producing Rieslings and Bordeaux-influenced wines.

In addition to the Santa Barbara area properties, Foley purchased Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma in December 2008.

During the spring of 2009, Foley purchased Kuleto Estate, located in the eastern mountains of the Napa Valley. Partnering with Pat Kuleto, a famed restaurateur, he hopes to produce truly singular estate wines from Napa Valley.

The sommelier for the Progressive Dinner is Robert Smith, another native Texan and one of 149 total Master Sommeliers in the United States. In 2016, Smith began working for Foley Family Wines as Factotum, where his wine expertise is cultivated in many aspects of the business including Foley resorts, restaurants and wineries.

Robert Smith, sommelier, Foley Family of Wines.

In addition to the Progressive Dinner, Foley properties represented at the Telluride Wine Fest include Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Chalk Hill Estate. They are featured on Thursday at the Appellation Celebration Happy 35th! seminar in the Ridge Club Great Room, at Friday morning’s Reserve Tasting in the SHOW Bar at the Sheridan Opera House, at Sunday’s Al Fresco Brunch on Main Street, and at the Friday Toast of Telluride and the Saturday Grand Tasting.

Legendary winemaker Daniel Gehrs making his debut in town at the festival.

For Gehrs, what began as a casual interest in college developed into an award‐winning career as a California winemaker.

From a small mountaintop vineyard in Saratoga, Gehrs, who retired from winemaking last year, worked his way around the industry until settling in Los Olivos in the 1990s. There he helped develop the Santa Ynez Valley into one of the top wine destinations in the world. Gehr’s Tawny Port, described as “sweet, nutty, and smooth with a hint of marshmallow, toasted coconut and date syrup,” is the only port produced in the USA that can be labeled a true “port.”


Gehr’s wines and port are featured at the Friday Winemaker’s Dinner at the Village Table, the Saturday Women in Wine Luncheon, also at the Friday Toast of Telluride and the Saturday Grand Tasting.

Since 1979, Randy and Lori Dunn have owned and operated Dunn Vineyards, known primarily by serious collectors. The couple continues to produce one of the most highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignons from Howell Mountain and the Napa Valley.

Randy Dunn is another great winemaker who is coming to town.

Dunn Vineyards are featured at a seminar on Thursday, Appellation Celebration Happy 35th at the Ridge Club Great Room, at the Friday Winemakers’ Dinner at the Chop House and at the Friday Toast of Telluride and the Saturday Grand Tasting.

Once an official wine taster for France, in 1980 Jean-Noel Fourmeaux du Sartel was sent to California to spy on the happening wine scene. Instead of returning home, Jean-Noel put down roots to exercise his creativity in making wine, rather than being constrained by the years of traditions that have long existed in France. Chateau Potelle was born. After about 30 years in Napa, Jean-Noel re-launched his brand with a new name, VGS Chateau Potelle, the moniker a combination of Jean-Noel’s family chateau in France and VGS. The wines Jean-Noel is pouring at the Telluride Wine Festival are not available for purchase. They are all sold by allotment and are almost all spoken for.

Jean-Noel of VGS Chateau Potelle, in town for Wine Fest 2018.

Jean-Noel, like Randy Dunn, rarely attends festivals.

 Jean-Noel’s VGS Chateau Potelle are among the featured wines at Friday’s Winemakers’ Dinner at the Chop House; at a seminar on Saturday, Extreme Reds: Cult Wines with Class & Charm, in the Ridge Club Great Room at the top of the Gondola, also at the Friday Toast of Telluride and the Saturday Grand Tasting.

A pet name for Telluride is ‘Little Texas” because of the number of folks from the Lone Star State with second homes in town. For Wine Fest patrons with red dirt under their fingernails, welcome Chef John Tesar.

Chef John Tesar, straight from the Lone Star State to your table at Wine Fest.

Tesar is a four-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist and “Top Chef” contestant, who specializes in modern American cuisine prepared with authentic European techniques. His no-nonsense personality and sharp culinary perspective have garnered high-profile acclaim throughout his 20+ year career, including national nods from Esquire (named to “Best New Restaurants” for two consecutive years), Food & Wine, New York Magazine, The New York Times, appearances on “The Today Show,” “The Early Show” and winning the inaugural season of the Food Network’s “Extreme Chef.”

Tesar is a featured chef at the Friday Winemaker’s Dinner at the Village Table; at the Saturday Appellation Celebration Luncheon at Elks Lodge; and on Sunday, with Chef Reaux, at Sunday’s BBQ at the Elks Lodge.

New this year is a unique master class on Friday, June 29: The Family Wines of The Duel of Wines Seminar, which features world-renown sommelier and actor Charlie Arturaola and wine writer, sommelier and the Telluride Wine Festival’s wine director Chris Sawyer. The two men plan to introduce wines made with grapes featured in the Arturaola’s Italo-Argentinean comedy, “The Duel of Wine,” about a sommelier, Arturaola, who has lost his sense of taste. The film screens after the seminar.

Note: Tickets to the seminar include entry into the Colorado debut screening of Arturaola’s film, which screens after the seminar from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. And stay tuned for a story about Arturaola, including an interview with the internationally renowned sommelier.

Returning Favorites:

At the Telluride Wine Festival, outstanding wine director Chris Sawyer will be everywhere you want to be: hosting dinners, giving seminars, answering questions.


Sawyer is a sommelier, wine educator, journalist, consultant, critic, and public speaker, who travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a VIP judge in top wine competitions. He has been featured in a wide range of national media, including USA Today, MSN, NBC, CNN ABC, CBS, RedbookThe Hollywood ReporterMaximNational Geographic Traveler, and Esquire.

Already legendary in the industry for his encyclopedic wine knowledge and rich wine industry relationships around the globe, Sawyer has been a personal sommelier for an array of luminaries and aficionados, from the Getty Family to the Gorbachevs, as well as for Oscar-winning director and chief creative officer of Pixar-Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter.

He is also renowned for his unusual and entertaining ability to pair wines with just about any pop cultural experience.

Less well known to the public, but famous among wine world insiders, are his wine and music pairings. A popular college radio DJ while at UC Davis, back then Sawyer partnered with DJ Shadow and others to create some of the most buzzed-about music sets for his listeners during those years.

Sawyer has become legendary for secret midnight sessions held in the cellar of his 19th Century Sonoma County farmhouse, where star winemakers, celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, and lucky friends taste pairings from his extensive international wine collection, matched to selections from his incredible stash of rare and cutting-edge vinyl.

Christopher Sawyer is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors, including Best Sommelier in Sonoma County for several years in a row.

To learn more about Sawyer, watch his video interview here. (Just scroll to the bottom of the story.)

The 37th annual Toast of Telluride takes place Friday, June 29. The progressive wine and food tasting is hosted by various galleries, shops, and restaurants around town. The tasting and a vintage TWF wine glass are included in the price of the ticket. (Pick up your wine glass at the hospitality tent in Elks Park.)

women winemakers’ luncheon takes place Saturday, June 30: A Celebration of Women in Wine and Food. The point of the gathering is to celebrate the women behind some of the hottest brands in the New World and Old World, Christie DuFault and Nadia Pavlevskaalong with chef Angela Covington of Manchester Farms.

At the Grand Tasting, Saturday, June 30, this year on the Main Stage in Telluride Town Park, features wines, beers, ciders, tastes from local restaurants, and the music of the Kevin McCarthy Trio. Intimate 15-person Somm tours start at 4:30. (Pre-purchase is required.)

The scene at last year’s Grand Tasting.

Back by popular demand, on Sunday morning Wine Fest hosts the second annual Al Fresco Brunch on Telluride’s Main Street. The event features a three-block-long banquet table running down the center of Colorado Avenue 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.

And ask one of the artists in town for the 15th annual Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Telluride Plein Air event to immortalize you in a painting.  The Wine Fest brunch coincides with Plein Air’s Quick Draw event, a two-hour painting contest. The winner will be announced at 1 p.m. in front of the historic Sheridan Opera House.

Participating are the New Sheridan Chop House, Floradora, La Cocina de Luz, High Pie, Brother Luck’s “Four.”

Note: Pick your favorite menu from the choices on the ticket page. You will sit near to the restaurant serving that menu. If you have a group, Wine Fest strongly suggests that you all choose the same menu if possible. A prize will be given for Best Sunbonnet.

Chef James Reaux returns for yet another encore at Wine Fest.

Reaux started earning his chef’s toque right out of high school, when he entered a two-year culinary program in Toledo, Ohio. He went on to train for two more years in Switzerland at a five-star resort hotel, then spent three more years in yet another internship program at the famous Greenbrier Inn in West Virginia. At resorts and hotels around the world, Reaux climbed the ladder from Sous Chef to Executive Sous Chef to the top rung, Executive Chef.

Before moving to the mountains of Western North Carolina, Reaux worked as executive chef at the Boca Raton Hotels and Resorts in Florida, overseeing 21 restaurants, 400 chefs and $80 million in annual revenue. Along the way he garnered numerous awards, including from the James Beard House.

After a move to the mountains of Western North Carolina, Reaux bought his first restaurant, Murphy’s Chophouse, in 2009. Now he owns eateries, including Hawg Wild BBQ & Catfish House, in the South, as well as fine dining establishment in Europe and Hawaii.

In addition to the sold-out West Coast Winemakers’ luncheon at the New Sheridan Chop House, the popular chef is featured at the Saturday Appellation Celebration Luncheon at Elks Lodge and on Sunday, again, with Tesar, at a brand new event sponsored by Manchester Quail and Lagunitas Beer, the aforementioned BBQ also at Elks Lodge.  (Tickets by credit card only, $45, available at the door.)

In addition to all of the above, the something-for-everyone part of Wine Fest weekend includes a free cooking demo kitchen in Elks Park. Thermador, the sponsor, innovated commercial-grade products for the home kitchens and, back in 1947, invented the first wall oven and cooktop. They also introduced stainless steel to home appliances...Julia Child was a great fan..

The 2018 Telluride Wine Fest is clearly a banquet of piquant possibilities.

Check out all your options here.


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