Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival includes seminars, wine sampling | VailDaily.com

Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival includes seminars, wine sampling

Keystone Resort will become a wine-lover's paradise this weekend, as the annual Wine & Jazz Festival brings sweet sounds and clinking glasses to River Run Village.

"Our Wine & Jazz Festival has grown in popularity over the years and is now one of the most well-attended wine festivals in the state, with more than 300 varieties of wines to sample, in addition to some of the most contemporary, easy-to-listen-to jazz bands and musicians," said Maja Russer, director of events and marketing for the Keystone Neighbourhood Co., the producer of the Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival.

The festival begins today with a Reserve Wine Tasting and continues through Sunday, July 19, with more tastings, free jazz performances and an enhanced education track at Warren Station Center for the Arts, with seminars that explore the many different facets of wine from viticulture to vintage.

Defining buzzwords

Many different kinds of people wander into festival seminars, from the basic consumer to trade professionals, said Scott Thomas, certified sommelier and district manager with Grand Vin, the fine-wine division of Republic National Distributing Co.

"We're trying to accommodate everyone's knowledge level and not speak too intelligently or speak over anybody at the same time," he said. "Keystone, like other festivals, has started to realize that people are hungry for this information, and that they are going down that road is fantastic.

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"It creates a buzz and gets people excited about the anticipation of learning, and then they can go out after the seminar and explore hundreds of wines in the general tasting and think about what we said."

Thomas will begin the educational component of the festival with a panel discussion and tasting titled Farm to Glass: The Basics of Sustainable, Organic & Biodynamic Winemaking on Saturday. Joining him in the conversation will be master sommeliers William Davis, with Wilson Daniels, a luxury wine and spirits importer, and Kevin Arndt. Together, the three will explore sustainability, organic farming and biodynamics in winemaking.

"We're going to delve into those three philosophies, define them as well as taste through some examples," Thomas said, "so, people can expect to learn what to look for when they are purchasing themselves, what would define each method and how they differentiate between all of the above and their similarities, too."

The term "sustainable" has become somewhat convoluted, Thomas said. Panelists will work on defining the term in a more concrete fashion to help make people aware of what true sustainability is in winemaking. Thomas said there's a rising movement, not only in Colorado but around the world, to reconnect with the origins of the products we consume.

"As people get more included, it's good to understand the process of making wine," Thomas said, "from the real industrial version, with using lots of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, to those who are more conscientious with using those products and conserving the land they are farmed on, the workers who are working there and transportation of how it gets from there to the consumer."

Wine and chocolate

"For the Love of Chocolate and Wine" is the second of the three wine seminars on the festival schedule, taking place Saturday afternoon. Jeromy Krug, a wine specialist for Republic National, said he's been teaching seminars for about five years, and this particular one knocks it out of the park.

"I break down the true fundamental aspects of why chocolate does and does not go with wine," he said. "The chocolate itself is never supposed to be sweeter than the wine."

In theory, wine and chocolate shouldn't go together at all, Krug said. The sugar in the chocolate brings out all of the acid of the wine, making it taste acrid in comparison.

"If you have a bite of milk chocolate and try to drink a cabernet with it, it will be horrible because it's all acid," he said. "All of the fruit flavor gets covered up and even the alcohol. You're tasting something bitter after the sweet. You have to find particular flavors that will enhance the wine."

The combinations are subtle: mint in a bite of dark chocolate brings out the light eucalyptus flavor in an Australian shiraz, and raspberry sorbet highlights the fruit flavor of a red. Pairing wine with food can seem like a daunting task, but Krug said he hopes to make it less intimidating.

"It's kind of exhilarating how our taste buds work with food and wine, why they work the way they do and how to get a better understanding of how things should complement each other," he said.

'The Blend Trend'

Sunday's seminar comes from Frank Seidl, an advanced sommelier and Front Range district manager for the Bacchus fine wines division of Republic National. Titled The Blend Trend, Seidl's presentation dives into blended reds and whites from around the world.

"What we'll finally get to at the end of the tasting is, it's not something that's new at all, just something that people have become hip to finally," he said of blended wines, "and what it's done is it causes winemakers to experiment with newer and more exciting blends."

From a quantitative standpoint, Seidl said the seminar would pack a bit of a punch. Since it falls at the end of the day, without any time constraints, he will be pouring six different red blends and six different whites.

"The reason I got involved with so many wines with this is that the more I looked at what was available out there, I was like, 'Oh they need to know about this one' — 'Oh, oh, and this one,'" he said. "You don't want to pour them too much, but I think there's a whole spectrum of things here that are blended that people are going to taste both red and white and come away and say 'Dang, I had no idea.'"

Seidl said incorporating the seminars into the Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival helps to make wine less formidable to the average consumer and also enables wine people like himself to share not only the familiar, but also wines that people might otherwise never get the opportunity to try.

"I jumped on this one because it really gives us a chance, as wine people, to go beyond, to step outside the box, in a way that isn't threatening to people at all," he said. "It's another way of just saying, just taste this, wait until I tell you what's in it and where this thing is from, and in the final analysis, does this wine taste good to you?

"I think the more you know about it, the more excited about it you become and the less intimidating it is to you."

If you go

What: Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival wine seminars

Where: Warren Station Center for the Arts, Keystone

Schedule and pricing: Seminars are priced individually or $95 for a four-pack, which includes all three seminars and Sunday’s Prosecco and Pancakes event.

• 12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18 — “Farm to Glass: The Basics of Sustainable, Organic & Biodynamic Winemaking,” $25

• 3-4 p.m. Saturday, July 18 — “For the Love of Chocolate & Wine,” $25

• 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 19 — Prosecco & Pancakes, $30

• 2-3 p.m. Sunday, July 19 — Seminar: “The Blend Trend,” $25

More information: Visit http://www.keystonefestivals.com and click on the “Wine & Jazz Festival” logo for a full festival schedule and to purchase advance tickets, or download the festival app at tasteseller.com/keystone/download.php.