Earn your wine at Beaver Creek’s Wine & Spirits Festival | VailDaily.com

Earn your wine at Beaver Creek’s Wine & Spirits Festival

Katie Coakley
Daily correspondent

If you think about a festival that focuses on award-winning wines and spirits, then it's most likely accompanied by an image of indulging: swirling Syrah, tippling tequila and chowing on cheese (there's always cheese).

However, as the Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival returns for its ninth year this weekend, it's not just gluttony. Yes, there are events that focus on the finer things in life, like exceptional wine and gourmet cuisine, but the Wine & Spirits Festival also includes active elements that highlight the beauty of the mountains. More than just an opportunity to enjoy some eye candy, though, these activities give guests an incentive to "earn their meal" before indulging in the proverbial — and possibly literal — carrot that awaits.

"Enjoying outdoor activities set among our World Cup mountain and rewarding oneself by indulging in fine wines and gourmet fare offers great appeal for our guests," said Jen Brown, managing director of Beaver Creek Resort Co. "Each event is specifically designed to take advantage of our unique setting, such as the Walk & Wine, which also provides the opportunity to showcase our extensive system of hiking trails."

Hike off your lunch

The Walk & Wine event, which is an annual favorite during the festival, takes place on Saturday. Guests enjoy a guided hike on Beaver Creek mountain prior to sitting down for a farm-to-table lunch. The hike is available in three varietals: Chardonnay, which is the easiest at 3 to 5 miles; Merlot, which will last 4 to 6 miles; and Cabernet, the most challenging at 4 to 7 miles and up to 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Four guides from the Beaver Creek Hiking Center will lead the groups along the resort's extensive trail network, incorporating their extensive knowledge to create a memorable experience.

After the hike, participants dine al fresco at Creekside Park. The menu, which was created by chef David Gutowski, executive chef at Grouse Mountain Grill, incorporates Colorado ingredients and pairs perfectly with the scenery.

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"It's really pretty out here, so half of our job is already done," Gutowski said. "The setting is so beautiful that all you have to do is complement it with the food."

The menu will include items like Olathe sweet corn, potatoes from the San Luis Valley, Colorado beef and vegetables from Gypsum. Highlighting local ingredients wasn't a stretch for Gutowski, who extolled the virtues of ingredients like the Olathe corn and peaches and plums from Palisade.

"The whole idea is that you're outside in Colorado and it's so beautiful, so we want to show beautiful food that is also grown here in Colorado," Gutowski said. "It just goes together and you're given a sense of place."

OM your way to brunch

Walk & Wine is not the only opportunity for activity in the weekend's itinerary. Also on Saturday, Mountain Pose & Mimosas combines an outdoor yoga class with sparkling cocktails — the cocktails come after the poses. On Sunday, the Dash & Dine 5K rewards participants not with a medal, but with wine and brunch after the race is completed.

"The course takes participants from Creekside Park up the eastern hillside behind Saddleridge, through the Aspen Glade Trail and back to Creekside Park," Brown said. "The 5K option for the event is meant to be less competitive than the 10K and half marathon distances, to allow our guests an opportunity to participate among friends and likeminded event participants in a fun and beautiful trail run."

The Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival starts today with a new event, Margaritas & Manhattans, which takes place at 3 p.m. on the Powder 8 deck at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. Events continue throughout the weekend with the annual favorite, the Walk Around Grand Tasting, taking place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday evening in a new location on the lawn at the base of the Centennial Express Lift.

Tickets are still available for many of the events and start at $30 per person for several events. For tickets, visit http://www.beavercreek.com.

More for active foodies

If you can’t make it to this weekend’s Wine & Spirits Festival, there are still opportunities to combine a day on the mountain with some light imbibing. The Beaver Creek Lift & Picnic hikes take place on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and include a lift ride, lunch and hike to Beaver Lake; cost is $130 per adult.

Or, book a Beaver Creek Wine Excursion, which includes a hike from Beano’s Cabin to Beaver Lake before returning to Beano’s for wine and cheese pairing. Excursions go out on select Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through the summer. Cost is $130 per person.