Taste of Vail’s seductive seminars
VAIL, Colorado -The Taste of Vail’s Cary Hogan is one of those freewheeling oenophiles – passionate and educated, but a firm believer that you like what you like, period. Everybody is in charge of his or her own palate. And nobody gets to sneer.That open-ended appreciation of all things wine and food helps her – and Avon Liquors co-owner Nick Noesen – create a diverse seminar schedule year after year. A former Taste of Vail board member, Hogan is still intimately involved with the festival’s seminars. She’s been in on Taste of Vail for the past two decades, and has watched it grow over the years. “But it was well done from the beginning,” Hogan said. “The original concept is still in place: small, intimate and it has to be the winemaker or a principal owner pouring the wine. Sure the seminars have grown. But as for the integrity of the event, we’ve stuck to that.”The seminars cover a wide range of topics, from cheese, beer and wine pairings (mmm… cheese) to the elusive fifth taste of umami to the give-me-some-lovin’ aphrodisiacal properties of particular foods. “Each seminar is different – it’s hard to pick a favorite,” Noesen said. Luckily, nobody has to choose.
Apricots, cinnamon, pumpkins, seaweed, avocados – Amy Reiley’s list of lust-loving foods is long and promising. And she’s showing up with some recipes to help ease the good people of Eagle County out of their winter rut and into a sexy spring. “She’s going to teach us how to create sensual, simple food,” Hogan said about Reiley’s Aphrodisiac Foods seminar. The “Fork Me, Spoon Me” queen is a libido advocate, and is a master at mustering up romance with the stir of a spoon. She’ll focus on easy-to-create sexy foods, and how to incorporate them into your life (and thus love life) on a regular basis.
Hello gorgeous … vino. That’s right, sidle up to a beautiful glass of Pinot at the Pinot Noir Speed-Dating Style seminar. Six winemakers from Stemmler, Capiaux, Talisman, Calera, Landmark and Ponzi will hold court, each at their own table. Attendees will start at one table, and then keep on moving. People are encouraged to get downright personal with the winemakers and ask them whatever they want to know about Pinot.”You’ll sit there, taste his Pinot and ask questions,” Hogan said. “People aren’t always comfortable asking questions in a big group, but this is intimate. And it’s just a blast.”
Cheese. Wine. Beer. That’s what will be covered at snooty-sipper-turned-backyard-imbiber Josh Wesson’s Wine vs. Beer with Cheese Thunderdome Celebrity Death Cage Match. Five rounds, five cheeses, and a wine and a beer for each one. “Cheese is a food that pairs as well with beer as it does with wine,” Wesson said. “Because nearly everyone loves cheese, it seemed ideal to use it as a culinary fulcrum for a see-saw battle between wine and beer.” The best part? It really will mimic a boxing match, complete with a ring, ring girls and gregariousness. So who should attend?”Everyone who loves, or who has ever loved wine, beer or cheese,” Wesson said. “My event requires no prior knowledge of wine, beer, cheese or pairing – just a passion for deliciousness and an open mind (the better to complement an open mouth).”Avon resident Amy Phillips is putting together today’s Lamb Cook-Off event in Vail but it’s Wesson’s event that she’s really looking forward to, she said. “He’s known as the Billy Crystal of sommeliers,” she said. “His seminar will be fantastic. It’s very different from what’s been done in the past. Of all the things Taste of Vail is doing this year, that’s what I’m personally most excited for.”
From smooth and silky to aggressive and strong, cigars are a varied lot. And at the Cigar and Spirits seminar – a veritable tradition at Taste of Vail – smokers get to taste through the spectrum. Once again, Davidoff is supplying the cigars, which are handmade in the Dominican Republic. They will be paired with another warm-weather creation: rum. Made in Guatemala, Zacapa is known for its smooth finish.”Ron Zacapa has been doing a lot of marketing in Vail lately,” said Mickey Werner, the seminar organizer and Taste of Vail board member. “Their rum is sensational.”In all, the event is quite casual, Werner said. “It’s just a fun, relaxing event,” he said. “You hang around and have great cigars and sip on rum.”
Umami might sound like a type of Japanese anime, but is actually known as “the fifth taste.” Sour, sweet, bitter and salty are the better-known basic flavors, but umami is the savory flavor. And it can mess with your food and wine pairings, so watch out. Jerry Comfort, a wine educator from Fosters Wine Estate, is presenting his “Wine and Food in Balance” seminar. Comfort doesn’t just tell people what works together, he shows why it does in this hands-on tasting seminar.”Learning experientially is so much better,” Hogan said. And that sums up the Taste of Vail seminar philosophy. Don’t take someone else’s word for it – discover it for yourself.