Winemaker Giuseppe Vajra at Beaver Creek’s Splendido |

Winemaker Giuseppe Vajra at Beaver Creek’s Splendido

Illustration by Alithea Doyle/adoyle@vaildaily.comAll wines have a story. One of the Vajra Barolo wines to be poured Friday is Albe, the Italian plural for "sunrise." The grapes are culled from three Vajra vineyards, and the sunrise hits each vineyard at a different time. It has hints of rose petals, cherries and leather.

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” He’s young, passionate and Italian: Who wouldn’t want to meet second-generation winemaker Giuseppe Vajra? He and three of his wines will be at Beaver Creek’s Splendido at the Chateau Friday evening during dinner. Diners can avail themselves of his presence or not ” it’s up to them.

“So often winemaker dinners can be overwhelming,” chef-owner David Walford said. “This way people can decide what kind of experience they want.”

That experience can include half or full pours of any of the wines, priced starting at $4.50. Walford and beverage director Scott Yenerich have made recommended pairings for the regular menu, in addition to a couple of special entrees for the evening. (Look for a nettle-mushroom sauce.)

G.D. Vajra Vineyards wines are imported by Suzanne Hoffman-LeBlanc and her husband, Dan, of Dolce E. Dani Wine Imports LLC. Private collectors for many years, the couple lived in Europe and fell in love with the wines of Piedmont, Italy. Then they returned to the U.S.

“In order to keep enjoying the wines, we had to import them,” Hoffman-LeBlanc said. “The Vajras are some of the most passionate people, so connected to the soil and what they do.”

Giuseppe’s father, Aldo Vajra, has been producing biodynamic wines since he began in 1971. In layman’s terms that’s pesticide-free wines. It’s become a hot trend now, but 30 years ago it wasn’t politically important. It speaks of Aldo’s commitment not just to his wines but to his land.

“He won’t release his Barolo just to be tasted by critics,” Hoffman-LeBlanc said. “He always says, ‘A wine speaks for itself. It doesn’t need ratings.'”

But sometimes wines improve with stories, and Friday, that’s where Giuseppe comes in. Certainly he can explain the technicalities of each wine, but he’s also full of the romance and history of every vintage. He was raised on it.

“When you go to Piedmont, it’s an immersion into wine and food,” Hoffman-LeBlanc said. “No one talks politics. The biggest arguments come from whether something was a ’96 vintage or a ’98.”

Giuseppe has a history of bringing that passion with him. He spoke to a group in Beaver Creek two years ago.

“There’s an advantage to talking to the winemaker,” Yenerich said. “Of course you get insight into the way they produce their wine and what they want to get out of the grapes. But you also get to see what they see ” not only what the wine once was but what it’s going to be.”

“Winemakers are a little like chefs: they’re passionate and emotional about what they do,” Walford said, laughing. “The more you can understand the source of a wine, the more you can appreciate it.”

Vajra wines are done in the traditional Italian style, Yenerich said. They have nice earthy qualities, coupled with flavors of velvety fruits. They’re often on Splendido’s wine list, which is international and savvy.

“This is an evening that lets people try things, to taste and compare, and to meet Giuseppe,” Hoffman-LeBlanc said. “We’re not trying to just sell more wine but let people have this experience and meet this young man who’s going to be one of the hottest names in Piedmont wines very soon.”

What: G.D. Vajra wine exploration

Where: Splendido at the Chateau, Beaver Creek

When: Friday, Feb. 27, normal dinner service (6 to 10 p.m.)

Cost: Wines by the glass from $9-$16; normal a la carte menu pricing.

More information: Call 970-845-8808 or visit

Support Local Journalism