The problem with names is that they can be so limiting.
Take this fourth annual Durango Wine Experience, which kicks off Thursday all over downtown Durango and ends with
Saturday's bacchanalian Grand Tasting. With 43 vineyards representing hundreds of labels and tastings, and seminars to
teach us how to drink them all, the Durango Wine Experience is no misnomer. But neither does it tell the whole
I think there are a lot of changes this year that make it more of a community event that includes a lot more than just
the wine," said Leah Deane, who takes over this year as event coordinator for the Wine Experience.
Attendees of the marquee Grand Tasting event will notice one of the biggest and most anticipated changes. When hundreds
of people are tasting hundreds of bottles of wine, there better be good food on hand, and lots of it. This year the
organizers, including founders Karen Barger and Joe Leder, replaced a single caterer with 11 local restaurants that
will put out an unprecedented spread at the Grand Tasting in the parking lot of First National Bank of Durango.
Barger, who as the owner of Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, will be wearing two hats on Saturday, said the invitation to
restaurants left speculation as to who will bring what wide open.
We said just make it wine-friendly, and if they want to showcase something they can do that or try something
different, a chance for them to say: 'You know what we do every day, but here's something you might not know we can
pull off,'" Barger said.
A roster that includes The Cyprus Cafe, Guido's Favorite Foods, Kennebec Café, Cosmopolitan, Mahogany Grille, Norton's
Catering, the Ore House, P.J.'s Gourmet Market, Randy's, Seasons Rotisserie and Grill and Steamworks Brewing Co. will
ensure that this is no run-of-the-mill wine tasting.
It's not just cheese cubes anymore," Deane joked, although for those of us who like cheese cubes, there will probably
be plenty available during the rest of the weekend.
A single Weekend Tasting Pass ($99) gets you access to both the Grand Tasting and Friday evening's Walk-About
Durango," the two largest single events of the weekend. The Walk-About delivers what it promises; stops at seven local
businesses of varied industry including Azul, Coldwell Banker Heritage House Realtors, the Durango Arts Center, Rain
Dance Gallery, the Rochester Hotel, Steamworks and Sorrel Sky Gallery. At each stop, there will be any number of
sommeliers to fill your glass as often as you like and tell you all you'd ever want to know about where it came from
and where you can get more.
Barger said the inclusion of serious but enjoyable food and wine education was an essential factor from the onset of
the first event in 2007, and seminars, tastings and dinners remain the staples of the festival.
Seminars on winemaking and blending, sake, sparkling wines and champagne are to be expected, but the Wine Experience
also offers a seminar on martinis by Peachtree Distilling and Ska Brewing co-founder Bill Graham, a brewery tour and
tasting at Steamworks, and a chocolate/wine-pairing orgy put on by Silverton Chocolate.
The Durango Wine Experience was also established as a nonprofit organization to benefit the local community, and for
the second year in a row, all proceeds above operating costs will be donated to United Way of Southwest Colorado.