The Telluride Wine Festival is set to return Thursday through Sunday, for its 36th year. This time, however, its organizers have a few changes in mind.
Among the festival’s 30 events are a number of new ones, including a culinary village, a speakeasy night and a cannabis, wine and food pairing dinner. These are all part of an effort to distinguish the Telluride festival from other wine festivals.
“People should know that this is a festival that is different from most other wine festivals,” said Sarah Harkness, the festival’s marketing director. “We give people an opportunity to not only do these large-scale events where they’re doing a lot of tastings ... but we also give them an opportunity to have an intimate connection with wineries, chefs and sommeliers in smaller, more intimate locations.”
Colorado itself is one focus of this year’s festival, with restaurant vendors hailing from Montrose, Durango, Telluride and Ridgway and one of the tents in the culinary village dedicated exclusively to Colorado wines.
“We actually have the father of Colorado wine (Bennett Price of Palisade’s Debeque Canyon Winery) coming in,” Harkness said. “Basically, he planted every single grape in Colorado. He’s going to be here to sort of talk about how that spread and the growth and history of Colorado wines.”
Wine is not the only regional alcoholic drink that will be on tap at the festival, though. The festival will also feature beers and spirits from Colorado-based breweries and distilleries, Harkness said.
“I think that wine always gets associated with California or abroad, so we’re really trying to make this about what’s here in Colorado and what makes our state great and what we are bringing to the table gastronomically,” she said.
In addition to highlighting the region’s flavor, the festival is attempting to broaden its audience.
“We’re really trying to take the reputation of a wine festival from being a mature and conservative older crowd and really trying to give it a fresh, new, young vibe,” Harkness said.
One way the festival organizers hope to accomplish this goal is through a new late-night speakeasy event, she said. Held amid the Prohibition-era decor of the Sheridan Opera House and requiring a password to get though its secret entrance, the speakeasy will feature a costume contest, an “old-timey” photo booth and 1920s music in addition to craft cocktails.
Another new event promises to diversify the crowd even further: the festival’s cannabis, wine and food pairing dinner, held at a private residence in Mountain Village and including four types of cannabis in four different forms.
“Some of our patrons think we’re crazy for doing this,” Harkness said. “We really wanted to stay on the cutting edge and do something a little controversial with this dinner.
“It’s sort of like a wine pairing, but we’re just throwing an extra element in there for people who are curious about trying cannabis and want to do it in a controlled and more sophisticated kind of environment,” she said.