In its 12th year, the Durango Wine Experience is adapting to the festival’s growth while branching out to attract more than just oenophiles.
With events built around liquors, including amaro and mezcal, fans of a variety of spirits ought to be able to find something to drink during the May 3-5 event.
Main eventsIn terms of space covered, the Wine Experience’s largest event is the Walk-About, featuring 15 locations on Main Avenue and East Second Avenue between Fifth and Ninth streets.
With hundreds of wines represented, the Friday night Walk-About allows locals and visitors to wander into places they might not otherwise go, said event coordinator Mandi Davis. “One of the locations that we’ve added to the walkabout is the Welcome Center, which has been really great ... because then people find out what they can do in town,” she said.
“It’s like this one stop at the beginning of the weekend for everybody where they can find out about the train, find out about Mesa Verde, look at all the restaurants and kind of figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their weekend,” she said.
In contrast, the Grand Tasting on Saturday brings much of the festival into a single location, said Wine Experience board member Leah Deane.
“The two events are totally different ... all of those people who were spread out across 15 places are at one location, plus our local restaurants,” she said. “It’s not the same wines either – a lot of the wineries or even the spirits producers and breweries try to do something different both days.”
Last year, the Wine Experience sold between 1,200 and 1,500 tickets for the Grand Tasting, Davis said.
One result of the festival’s growth is a change in venue for the event’s Grand Tasting and Restaurant Showcase. Previously held at First National Bank, the Wine Experience’s finale will now be located in the courtyard of the Smiley Building at 1309 East Third Ave.
This is the eighth year the Wine Experience has hosted a Restaurant Showcase.
“It’s a really unique feature because a lot of the big wine tastings are usually catered, but we actually have our local restaurants and local talented chefs putting forth something that they’re really proud of,” Deane said.
Seminars, spirits and silent dancesThe Durango Wine Experience’s most unusual events fall among the festival’s seminars.
“The seminars are really our educational pieces,” Deane said. “They’re not necessarily the big parties that the two tastings are. We do everything from kind of fun and silly to super serious wine geeky.”
On the silly side, Denver- and Austin-based Infinite Monkey Theorem, an urban winery, is bringing the Monkey Bus, an old school bus that has street art all over it, Davis said. The bus folds out into a bar in the front and a dance floor on the roof. The winery will bring 150 wireless headphones to do a silent dance party Thursday.
Of a similar nature is the “Go Nuts for Boozy Donuts” seminar, also Thursday.
“Rendezvous Doughnuts is taking these pipettes filled with Honeyville whiskey and they’re going to pipe it into a doughnut so the doughnut becomes a cocktail,” Davis said.
On the opposite end of spectrum is Friday’s “Cru Beaujolais” seminar.
“It’s pretty wine geeky, but people who are into it are really excited about it because it’s very unique to be able to taste all 10 crus of Beaujolais,” Deane said.
“We’re also doing a blind rosé kind of tasting competition, which will be really interactive. So you can have very little wine knowledge and experience or you can be an expert, and it will be really challenging and fun to both.”
Philanthropy This year, the Durango Wine Experience’s extra proceeds, after covering costs and a bit of reserves, will be donated to Durango High School’s ProStart hospitality and entrepreneurship program.
“We’ve had beneficiaries kind of all over the place, and this is the first one that really fits all of our mission statement,” Davis said. “The Wine Experience is a 501(c)(3). We are an educational-based philanthropic group, so giving money to somebody who follows the same mission is super important.”
“We’re trying to foster the future of them being great chefs that we can hopefully keep in Durango,” Deane said. “We don’t need to bring in chefs from big cities – from Chicago and Denver – to be cool down here. We have our own great restaurant community.”