wine fest

The artist Eunika Rogers paints with wine and will be working during the Grand Tasting in Mountain Village Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Telluride Wine Festival/Rayne Grant)

Those who revel in the delights of fine wine and the culinary arts will be descending on the valley for the 38th annual Telluride Wine Festival this weekend. They come not only to further their knowledge and appreciation of wine, but to soak in the scenery and reconnect with friends from around the world who return, once again, to Telluride to share their common passion for the fruit of the vine.

“People return year after year and plan their vacations around the festival,” festival coordinator Jill Brooke said. “It’s not just wine, but also a celebration of friendship and food.”

A quick look at this year’s program reveals a weekend overflowing with high spirits and gustatory explorations. Brooke said there are 10 chefs, 11 sommeliers and eight speakers on hand to fill patron’s minds and bellies. In addition, 38 wineries will be represented.

“It’s pretty incredible,” she said.

Numerous luncheons take place throughout the weekend, kicking off Thursday with Pasta Pairs at the Elks Lodge and, at the New Sheridan Chop House, a four-course luncheon featuring Turnbull wines. Guest chef Ben McPherson will bring his love of Italian cooking to patrons who choose to dine at the Elks.

“My first love is cooking Italian cuisine,” he said. “To me it’s about the simplicity and the use of great ingredients. It’s rustic with no pretension.”

Meals throughout the weekend take place at some of Telluride’s finest dining establishments such as Cosmopolitan, La Marmotte and Hotel Madeline. Diners will learn about which wines best pair up with various flavors and cuisines from around the world, including French, Spanish, Italian and American styles. The National — Telluride’s newest hot spot — will be where the over-indulgences of the weekend will be addressed with a proper cocktail on Sunday morning.

Dinners with winemakers at The Village Table and Sideworks on Saturday night will afford ticket holders an intimate — and delicious — take on how the marriage of wine and food is truly a match made in heaven.

There’s even An Evening in Argentina at a secret out-of-town location. Patrons will sample a variety of meats, grilled in the traditional South American way on a parilla, or open fire. Transportation is provided to an elegant ranch setting (leave the high heels at home) and guests will be greeted with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne and nibble appetizers while strolling around the grounds. Professional Asador, Pablo Liberato, will demonstrate the skill and techniques of these master grillers before dinner is served in a grove of aspens.

Seminars also take place over the festival weekend, enlightening the curious about the wines of Uruguay, Alpha Omega wine, Italian varietals, bubbly, the art of crafting amazing wine lists and more.

The Uruguayan wine scene is exploding, Brooke said, and those with a yen for the new will enjoy learning about Uruguayan wines from wine expert Charlie Arturaola.

“This is the first time we’ve had wineries from Uruguay participate,” she said.

Brooke said that this year, “There’s something for everyone. We have free events that are our way of giving back to the community.”

One such event is the Celebration of Wine and Women at the Hotel Madeline Saturday at 1 p.m. A panel of women — wine connoisseurs, travel mavens and fitness gurus — will talk about those lifestyles and share their passions. That luncheon will be created by Chef Angelee Aurillo, and be accompanied by wines grown and created by women.

Also free is Friday’s market in Elks Park, where attendees can enjoy live music, and free food and wine from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The festival’s main events are the Toast of Telluride on Friday, a progressive wine tasting affair that rambles through numerous venues in town, starting at 5 p.m. The Grand Tasting takes place in Mountain Village in Heritage Plaza, where wines, bubbly, beer and cider will tempt patrons from 5-7 p.m. On Sunday, downtown Telluride’s Colorado Avenue will be a pedestrian paradise for Al Fresco Brunch on Main, featuring bubbly, bloodies and food served by an array of local chefs.

Sommelier tours are available all weekend long, including one during the Grand Tasting (you must have a ticket to the Grand Tasting if you choose this tour). Let an expert guide you as you explore wines from around the world and the U.S.

Elks Park is the festival’s hub, as the hospitality tent is where to go for tickets for sommelier tours, seminars and tastings. Some events have attendance caps, so be sure to purchase a ticket or pass as soon as possible. There are tickets available for individual events or purchase a pass to suit your passion. Digital tickets can also be purchased online at telluridwinefestival.com and will be scanned at the corresponding event. Bring a printed bar code or display it on your mobile device.

Hospitality tent hours at Elks Park are Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, visit telluridewinefestival.com.