Wine fest online

Though the Telluride Wine Festival is canceled this year, participants can look forward to next year's 40th anniversary festival, for which organizers are already "creating some amazing things." (Planet file photo)

The 39th annual Telluride Wine Festival may not be happening this weekend, but those who like to enjoy a glass of vino at the end of the day aren’t doomed to a teetotaling future. Despite the decision by Wine Festival organizers to cancel the weekend’s smaller events they had planned due to the recent spike in the county’s coronavirus cases, organizers have decided to implement virtual events for the coming weeks, open to both experienced oenophiles and newbies alike.

“We’re going to start doing virtual wine tastings with a number of different wineries, and they will happen on Wine Wednesdays and Date Night Saturdays,” explained Laurel Robinson, Telluride Wine Festival director. “We’ll do two each night: one will be a very high-end winery, and one will be a budget-conscious one. It’s really fun.” 

How it works is simple: sign up for the virtual tasting and pay through the Telluride Wine Festival’s website, and the wine will be delivered to your house. On the designated Wednesday or Saturday, participants will then join a live virtual event with the winemaker and other Telluride Wine Festival participants to enjoy the tasting, ask questions, and interact with fellow wine lovers. To enhance the food and beverage experience, tasters can opt to add a food pairing, for which the featured winery’s sommelier has selected a cheese, meat, or other appetizer in partnership with the company Igourmet. 

Robinson added that while the virtual tastings will be happening every week, the festival hopes to partner with local restaurants to offer wine tasting dinners and luncheons throughout the year “once things get safer” with regards to COVID-19 risk.

For those whose wine selection knowledge ends at “red” or “white” but want to dip a toe in (though literalists be aware that dipping a toe in is generally discouraged at fine dining establishments), Robinson explained that the world of wine doesn’t have to be all about in-depth knowledge of terroir, vintages and varietals. For her, it was a journey that began quite simply with her love of good, fresh food.

“I raise a lot of my own food on my farm in Norwood, and I make my own cheese,” she explained. “I kind of came backwards into the wine world. My brother was a winemaker, and I picked grapes in France, Switzerland and in California, so I’m really into the side of making food and making wine. So right now, with the COVID thing, I’m into raising my sheep which I eventually slaughter and eat, growing my own fruits and vegetables, making cheese and enjoying wine just like in our virtual tastings, ordering it from the people that I really love and having my food on the table and being able to enjoy it alongside the tastings with the winemakers.”

Dan Enright, assistant manager at the Wine Mine, agreed that enjoying wine and learning about wine doesn’t have to be overly complicated or even expensive.

“The world of wine is endlessly big and broad but also fun and easy to get into,” he said. “All you have to do is open a bottle.”

Wine is not the exclusive domain of elegant black-tie dinner parties, and local experts can help select satisfying options at every price point, he said.

“Whenever people ask for wine pairing recommendations, I always have great recommendations, but what I also always tell people is, ‘if you like what you’re drinking with what you’re eating, then it’s a great pairing,’” Enright said, emphasizing that wine can simply be “fun and enjoyable” rather than complicated or intimidating for those new to wine knowledge, personally opting for playful approach to a glass of wine.

“It can be almost like a game, asking myself, ‘What is that flavor that I’m experiencing right now? What do I associate with that?’ And then from there that sometimes builds off a memory and takes me to a different place or time in my life,” he reflected. 

“For me, wine especially, is a very social thing. I’m not a huge drinker in general, so when I open a bottle of wine, I like to share it, and the social aspect of sharing a bottle of wine with friends is one of the best joys of wine, bringing others into that world and sharing that experience with them,” he said, adding with a smile, “And, having just a little bit of a buzz doesn’t hurt either.”