Denver Food and Wine Recap: Highs, Lows and Yes, I’ll go again.

September 6-8, Denver celebrated its 8th Annual Food and Wine Classic. The main event ‘The Grand Tasting’ took place on a stunning 75 degree day at Metro State.

Here are a few highlights from the event:

Technology!! Being a Boulder-based DOTW contributor, it was important to secure transportation to Denver Food and Wine so that I could properly take part in the event. It just so happens that a former MBA colleague is running Uber Denver and encouraged me to give the car service a try. I downloaded the app and was AMAZED at how efficient and delightful my trip was to and from the event. +1 for Uber!

Upon arrival, it was suggested that attendees download the Denver Food and Wine app. Enjoy something you tasted? Take a quick snapshot of a barcode and you’ll have record of the vineyard, vintage, varietal and photo of the wine. It also offered the option of giving your own rating and recording additional notes. This was incredibly helpful for me to sort out my favorites from the ~600 wines available for tasting.

Value At under $100 for the Grand Tasting, the event was a real bargain. Attendees were able to eat and drink to their hearts content for an incredibly reasonable price. Given the price point, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the event, grounds and staff.  I mean, really, it was STUNNING.

I continue to be amazed at the volunteer staff that comes out for Food and Wine events. Upon arrival I was given a lovely tour of the grounds, and in the name of sustainability, they even had volunteers helping attendees organize their compost and recyclables in the tents! (Also – they splurged on the super nice trailer bathrooms – for which I am ever so thankful.)

FOOD!  Something I recalled from Aspen F&W this year, was that the food was incredibly limited in comparison to the amount of wines that were showcased.  Denver restaurants BROUGHT IT – showcasing delightful bites of cuisine representative of their passions and various themes. Well done, Denver, well done.

VIP For $225 attendees were able to purchase VIP passes. This allowed guests to not only support local charity, but also provided for tented tables, catering by the Brown Palace and sommeliers at your disposal.

To complete my review of Denver Food and Wine, I think it’s only fair that I also share ‘less awesome’ observations of the event. With as many wonderful, stand-out components that this event had, it also had a few blemishes.

Lack of Education Vendors were comprised, primarily, of distributors or hired help for the event, rather than wine makers. It felt like their job was to quickly give you a generous pour and get you on your way. I needed to ‘push’ for detail on the wines, asking at times for a flight that would help me learn most about the vineyard or specific producer. To be fair, one gentleman busted up to a table of Cabernet and Chardonnay and abruptly remarked “Whaddya got for sweet wine?!” So I imagine the staff was a little unsure about how ‘detailed’ to be in their explanations with such a mixed crew.

Local wines? While I was very impressed with the number of local distilleries represented, I didn’t see many (any?) Colorado wines. The event may have been cost prohibitive for some of the vineyards, but I was looking forward to tasting more local wines.

Drunkie the Clown Seas of adults, with wine glasses dangling from lanyards around their necks and with not too discerning of tastes, imbibed.
A lot. Perhaps because Denver Food and Wine is (delightfully) the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of food, wine and spirits. Or perhaps there was pressure to get the most ‘value’ out of a ticket possible… but folks be drunk at Denver Food and Wine. Paired with the lack of education that seemed to be offered, as the day wound on, it felt a little boorish. I left the event to a chorus of ~50 people belting out ‘Sweet Caroline’ from one of the booze tents. Perhaps more important than this point of criticism is that one thing’s for sure: people were having a great fucking time.
Net-net, I anticipate hopping into an Uber again next year and making the trip down with a group of friends. The event was lush with fabulous food and a fun mix of wine and spirits. Though there were some ‘less than perfect’ parts of the event, it was beautifully orchestrated at a great value and in a stunning location on a perfect day. I’m so pleased to see Denver emerging as a legitimate player in the food and wine scene and look forward to seeing what’s on display next year!

Denver Off The Wagon Crew and Friends

About Joni Klippert

Lover of all things Boulder... food and wine, entertaining and our awesome startup scene! Also, Nerd.

  • Marjorie Atwater

    Sounds fantastic! Though unenthusiastic and under-educated vendors are a pet peeve of mine at events like this too, seems like it was a great time, sign me up!

  • Will McCollum

    Loving it!