Uncorking a summer staple | SteamboatToday.com

Uncorking a summer staple

Steamboat Wine Festival toasts fourth year

Brandon Gee

— Entering its fourth year, the Steamboat Wine Festival is becoming a summer staple in the Yampa Valley.

“It’s a good weekend and a great new event,” said Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. “We’re very excited to have it.”

At this year’s festival, beginning Thursday, there will be opportunities to learn in seminars ranging in topics from “Wines for Any Budget and Lifestyle” to “Discover Argentina.” There also will be opportunities to eat at events such as Bar-B-Q + Bubbles=Bub-ble-Q! And, of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to drink.

Event organizers expect nearly 800 wines from more than 100 international and domestic wineries. About 2,500 people are expected to attend the festival.

“We love it,” said Mary Harris, a part-time Steamboat resident who has attended the festival each year with her husband, Ralph. “One thing we love about it is the seminars. It’s a really good way to be educated about wine.”

Harris said she plans to attend the “Discover Argentina” seminar to prepare for an upcoming trip to Argentina.

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Doug Larson, co-owner of Team Sage Productions, which puts on the festival, said the Steamboat Wine Festival has doubled in length and size in just a few years. Larson said he expects the growth to continue, with ticket sales already 28 percent ahead of last year.

Speaking to the festival’s increasing popularity, some events had already sold out by Friday. Sold-out events include the “Your” Signature Cocktail Seminar and the “Out on a Lamb Tasting.” On Friday afternoon, there were only eight tickets left for the festival’s opening event – and Harris’ favorite – the “Wine on the Mountain Kickoff Celebration” at the top of the gondola. Two hundred people will ride the gondola up to Thursday evening’s event to taste more than 100 wines paired with hor d’oeuvres, chat with a world-class wine panel and bid on items in a live auction. Tickets for the all-inclusive event cost $85.

“It’s just going to get better and better,” said Shelly Schirer, of The Porches, which is the host sponsor of the event for the second year.

Schirer said The Porches pays to host the event, believing the Steamboat Wine Festival will be a signature event in the next couple of years. Evans Hall said the festival attracts a “different clientele” to Steamboat. Larson said about three-quarters of the festival’s visitors come from outside the Steamboat Springs area. Twenty-one percent are from outside Colorado.

Organizers said most events at the 2006 festival sold out and urged those hoping to participate to buy their tickets early. Individual tickets to wine festival events start at $25, and packages start at $175. Proceeds benefit the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. For more information, including a full schedule, and to buy tickets to Steamboat Wine Festival events, visit steamboatwinefestival.com.