Steamboat WIne Fest a hit on event’s 10th anniversary |

Steamboat WIne Fest a hit on event’s 10th anniversary

Wine Fest a hit

Luke Graham

— Walking into the Steamboat Wine Festival's Toast of Steamboat can be a daunting thing for a first timer.

The skies suggested a storm was on the way, with the grays and blacks swirled together hinting that a rain jacket should be in order.

But two steps into Gondola Square were enough to ease any worries.

"If rain is our only complaint, it will be a good day," one patron said, grabbing a wine glass and tray and scurrying into the day’s event like a child that had one too many Pixie Stixs.

Inside is where it can be overwhelming. Wine is everywhere. To the left. To the right. Red and white. Dessert, dry, fruity, refreshing and just about every adjective was used to describe the choices. The easy thing would be to get a Stella Artois or visit Goose Island Brewing Co. and get a delicious 312 Urban Wheat.

But this is a wine festival.

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So what better way to start than making a first stop at the International Wine Guild. The Denver-based school is on Food and Wine Magazine’s list of top-five wine schools in the country. In its 15 years, the school has graduated more than 3,000 people to various fields. From wine making, to wine judging, to wine selling, to the business of wine to just about anything wine related.

"The first thing is it's wine evaluation not wine tasting," said Claude Robbins, the president and director of education at the school. "Your profile is 75 percent eyes and nose and 25 percent your palate. Your palate is really to just confirm what your eyes and nose told you."


With that in the back pocket, the quest was on Saturday at the Toast of Steamboat. And at an event like this, it was tough to find a person who wasn't happy.

The week's event brought in more than 3,500 participants, 3,050 bottles and 550 kinds of wine. Saturday's event capped the 10th anniversary of the event. It's grown every year, with most in attendance making it a summer staple.

"My husband and I both came up," said Jackie Weatherman, who moved to Berthoud four years ago from wine-rich California. "It's an event we'll never miss again. It's the best we've ever been to, and we used to go in California every year. But don't tell anyone else. Tell them to stay away."

Of course, the wine tasting — oops, wine evaluation — isn't just for the patrons. It's proven to be a great way for wineries to market.

One of Saturday's hits was Mark Pape's little booth. Pape, the national sales manager for Left Coast Cellars, always had a line of people for his wine.

Based out of Oregon, Left Coast was a hit.

Pape said without the Steamboat Wine Festival, Left Coast probably wouldn't be where it's at.

"Colorado is our biggest market by 300 percent," said Pape, who burnt through all his wine by 4 p.m. Saturday. "Oh, we see a spike in sales after this event. It's crazy."

It turns out, the Wine Festival isn't all that intimidating. On Saturday, it was all about fun.

And by 5 p.m., the sun even made an appearance.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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