Resort has grape idea

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Summer wine festivals are a well-entrenched part of the resort scene in Aspen and Vail, with people putting their names on waiting lists to spend upward of $300 for a ticket. Now, Steamboat thinks it can be just as successful hosting a wine festival and make it more affordable.

Steamboat Wine Festival '04 will take place from Aug 5 to 8. The event will feature winemaker's dinners at restaurants across town as well as two signature events, one atop the Thunderhead gondola and a second in Torian Plum Plaza.

The wine festival will benefit the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, and will be held concurrently with the arts council's Beaux Arts Festival.

Steamboat nonprofits and resort officials will not have to invent a wine festival from scratch -- the concept was pitched to the Chamber Resort Association and the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. in June 2003 by Doug Larson of the Denver-based event management company "Team Sage." Larson's company has staged successful wine events, including Nouveau en Lodo, elsewhere.

"We do 10 to 15 events a year," Larson said. He promised to bring wines to the event from 40 to 50 vineyards and to attract master sommeliers and other wine experts to present wine seminars to people attending the Steamboat festival.

"We'll have enough experts for any wine dork, but this is about a lifestyle. It's an event. And we hope to bring prices into the $40 to $50 range," Larson said.

The first of two major events during the four-day festival will be the "Wine on the Mountain Grand Tasting" hosted by the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 6. The official wine of the event will be Black Opal. The wines will be paired with appetizers from several restaurants, and regional chefs will face off in a culinary competition. Dinner attire will be the rule. All-inclusive tickets are $45.

The Toast of Steamboat, 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 7, will be a more casual affair in Torian Plum Plaza. The event is to be hosted by American Express. The wine of Trinchero Family Estates will accompany live music and the Italian form of lawn bowling known as bocce ball. All-inclusive tickets are $40.

Team Sage actively is seeking sponsors to help underwrite the inaugural wine festival, which Larson estimates will carry a price tag in the high five figures.

The first event will be modest in scale, he said, but if it can attract 200 attendees from Colorado's Front Range, he predicted it could drive 500 to 1,000 room nights in hotels.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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