Wine festival kicked up a notch

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Organizers of the Steamboat Wine Festival are upping the ante next week by adding visiting master sommeliers and the opportunity to taste $175 bottles of cabernet.

Team Sage Productions hopes to build on the success of last year's inaugural festival, which attracted 1,200 paying participants for its two principle events.

"We planned for 1,000 people and exceeded that," organizer Jason Ornstein said. "We had 500 people for the Wine on the Mountain Grand Tasting and 700 for the Toast of Steamboat."

This year's festival begins Aug. 4 with wine makers' dinners at several Steamboat restaurants. In addition to a pair of late afternoon "Grand Tastings" Aug. 5 and 6, this year's program includes affordable tasting seminars beginning at $20 a person. The seminars offer an unintimidating opportunity to taste and learn about the wines that result from skillful blending of soils, climates and vines in the different wine-producing regions of the world.

The event is co-sponsored by the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and Conference Center, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. Most of the events are based in the Steamboat Grand and nearby Torian Plum Plaza.

Friday's "ABC, Anything but Cabs and Chards" grand tasting will encourage attendees to expand their palates to include pinot noirs, Merlots and Rieslings. The admission fee of $40 offers the chance to sample more than 300 wines, food from local restaurants and watch a "Steel Chef" culinary competition.

Saturday's "Reds, Whites and Blues" grand tasting bumps the admission to $50 but also increases the wine selection to 400 and adds a live blues band.

Both grand tastings include silent auctions with proceeds benefiting the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

People for whom big-bodied Cabs are a passion will want to purchase tickets early for the Diamond Creek Reserve Tasting, during which more than $1,200 worth of Diamond Creek's sought-after wines will be available for 40 patrons. Each attendee will taste more than $300 in wine.

Diamond Creek has drawn notoriety in the midst of the famous Napa region of California for its ability to grow distinctly different grapes within very small vineyards.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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