Taste of Vail is a whirlwind of wine and food. I ate so much that on Saturday night, after the Grand Tasting, I dreamed about eating food.
This year I decided to highlight the best bites of Taste of Vail according to me. The only professionally judged portion of the event is The American Lamb Cook-off & Aprés Ski Tasting on Thursday and I will list the winners accordingly.
This year, the weather cooperated nicely with all signature events. Ryan and I got to town on Thursday afternoon. It was one of those typical Colorado spring days that requires a coat but at times the coat is too warm.
Aprés Lamb at Taste of Vail 2019
Thursday’s lamb tasting is my favorite event of Taste of Vail. At $85, it’s the most affordable signature event after Debut of the Rosé which occurs on Wednesday.
The lamb tasting is held in Vail Village which means enjoying the ambiance of this charming resort while eating some of the best bites of lamb ever created. My favorite on the day, hands down, were the empanadas from Mid-Vail. The chef created lamb braised empanadas with grilled pineapple red curry, mango salsa and topped with Mezcal pickled Fresno peppers.
Showcasing lamb is vitally important at this event, but I feel each dish should also be balanced and creative. The empanada by Mid-Vail was all of this and more and they got my vote for People’s Choice. My second favorite was the lamb sausage at The Remedy/Flame.
Mountain Standard ended up with the People’s Choice Award and Top Honors for the 15th American Lamb Cook-off went to Chef de Cuisine Martin Woods of Sweet Basil. We actually had his lamb manti with harissa, whipped curds and whey and mint as our first bite. It was a tasty version of a wonton. Second and third place when to Hooked/Revolution and Splendido. The last three, Hooked, Revolution and Splendido are all in Beaver Creek.
Mountain Top Tasting at Taste of Vail 2019
The wine flows freely and the people party at this event, which features food and wine at 10,350 feet above sea level. Mountain Top Tasting is a favorite of many people who make the annual trip to Taste of Vail. This year, weather was ideal and the mountain vistas spread out for miles around us.
With brilliant weather, the food and wine were located outside this year, as was the music provided by a guy who performed the best John Denver renditions I’ve ever heard.
My favorite bite was the smoked trout devils egg from Gessner at Hotel Talisa. It was a pickled beet egg white topped with whipped trout and beet microgreens. This bite elevated deviled eggs to another level. I also loved the rabbit tacos from Maya, a Beaver Creek restaurant inside the Westin that serves up modern Mexican cuisine and features a stunning tequila bar.
Grand Tasting at Taste of Vail 2019
The Grand Tasting at Taste of Vail was held at the Marriot in Lionshead this year. The event always features the best of the fest, including the finest wine. My favorite was the cabernet sauvignon from Neal at $75 bottle.
All weekend, including at the Grand Tasting, I enjoyed the white wine from Klein Constantia in South Africa. Their sales manager, Jacqueline Harris, was such an amazing advocate for Klein Constantia wine. We ran into her everywhere this weekend, including on the gondola, so I want to acknowledge her here.
I have three favorite bites at the Grand Tasting. Again, Gessner came up golden with their lux lollipops with sushi salmon, everything bagel cream cheese and poppy seeds. The elk carpaccio from The Remedy was also memorable. I only had one bite off Ryan’s plate but this dish stuck with me. Last but certainly not least, White Bison made whipped meat and bleu cheese mousse and put it on crunchy bread. It was one of the most savory bites at Grand Tasting.
I also received a lesson in port at the Grand Tasting from a distributor who hails from Denver. I learned a lot about wine this year. We were happy to see many wine booths included a map so we could visualize where they were located.
Thoughts on Greek Wine
I am including this even though it means I am writing beyond the recommended word count for a blog post (again).
I was excited to see It’s All Greek to Me as one of the wine seminars at this year’s Taste of Vail. To be brutally honest, I’ve had exactly two Greek wines and I hated those wines passionately. I’ve talked about my experience to people and was told repeatedly that Greek wine is an acquired taste. No thank you.
The Greek wine seminar was one of the most comprehensive and enjoyable seminars I’ve attended at Taste of Vail. The presenters, Master of Wine Ashley Husman and Ted Diamantis, owner and founder of Diamond Wine Imports, were passionate about Greek wine. Especially Ted, whose knowledge and dedication is infectious.
The presentation included maps and photos, making it part travel seminar, part historical discussion and part wine tasting. Amazingly, it turns out that I like Greek wine and will seek it out at the liquor store. Of course, now we also want to try Greek wine in Greece where I have no doubt it will taste even better when I am sitting in the sunshine next to the Mediterranean.
One key to drinking Greek wine is to realize that many Greek restaurants do not carry the “good stuff” and you will need to purchase this wine from the liquor store. The changing wine scene in Greece will hopefully influence American Greek restaurants’ wine selections in the future.
Tatse of Vail is as educational as it is delicious and if you attends with the intention of learning, you can take away a lot. I know I took away a lot from Taste of Vail, including a few extra pounds, but it was totally worth it.
Thank you to Taste of Vail & The Sebastian for hosting our lovely Vail experience.