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Taste of Vail 2014: Elevating the Palate

Chef Paul Anders prepares ingredients for the 10th Annual Lamb Cook-Off. Both Mountain Standard and Sweet Basil excelled in the culinary showdown.
Chef Paul Anders prepares ingredients for the 10th Annual Lamb Cook-Off. Both Mountain Standard and Sweet Basil excelled in the culinary showdown.Chad Chisholm

Taste of Vail 2014

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Held in the mountain town of Vail, Colorado April 2-5th, 2014, the annual Taste of Vail is Vail’s premier food and wine event. This year’s focus: Colorado Lamb and Rosé. From the various tastings to the stunning Vail backdrop, the foodies were in a frenzy enjoying exceptional wine and unique fare at altitude.

A "must-do" while at Taste of Vail, the Mountain Top Picnic is incredible
A "must-do" while at Taste of Vail, the Mountain Top Picnic is incredibleChad Chisholm

Starting with the USA Today sponsored 2013 Debut of Rosé, the snow flurries hardly kept the crowds away. Sampling the 2013 releases of rosé, several vineyards from across the country shared the many shades of pink wine—tones of light pink, coral, cotton candy and cherry red peppered the outdoor tent setting. Sparkling to bone-dry varietals were readily available, guests enjoying from their Taste of Vail wine cups the expanded options and education in the wine.

The 10th Annual Lamb Cook-off and Après Ski Wine Tasting took place on April 3rd. Starting with snow showers and ending with bright blue Colorado skies, the challenge was on. Judges of the challenge included Denver Life Food Editor Kimberly Lord Stewart and lauded Denver Chef Jennifer Jasinski amongst other notable judges on the panel. Winner of the lamb cookoff: Mountain Standard with their delicious take on a “lamb dog” with za’atar yogurt and salsa verde. Showcased wines and nibbles were found throughout the Vail Village, a casual afternoon stroll of indulgence in the mountain town.

The Mountain Top Picnic took place on April 4th. With stunning panoramic views and perfect weather, the snow-wall enclosed space was bright and celebratory. Favorite culinary items such as the turkey-bacon slider by Wildwood and pulled-pork carnitas on flatbread by Maya found in white tent chef stations on the perimeter of the picnic created the boundary with several vineyards populating the interior—idyllic snow mounds keeping vintages cold for festival-goers. The energy is palpable in this offering of Taste of Vail—smiles as wide as the snowy ranges behind imbibers notable on most faces. This is Vail at its finest, this is what Taste of Vail is all about.

Back at the base of the mountain the following evening, the Grand Tasting and Auction is a no-holds-barred culinary event where restaurants and vineyards alike pull out all the stops. From sea urchins being shelled at Matsuhisa to blackberry-topped cupcakes from Mountain Cupcakes, the ante is certainly upped for this event. Still in the booth-style setting, the food and wine alike are noticeably finer for this portion of Taste of Vail.

With the main events taking place each day, several of the restaurants and hotels offer one-off private events in conjunction with the Taste of Vail. Seminars on the Evolution of Napa Wines to Cigar Exploration take place in more intimate settings, while wine and cocktail-paired dinners with sommeliers and vineyards are in abundance as well throughout the celebration at several restaurants.

Writer’s Notes:

Taste of Vail is an exploration into Vail’s culinary scene in the picturesque Vail Valley. Festival Passes allow for unrivaled access to the events, while individual tickets are also available to purchase for a more a la carte option. A “do-not-miss” is the Mountain Top Picnic; where you will enjoy many of the vineyards offered throughout the event as well as un-rivaled views of the surrounding mountains. A word of caution for any of the outdoor activities: tickets are non-refundable in the event of extreme weather. Fortunately, Colorado is known for the consistent change in weather patterns and snow will usually blow over to reveal sunny skies.

The welcoming small-town feel with big-time culinary talent and out-of-state vineyards make for an interesting and unique food festival experience. To learn more abut Taste of Vail and to keep your eye out for 2015 tickets, visit www.tasteofvail.com. For more pictures from the 2014 event, click here.