A wine time in Durango

Locals celebrate spring with the fruit of the vine

More than 600 wine enthusiasts reveled in the offerings of hundreds of wineries, plus a handful of sommeliers and restaurant chefs at the Durango Wine Experience 2012, a three-day event held May 3-5 in multiple locations around Durango.

Partiers sipped, shopped and sampled pairings of wine and food in more than a dozen seminars and special events. Karen Barger, the co-founder of Durango’s only beverage festival, said Durango being increasingly in the national spotlight, adds to the festival’s growing success.

“Another great, record-setting year, with over 600 guests at Saturday’s Grand Tasting,” Barger said. “It gets better every year.”

Wine lovers travelled from as far away as Florida and Washington, Barger said. Vendors showcased their new products to an eager target audience who appreciated the hundreds of labels represented at the Durango Wine Experience.

“It’s a great way to kick-off a wine, to introduce a new vintage,” Barger said.

Friday’s Walk-About Durango Tasting also was a resounding success, Barger said, with downtown merchants and galleries throwing open their doors for what’s considered the town’s official summer season opener, held annually on the first full weekend in May.

Seminars featuring Montanya Rum, beer showcased in Spiegelau beer glassware and tea-pouring at White Dragon Tea Room expanded the beverage choices for non-wine drinkers.

Several tastings featuring the wines of Italy, the Mediterranean and Bordeaux and allowed connoisseurs to analyze the complexities of wine, paired with appetizers and cheeses from Guido’s Favorite Foods, Eno and Cosmo Bar & Dining. A Saturday morning blind tasting on Cosmo’s rooftop appealed to the serious and the not-so-serious – all sampling and savoring under a cloudless sky.

Multi-course wine dinners were held at Mahogany Grille, Seasons Rotisserie & Grill and Kennebec Café.

In its sixth year, the annual wine festival balances fun with community service. Up to 60 volunteers from a wide representation of Durango’s non-profits volunteer to set up, serve and clean up according to the festival’s intense event schedule.

“United Way provided the army of help. We, in turn, make a donation back to United Way,” Barger said. “They benefit and we benefit. It’s a great way to blanket the entire community.”

The Durango Arts Center, too, benefitted courtesy of the Rochester Hotel and Mutu’s Italian Kitchen, which teamed up to host the second annual Durango Kentucky Derby, a stand-out event saluting Southern culture, food and dress.

“Talk Derby to me” was the unofficial theme of this year’s “Run for the Roses” fundraiser, said executive director Sherry Rochford Figgs.

Belles in bonnets and dapper gents sporting top hats sipped spiked Arnold Palmers and mint juleps in the Rochester’s garden courtyard, drawling away the hours before the day’s two-minute, televised race.

Partiers posed under an arch of roses and passed Hot Browns – Kentucky’s famous open-faced turkey and bacon sandwiches on white toast, always topped with Mornay sauce.

Guests feasted on rich country ham on homemade biscuits, shaved pork tenderloin tiny sandwiches and cucumber dip, followed by Mutus’ chocolate bourbon pecan pie and orange-scented angel food cake.

Figgs said the Southern garden party raised about $12,000, which will help defray costs necessary to operate the Arts Center’s 17,000-square-foot historic building.

The Arts Center hosts a wide range of events and exhibits not just for its 900 members, but for the entire community, Figgs said.

The 2013 Durango Wine Experience is scheduled for May 2-4. Information is available online at www.durangowine.com

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