Wine, dine and ride for a good cause
Sipping wine and hitting the trails on foot, on horseback or atop a mountain bike don’t necessarily go together. Or do they?
Patrons at the Park City Food & Wine Classic will have the opportunity to find out at the sixth annual epicurean extravaganza, July 8-11. This year’s festival will feature 29 events over four days – a one-day increase from previous years, plus more guest speakers and a new recreational slant.
According to festival director Gail Wiltshire, the Park City Food & Wine Classic is the largest wine festival in Utah. The event features more than 500 wines, gourmet cuisine and a variety of vino-inspired activities and seminars held at locations around Park City.
Owners, winemakers or representatives from about 90 wineries are expected to attend, joining hundreds of sommeliers, wine aficionados, culinary enthusiasts and – for the first time – a slew of adventure-seeking drinkers.
The new recreation angle stems from a partnership with outdoor apparel company Merrell, which is the lead sponsor for this year’s festival. Its slogan, "Let’s get outside," inspired the addition of outdoor activities including golf, mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing and horseback riding.
"It’s the thing that sets us apart from other wine festivals," Wiltshire says. "There are so many things to do in Park City, why not take advantage of it?"
New offerings include "Tight Lines and Fine Wines," a fly-fishing experience and tasting at Victory Ranch; "Mud Sweat and Cheers," a mountain-bike ride and tasting at Stein Eriksen Lodge; and "Mr. Ed and Red," horseback riding with a gourmet yurt lunch at Westgate Lodge.
The innovative additions to the festival join signature events such as the Grand Tastings, a wide range of wine-centric seminars and cooking demonstrations, and the Stroll of Park City, which stops at downtown locations for sips and food samples.
Scheduled seminars include a "Romancing the Bean" coffee and confection demonstration, a sustainable wine overview, a Riedel glassware tutorial, and a Master Ceviche food demonstration with celebrity chef Douglas Rodriguez of Bravo’s "Top Chef Masters" television show.
Among the featured guests are local and national food and wine experts including Kirsten Fox of the Park City School of Wine, Stein Eriksen Lodge executive chef Zane Holmquist, Master Sommelier Ron Mumford and Tommy Leman of Riedel Crystal.
Another addition this year is the After Fest Fest, which will start at 9 p.m. Saturday after the Toast of Park City Grand Tasting at The Canyons. The event is designed to draw people to Main Street after daily events wrap. A "Morning Revival" brunch will be held Sunday morning at High West Distillery for those who stay out a little too late.
The Classic is teaming with local restaurants, shops, resorts and outfitters to drive visitors to different parts of Park City. Restaurants will provide small plates during the Grand Tasting events and seminars will be held at different venues – some in classroom-type settings and others in atypical locations.
Since its inception in 2005, the Park City Food and Wine Classic has helped raise more than $100,000 for area charities. This year’s beneficiaries – the People’s Health Clinic and the Park City Foundation – will receive 5 percent of ticket sales and all proceeds from the silent auction, which opens for bidding on July 1 at 8 a.m.
Auction items include passes to the 2011 Masters Golf Tournament practice rounds in Augusta, Ga., a one-week stay in Belize, customized artwork, a Sundance Film Festival package, and ski and spa passes. A link to online bidding can be found at http://www.parkcityfoodandwineclassic.com.
According to Wiltshire, the Food and Wine Classic sold 2,800 tickets last year. The festival has sold out for the past two years and ticket sales are up this year.
Still, only 18 percent of patrons are from Park City, she says. "It would be great to see more locals. There’s nothing more exciting for me than seeing the same faces year after year."
A recent report showed the event brings in more than $3 million to the local economy. "We’re definitely impacting the community in a good way," Wiltshire says.
The festival continues to grow and expand, and organizers are looking forward to offering more opportunities in the future, for example, a sommelier-certification program and an overnight camping trip.
Tickets for Food & Wine Classic events are sold a la carte, except for the Meritage Package, which includes the three Grand Tasting events (the Mountain Kickoff Event, Stroll of Park City and Toast of Park City). Ticket-holders must be 21 or older and no children or pets are allowed.
Designated driver tickets are available at a discounted price for those who don’t want to drink wine. There are also some volunteer opportunities available for those who would like to help out.
For tickets and a schedule of events, call (877) 328-2783 or visit http://www.parkcityfoodandwineclassic.com.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”