2015 Marks the 11th year of the Denver International Wine Festival — Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Davies / Denver International Wine Festival
Denver may seem an unlikely city to host an international wine festival. It's hardly Napa or Bordeaux, and it's still often mistakenly identified more with the Old West than today's sophisticated wine and dining scene.
But selling Denver short on food and wine is a mistake. The "Mile-High City" has been drawing top chefs and sommeliers for years now – men and women who want to pursue their culinary and wine passions in a hip city with a remarkable quality of life, both indoors and out.
This year, the Denver International Wine Festival runs Oct. 28 to Oct. 30 at the Omni Interlocken Hotel, providing plenty of opportunities for food- and wine-lovers to discover the best that the region and world have to offer.
The event opens with a feast for the senses – the annual Grand Vintner's Dinner — Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Davies / Denver International Wine Festival
The festival kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 28, with the Grand Vintner's Dinner in the Omni's aptly named Meritage Restaurant. The multi-course winemaker's feast this year features wines from Chehalem, one of Oregon's pioneer wineries located in an area known for stellar pinot noir vineyards.
This pairing from ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro's chef won the 2012 Pairsine competition — Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Davies / Denver International Wine Festival
On Thursday, Oct. 29, the festivities continue with the Pairsine Chefs Fine Food and Wine Competition, during which 11 chefs from the Rocky Mountain region compete for the People's Choice Award.
Chefs are each assigned two of the year’s gold-medal-winning wines, and they must then create a gourmet food pairing for each – with only a week's notice as to which wines they'll be working with.
Among the Denver-area chefs competing are Paul Nagan, executive chef of Range Restaurant, which is located in the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel; Franco Ruiz, chef at Fruition; Alec Schuler, chef/owner of Arugula Bar & Ristorante; and Laurent Mechin, executive chef at Jill's, located in the St. Julien Hotel & Spa.
During the Pairsine event, attendees have a chance to interact with the competing chefs — Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Davies / Denver International Wine Festival
Pairsine tickets – which give festival-goers a chance to taste 22 food pairings and 40-plus gold-medal wines scoring 91 points or higher – are $100 per person general admission and $175 for VIP entry.
VIP tickets include early admission, meet-and-greet opportunities with chefs, a raw bar with sparkling wine and a gift bag.
At seminars during the festival, participants learn about various aspects of wine, food and pairings — Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Davies / Denver International Wine Festival
There are seminars throughout the festival. Among the options this year is an exploration of the wines of Burgundy and a session on Syrah from the state of Washington.
The Grand Tasting of International Wines and Food takes place Oct. 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for VIP ticket holders). It's the largest wine tasting event for consumers, media and trade in the region, with more than 60 wineries and distilleries pouring.
In addition to beverages, there's food, food-related products and wine accessories, as well as an auction and fine art. A full 100 percent of proceeds from the auction benefit There With Care, which provides a wide range of services to children and families during the critical phase of a medical crisis.
Omni, the event site, has a limited number of rooms at the festival rate of $99 per night.
Colorado-based Wine Country Network, which publishes Wine Country International Magazine, is the organizer of the event, and this year's honorary host is wine educator, consultant and author Karen McNeil, author of The Wine Bible.
Festival tickets range from $75 to $175 per person, depending on the days and specific events. A two-day Connoisseur VIP pass is $340.