The six-day celebration of fine wine, food, and spirits known as Denver Food + Wine Festival features an array of events ranging from dinners, discussions and demos, and pajama brunch parties! DF+WF is co-sponsored by the Colorado Restaurant Association and Southern Wine and Spirits and is the only food and wine festival of which all proceeds directly benefit charities. This year’s charities are Colorado ProStart, operated by the Colorado Restaurant Foundation, The Denver Post Community Foundation, and Metropolitan State University of Denver.
DF+WF returned last weekend for it’s thirteenth consecutive year featuring over 40 top Colorado restaurants and more than 700 wines and spirits from the region’s most lauded wine professionals at the Grand Tasting. It is completely worth the $125 ticket price if only the event were a bit longer. It’s impossible to try and sample even half of the wines, let alone the spirits and fun cocktails scattered throughout.
And on top of trying all that, there’s the amazing food! We really enjoyed the large variety of food this year – from hearty BBQ, sliders & bratwurst to light tuna poke, shrimp and fruit, to sweet pastries. There was something for everyone, as it should be, and hundreds of perfect drink pairings. After getting a new food dish we ended up just asking for whatever wine would best compliment the dish at the wine booth closest to us. It was a great method and made the day absolutely delicious! We also loved that everyone received a Riedel wine glass to use and keep (they’re the best), but wish they gave out the food & wine carrier trays like in previous years. Overall, the Grand Tasting is a really fun event and offers the largest, most diverse selection of wine than any other festival or tasting in the Denver area.
Two nights before the Grand Tasting, instead of the night before like last year which was tough on the body, celebrity bartenders from the Colorado Bartenders Guild competed for Denver’s “best cocktail” at the ShakeDown. Along with cocktails, wine and Fuji water were available and a handful of restaurants were competing alongside the bartenders for “best bite”. Live music enhanced the event with a special acoustic set from Dragondeer, which we enjoyed.
The cocktails were sample-sized, but they were unlimited until they ran out, and we definitely drank the three-hours worth of samples! Attendees also received a "best cocktail" token to turn in to the bartender who’s drink you decided was your favorite and they would give you a full size pour! It was a tough call for us between about three of the cocktails and two of our favorites ended up receiving the award:
“Fake Rolex” by Andreas Pejov of Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder & “The Sophomore” by Shawn Williams of Bar Dough in Highlands.
After a very fun and boozy few days, the DF+WF culminated in their Rise + Dine brunch party at Stanley Market. This event was the least impressive for us as the brunch food was not substantial or varied enough. There were just a couple restaurants giving hardy samples, like mini burritos and empanadas, but again they were just samples and they ran out. The other places just had little pastry dishes or tiny morsels of a dish. And the “world’s largest Bloody Mary bar” definitely fell short of the expectations they advertised. Not only were there not that many toppings, most of them were carb and cheese based. The good points of the brunch party included patio games, a fun Boomerang-style photo booth, plenty of tables and chairs, and bottomless mimosas that we can happily report never ran out!
Cheers to another year at Denver Food + Wine Festival!
~ Tiffany Candelaria