Our weekend was overflowing with cocktails, fine wines, spirit samplings, and countless Colorado-based culinary creations. We only attended two of the five days' worth of the Denver Food + Wine events, and I am thankful we didn't commit to more as we were sauced by the 4pm close of Saturday's Grand Tasting. Before you accuse us of a low tolerance, let us explain the series of events.
Friday night was a cocktail competition where eleven local celebrity bartenders competed for guest's votes for the “Best Cocktail" in Denver. While the cocktails were sample-sized, they were unlimited until they ran out, which each bar/tender eventually did, and each one contained a different spirit, usually along with various liquors. So by the end of the night you had pretty much consumed everything on the market except beer. If you granted a bartender your "best cocktail" token, then you were rewarded with a full size beverage. It was a tough call for us between about three of the cocktails.
There were also restaurants in attendance showcasing Southern-inspired bites vying for guest's tokens. It was a clear standout for us, and most others as it won the competition, with a bone-in short rib atop mashed potatoes and fried onions from Ted's Montana Grill. Between all of the cocktails and food samplings there was hardly time to rest or even walk to the restrooms across the way. There was also live music and tables available outside of the event tent, but no one really made it over there, too caught up in all the excitement (and body heat) inside. The night ended with all of the cocktails having ran dry and the announcement of the winners. "Best Cocktail" for the night was awarded to Shawn Williams of Bar Dough and his tequila+prosecco concoction.
A night's sleep and a needed lazy morning later it was our job to get back out there and drink more . . . over 700 wines and spirits to be exact, and also find room for food from forty Colorado restaurants. We weren't sure we were ready for all this and wanted to start slow and take it easy. But when we walked in there was an Absolute Vodka Bar with various full size cocktails, a Woody Creek Distillers tent with more handcrafted drinks, a Campari Tiki & Rum lounge, St. Germain's bar, AND a Patron Tequila lounge all luring us in with festive drinks, comfy couches and fun flair. It was seriously impossible to start slow.
The Grand Tasting was indeed grand in size, volume and variety. We couldn't make it to everything, and hardly had time to even relax in any of those nice lounges, because (and here's our main complaint) the event was only three hours! To give you an idea of its grand scale, there were multiple main tasting tents, two VIP tents, chef demos and seminars, and all the sponsored lounge bars with full cocktails. Another reason we couldn't make it into every tent and bar was you absolutely needed some restraint and a game plan as far as what you would be tasting in order to avoid a digestive disaster. We don’t know what method they used to arrange the participants within the tents, but we think it could have been better. We felt like if you were there to truly “Taste”, it was overwhelming and difficult to do so in a thoughtful manner. First off, there were just so many different varieties of wines to try, and on top of the unbelievable selection of wine, there were all the different types of spirits as well. Thus, you sort of stuck to a category because it was hard to keep switching taste palettes from tequila to sake to whiskey to vodka, then try throwing in a Red Zin and some sushi! It would have been smart and more approachable and enjoyable for guests if the restaurants/dishes were placed next to spirits or wines that would complement and if the wines would have had some added structural arrangement such as region or variety.
Now we're not ones to complain about how there was so much to choose from, we just wish there had been more time to immerse ourselves and soak it all in a bit better! So all that being said, we totally think it was worth the $125 price tag, and knowing it all goes to charity makes it an even easier ticket to purchase. Everyone went home with a new Riedel wine glass, thoroughly wined and dined, educated if that's what you'd aimed for, and not needing to spend any money (or even any more time awake depending on your BAC), once the event ended.
We wish we had taken some Resqwater home with us. . .