Wine Tasting by Horseback

Crested Butte’s Wine and Food Festival is not your ordinary event

Picture yourself surrounded by mountains, with wildflowers galore and historic mining-town buildings giving a laidback bicycle-everywhere vibe. Now picture yourself with a glass of fine wine in your hand along with all that, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect during the Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival.

Taking place July 25-29, 2018, the festival is a perfect excuse to visit this scenic area in western Colorado. A selection of seminars, fine dining winemaker dinners and outdoor 
excursions mean there’s something for everyone.

The fun begins with a Locavores Luncheon south of town at Tassinong Farms, an innovative farm-to-table experience featuring produce grown in repurposed shipping containers and wines by Crested Butte’s own Buckel Family Wine.

The Grand Tasting will offer more than 500 select wines from 25 wineries and distributors, along with live music and a wine auction. [Photo by Nathan Bilow]

Thus satiated, continue that evening to Dessert First, a new event held in town. “Rather than a seated wine-and-food-paired dinner,” explains Culinary Arts Director Elise Popp, “everyone will mingle while enjoying pastries and confections from local and guest pastry chefs and confectioners.” The treats will be paired with dessert wines from winemaker Rick Moshin of Moshin Vineyards in Healdsburg, California.

Abe Shoener (Scholium Wines) is one of several renowned winemakers who will host a dinner with distinctive wine pairings. [Photo courtesy Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival]

In past years the fest’s Pairing Adventures were hikes in the area combined with wine-and-food pairings on the trail or at the trailhead. That’s changed. “This year a local outfitter will provide horsebacktrail ridingin nearby wilderness with wine-and-food offerings incorporated,” Popp says. 

Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, executive chef of El Jardín in San Diego, will cohost a Spanish-themed winemaker’s lunch during the festival. [Photo courtesy Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival]

Two of the guest chefs participating in Wine and Dine events this year were on the current season of Top Chef (filmed in Colorado)—Brother Luck (chef/owner of Four in Colorado Springs) and Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins (El Jardín in San Diego). They’ll combine their considerable skills with local chefs at luncheons and dinners held throughout the weekend.

If you need a break from all that grape, check out the festival’s tastings that go beyond the vine. Thursday’s Flights and Bites features tastings by Denver-based Laws Whiskey House and mouthwatering smoked barbecue by famed Dallas chef Kent Rathbun, while Friday’s lineup includes a guided sake tasting. Or for something really unusual, try the cigar-and-wine pairing led by Copper Cane Wine and Provisions on Friday. 

Friday’s forager event show attendees how to craft edible appetizers using locally harvested flowers and plants. [Photo courtesy Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival]

And, of course, there’s the Grand Tasting, where you can sip, swirl and saunter your way through over 500 national and international wines while enjoying live music—and that glorious Crested Butte scenery.

Festival goers can purchase tickets to individual events or opt for a pass that gains admission to most events. 

The scoop:

Many of the buildings on Elk Avenue were constructed following an 1893 fire; the town is a National Historic District. [Photo by Glenn Asakawa]

Crested Butte is located about 230 miles southwest of Denver—about a 5-hour drive. Or fly into Gunnison, located 28 miles from Crested Butte, and rent a car or take the Gunnison RTA/Mountain Express bus or a private shuttle to your hotel or vacation home. A car isn’t necessary if you’re planning to stay in town or “on the hill” for the wine festival; free buses shuttle between town and Mt. Crested Butte every 20 minutes between 7:35 am and midnight. For more on transportation, check out

Though you might get lucky and find a rental home or condo for the festival, most residences are reserved months in advance (something to consider for next year!). Elevation Hotel and Spa offers luxury accommodations slopeside in Mt. Crested Butte. For a little retro charm combined with modern updates, stay at the Nordic Inn, the ski resort’s oldest hotel. Located between Crested Butte and Gunnison, quaint Almont Resort offers riverside fishing cabins and vacation homes.

In addition to all the great food events during the wine festival, Crested Butte has some of the best pizza (the Secret Stash) and bagels (Izzy’s) in the West. Be sure to check out Third Bowl for locally made ice cream in flavors such as Cowboy Coffee and Honey Lavender. 


Categories: Events