Metropolitan State University of Denver was seeing red, white and rosé as the 8th Annual Denver Food and Wine event came to campus Sept. 6 — 8.
Upon entering the Grand Tasting gala — the capstone of the three-day event — guests were greeted by a long line of glistening wine glasses that each patron received to sample what the event had to offer.
Denver Food and Wine, in its fifth year on campus, is sponsored by Southern Wine & Spirits and the Colorado Restaurant Association. Proceeds benefit MSU Denver, The Denver Post Community Foundation and the Education Foundation of the CRA.
The first two days of the event went extremely well, said Dr. Chad Gruhl, chair for the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events.
The festivities began Sept. 6 with the Panzano Dinner — a tribute to Dario Cecchini— a world-famous butcher from Panzano, Italy. He was also present at the Grand Tasting event on Saturday.
On Sept. 8, the Restaurants Rock fundraiser was held in the new Hospitality Learning Center and featured two of the Bravo channel’s celebrity chefs—Kelly Liken of “Top Chef” and Jenna Johansen of “Around the World in 80 Plates.” The dinner party featured local Colorado band Opie Gone Bad, the Colorado Bartenders Guild “Mixologists” and tastings from several local restaurants.
According to the Denver Food and Wine website, the grand tasting event on the afternoon of Sept. 8 featured more than 600 wines and spirits and cuisine from more than 35 of Denver’s finest restaurants.
“We’re expecting between three and four thousand people,” Gruhl said.
Dr. Gruhl’s estimate seemed to be spot on. The event opened at 11 a.m. for VIP attendants, but by noon, when the event opened to the public, the line outside was wrapping from the front of the King Center all the way to the parking garage near 7th Street.
One of the most visited venues was the Viking Culinary Stage, where top chefs showcased their techniques in a setting much like a culinary TV show.
Cecchini, the world-renowned butcher from the Sept. 6 event, received such a large turnout that the tent was overflowing with attendants. Cecchini, who spoke almost no English, had his wife on stage translating the recipes and ideas.
Sometimes there are things that need no translation. As Cecchini butchered the pig on stage, he pulled out an industrial hacksaw and the crowd erupted in laughter.
Sally St. Claire, owner of Empire Colorado’s The Peck House Hotel and Restaurant — Colorado’s oldest still-operating hotel (opened in 1862) —was essentially glued to her seat during the presentation.
“I’ve just been fascinated by all the different approaches to what they’re doing,” St. Claire said.
The wines and spirits featured in the event weren’t just based out of Colorado. One Hope, an Arizona wine maker, was receiving a lot of attention from event-goers. Not only were their wines popular, their message was as well. Fifty percent of One Hope’s profits go to directly to a variety of charities —with the type of wine dictating where the charitable donation goes.
“We try to make it match the wine,” said Kristen Shroyer, vice president and one of the eight founding members of One Hope.
Chardonnay, for example, is preferred by women two-to-one and breast cancer affects more women than men, so proceeds from the chardonnay go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Shroyer said.
“Cabernet is more of a masculine varietal,” she said. “Four out of every five cases of autism affects the male gender, so proceeds from the cabernet go to ACT Today! for autism research.”
According to Shroyer, over $750,000 has been donated to date.
“This holiday we should surpass the million-dollar mark on what we’ve donated,” she said.
While there were many restaurant owners and other industry professionals at the event, there was also quite a bit of interest from the general public.
“It’s always a great event —I love coming. It’s my eighth year,” Denise Durfee said.