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Explore fine ports, chocolates and sakes at Taste of Vail

CREATED: 2006-03-27 02:13 PM


Media contact:
Stephen Lloyd Wood
Media liaison
16th annual Taste of Vail
(970) 949-9774

Explore fine ports, chocolates and sakes at Taste of Vail

VAIL, Colo. - When it comes to fine dining, some pairings truly are out of this world.

Two seminars at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa, in Lionshead, take a couple of those classic pairings - port wine with fine chocolate and sushi with sake - to new heights next month during the 16th annual Taste of Vail, benefiting Vail Valley charities for 16 years.

On Friday, April 7, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Leah Deane of Portugal's legendary W. & J. Graham's will lead participants through the "ultimate sweet dessert sensation," the Chocolate & Port Seminar. Promising to help "solve of the mysteries" of port wines, Deane says she'll be pouring several of the company's selections - the famous Six Grapes, a couple of rubies and a 20-year-old tawny among them - all paired with heavenly treats made of what experts consider the world's finest chocolate.

"It's a sticky job, but someone has to do it," says Deane. "I promise you will leave with more than a good taste in your mouth."

The chocolates - some caramel-filled and others hazelnut bittersweet - are being prepared especially for the seminar by Mountain Flour, based in Eagle. The primary ingredient is a 100-percent cacao chocolate supplied by Venezuela's renowned Chocolates El Rey.

"I love El Rey. It's the highest-quality chocolate in the world," says Shawn Smith, former pastry chef at the Lodge at Vail, now co-owner of Mountain Flour. "We don't get to work with it very often."

Then on Saturday, April 8, from noon to 1:30 p.m., Christopher Golub, sake sommelier at Denver's popular swimclub 32 restaurant and sake bar, offers A Bridge to Japan: the New World of Sake, an exclusive tasting of six of the worlds finest sake producers, paired with sushi by Blue Tiger, in the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa.

"I'll walk people through what the heck sake is, bring it into their minds in a way they can really digest it," says Golub, promising an in-depth study on how sake is made, what the differences are in grades and how to navigate the sake list at your favorite sushi restaurant.

"Sake is stepping out of being just for Japanese food and into other cuisines. In big cities now, sommeliers are adding sakes to their wine lists," says Golub, 41, a wine sommelier who studied Japanese for years before launching a new career with Japan's traditional drink. "There is an amazing world of artisan sakes out there. When you taste six of them, all lined up, you really begin to understand."

Both seminars are included in Taste of Vail's Full Event package. Tickets for each seminar can be purchased individually, however, for $35.

Taste of Vail is a charitable, nonprofit organization. Over the past 15 years, the festival has contributed more than $300,000 to Vail Valley Charities; and in 2005, in conjunction with Ritz-Carlton, the Taste of Vail donated $13,000 to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

The festival was created in 1990 by a group of Vail Valley restaurateurs as a marketing event to showcase the resort's world-class restaurants. Now the internationally famous community boasts more than 20 Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants - the most of any resort community in the United States. This year, as many as 5,000 attendees and volunteers are expected to participate in the 16th annual Taste of Vail, with chefs from more than three dozen local restaurants and winemakers and/or owners of five dozen wineries from around the world participating.

For more information about the 16th annual Taste of Vail, or to buy tickets, visit or call 970-926-5665.

Port facts:
• "Port" refers to a category of fortified wines originally produced in Portugal's Douro Valley.
• True ports are shipped into the United States under the term "porto."
• As with "Champagne," Californian or Australian ports cannot use the term "porto" on their label.
• Traditionally, ports were served after dinner, with cheese.
• Many desserts pair very well with Port, however: "ruby" ports pair well with chocolate; and "tawny" ports pair well with nutty, or creamy desserts.
• Port should be served in a glass with a relatively large bowl - not the typical cordial glass.
• Port is a wine that can be enjoyed anytime - not just at weddings, birthdays and graduations.
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Sake facts:
• Often is sake called the "drink of the gods" by the Japanese.
• Sake is created from rice, water, "koji" and yeast.
• The alcohol content of sake is usually about 16 percent - slightly higher than that of an average wine.
• Brewed like a beer, sake is served and enjoyed like a fine wine.
• Like wine, premium sake can offer hints of many flavors, such as strawberries, herbs and licorice.
• Premium sake is usually served lightly chilled, while lower grades are usually served warm.
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