A day trip to Denver reaped a peek behind the scenes of an international wine competition, a reintroduction to a cheese-lover's mecca and the discovery of a new cluster of food businesses under one roof.
It was all triggered by an invitation to meet the judges for the 2013 Denver International Wine Competition. This is the ninth year that Christopher and Darcy Davies have held the competition and organized the festival that reveals the winning wines (scheduled this year for Nov. 6-10).
Seventeen judges were huddled in a meeting room at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, where they blind tasted and rated 400 wines from 18 countries over a two-day period. Darcy was in the command position of "the nerve center," the place where all the swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting went on before the last score was tallied. Runners picked up wines in a certain order, placed them in brown paper bags and checked with Darcy to be sure they had the correct wine in the correct order. Keeping all the 400 wines in the correct order and poured in the correct glass for each judge was an amazing process to behold.
You can see if you agree with the judges' scores at the Grand Tasting of International Wines and Food event at 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Omni, 500 Interlocken Blvd. All the wines will be available at the event along with food sampling and educational seminars.
A portion of ticket sales will benefit Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit fighting to end childhood hunger in America. Tickets range in price from $95 to $215 for a VIP pass. Visit denverwine fest.com.
Since I was near Longmont, home of the Cheese Importers, 103 Main St., it was easy to swing by the shop to have a look at its new location. This Colorado family-owned business opened in 1976 and quickly became the go-to place for artisan cheese and other gourmet foods. The new, much larger store has a chilled cheese room that holds more than 350 cheeses, many of which are open for sampling, as well as a big selection of European housewares, linens, unique children's goodies, perfumes and soaps. There's also a French caf? Bistrot des Artistes, where the very reasonably priced menu includes fromage plates, soups, salads, sandwiches and beautiful desserts.
I couldn't help but feed the Longmont economy with my purchase of a wedge of triple-cream truffle brie, a baguette, a set of Provencal-print place mats and adorable French-imported olive oil saucers designed with a couple of rows of sharp, teeth-like points for grating garlic or hard cheese. I put it all together for a French-inspired picnic later that evening.
Since the trip home would involve driving through Denver's north side, I made a point of checking out The Source, 3350 Brighton Blvd. The 19th-century steel foundry in the industrial area of Denver has been revived and will house several food shops. Think Ivywild School on steroids. The Source opened Aug. 26, so only a couple of the food shops are dialed in. Comida, an upscale Mexican restaurant that started off as a mobile taco truck in the Boulder area, was bustling. And the Acorn, a sister restaurant to Boulder's hip Oak at Fourteenth, had its wood-burning oven cranking and ready for dinner service.
Other artisan food and beverage places in the works include: a brewery, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project; a French bakery, Babette's Artisan Breads; a coffee shop, Boxcar Roasters; a bar, CapRock Farm Bar; and a butcher, MeatHead. There were signs for more stores to come on the garage-like doors for a liquor store, florist, produce place, cheese and spice shop, art gallery and design store.