Oenophiles enjoyed a special four days and nights this month and received an education on the best wines of Portugal in the process.

The Wine Festival of Colorado Springs celebrated its 28th year March 6-9 and its sixth year benefiting the Colorado Springs Conservatory. Elizabeth Youngquist served as event chair for the 20th time.

A traditional date night, the Grand Tasting drew more than 850 to Broadmoor Hall on March 8 to sample Portuguese varietals paired with food from top chefs and restaurants. That followed wine seminars and a special meal from chef Brother Luck.

The grand finale was an elegant, plated five-course Gourmet Wine Dinner and Auction at Garden of the Gods Club. With Jim Little of Coaltrain Wine & Spirits, the guest wine experts described each course’s accompaniment, from white port cocktail through Espumante Brut and 10-year Tawny Port.

Visiting with formal-dinner guests were Paulo Laureano, prize-winning oenologist and man with the best mustache; world traveler winemaker Carlos Teixeira; Pedro Teixeira, Global Wines Portugal; Pedro Veloso, Grape 2 Glass; and Brandy Bradshaw Robinson, Premium Port Wines.

Conservatory Board Chair Donna Nelson helped sprinkle the festival schedule with treats around Colorado Springs, such as a trip up Pikes Peak and visits to Garden of the Gods and the Golden Bee.

Conservatory musicians performed throughout the festival, including at the dinner finale, where dainty 10-year-old Aspyn McClain stood atop a box in the middle of 200 guests to belt out a special song, earning a standing ovation.

Founding CEO Linda Weise said youngsters such as Aspyn, “who will be with us eight more years,” are the reason the Conservatory, now 25 years old, does what it does to inspire and train youths ages 4 through 19 in the arts and as community arts advocates.

Celebrating a 13-year relationship with Harrison School District 2, Weise described a new program involving 511 students at Centennial Elementary School who “discover their own creative assets, how they perceive their abilities, how they perceive themselves.” During a seven-hour Conservatory field trip, they learned piano, guitar, dance and theater to create an original piece around their school curriculum.

In a surprise announcement, Weise and Nelson called out to Conservatory supporter CJ Moore, telling cheering guests she was being named chair emeritus of the board. The school served more than 13,000 young people last year, “and CJ is beside every one of those children,” Weise said. The Conservatory had been a love project of CJ’s late husband, Mike Moore. Both husband and wife were strong supporters of various philanthropic and community projects, but the school was all his. “He loved this school,” said CJ, and staff remembered him visiting and being involved every day until his death while snowboarding in 2002.

After his death, CJ told them, “Now you’re stuck with me.” She serves on the board, on committees and is there for everything the Conservatory does, much as her husband was, Weise said.

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