In June 1983, 300-plus oxygen-deprived winemakers and wine sellers, chefs, writers, and epicures gathered under bluebird skies in the Colorado mountains for the first Aspen/Snowmass International Wine Classic. The event was a litmus test of sorts for Francophile bon vivants and the industry pros who were forging America’s nascent food culture. The dream: Build a food festival in one of the most beautiful places in the world, keep the wine flowing, and they will come.
And how. Food & Wine joined the Classic as a title sponsor in 1986, and nearly 40 years after that first gathering, thousands of attendees annually brave the hairpin-turn drive from Denver over the Continental Divide, or a wind-whipped flight into the Aspen airport, to arrive at 7,908 feet for a long weekend of grand tastings, chef demonstrations with Monogram Luxury Appliances, wine seminars, parties, and the magical moments that can only happen at the Classic. The chefs may be household names, and the wines may be incredibly rare, but it’s the particular alchemy of the town, mountains, icons, innovators, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make this a bucket-list event for anyone who loves dining and drinking in America.
For people who work in the restaurant, wine, and hospitality industry, the gondola ride to the peak of Aspen Mountain marks a career-defining moment. Relationships are forged that change the course of history, both professional and personal. This first-ever digital issue of Food & Wine celebrates some of the greatest moments at the country’s most iconic food festival and the enduring cooking and wine lessons learned along the way. Join us at the summit.
Kat Kinsman, executive features editor, and Hunter Lewis, editor in chief
Jacques Pépin’s hands are resting quietly on his kitchen table, and it’s taking every ounce of my willpower not to stare. I know these hands well, and you do, too. They’ve been photographed meticulously barding a roast or folding a tart in the pages of La Technique, whisking a crème pâtissière while bickering with Julia Child on a TV screen, curled around a knife handle and an onion half on the cover of Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin, casually wielding a flaming pan of crêpes suzette as he lovingly taunts his cook-off opponents at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
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