Liquid Diet: Sommelier Steven Dilley Swoons Over the Northern Rhône Lineup at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
This week, our diary series chronicling what a pro drinker drinks in a week takes us the wine-friendly confines of Aspen, Colorado.
In our series, Liquid Diet, a professional drinker journals every sip of one beverage-packed week. Here, sommelier Steven Dilley, owner and wine director of Bufalina and Bufalina Due in Austin and one of F&W’s 2017 Sommeliers of the Year, documents a week of crazy-good Juras, mountaintop Syrah, mind-blowing Rieslings, single-malt nightcaps and a mile-high Champagne, caviar and truffle brunch.
7:30 a. m. Sunday morning starts with coffee. Local roasters Flat Track provide the high-quality beans. A burr grinder easily allows me to dial-in any grind. Despite owning all manner of brewing accoutrement (a gram scale, a pour-over set-up, a Clever Coffee dripper, etc.), most mornings the ancient 4-cup KitchenAid diner-style drip coffee machine wins out. A scary amount of the internal plastic apparatus has worn away over the years, presumably providing a questionable supplement to my morning cup.
11:15 a.m. After drinking loads of cask ale on a recent London trip, my craving for more leads me to Flying Saucer for an early lunch: 512 IPA from cask along with some sauerkraut and bratwurst. Fun fact: In Texas it's illegal to serve alcohol on Sundays before noon without accompanying it with food.
1:50 p.m. After lunch, I check out a neighborhood theater recently taken over by Austin Film Society where a Noir series is currently running. A gimlet seems appropriate, but the bartender confesses she hasn't made one in years and that a house cocktail might be a better choice, so I go with a Firing Squad - tequila, Angostura bitters, lime, pomegranate molasses, simple syrup, Topo Chico.
3:40 p.m. I head into Bufalina to check on things and chat with the crew. We're participating in the Jurassic World: Global Takeover, the brainchild of Caleb Ganzer at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in NYC, and it basically means we'll be pouring a bunch of rad Jura wines. So we open a bottle of 2008 Berthet-Bondet Château-Chalon to taste alongside some cheeses. The wine is fucking epic. The entire staff goes nuts over it, and we send the remainders up to Bufalina Due, so they can go nuts, too. I also have a taste of '06 Dauvissat La Forest Premier Cru Chablis. Not my favorite vintage, but you could do worse.
11:00 p.m. After work, a light dinner and a couple glasses of Brendan Tracey's Wah-Wah, a semi-carbonic blend of Grolleau and Côt made by a former punk rocker. About as close as I get to drinking rosé.
7:30 a.m. Monday morning: the coffee routine repeats and gets followed up with a Flat Track macchiato and Veracruz Al Natural tacos, both thankfully just down the street from Bufalina; these and water by the gallon get me through the day.
7:30 p.m. My friend Alex meets me for dinner at Unit-D Pizzeria. Yes, on my day off, after five days of pizza, I have more pizza. It's solid, as is the bottle of 2012 Dauvissat Chablis we brought.
9:30 p.m. After that, we head across the street to School House Pub, where I have a Laphroaig.
10:30 p.m. And then back across the street to Haymaker for a porter.
12:15 a.m. (technically Tuesday) And because Monday and Tuesday are basically our Saturday and Sunday, we go old school and hit Crown & Anchor, where I have a Guinness. Alex knows the crew at the adjacent table, and we end up with a fair bit of their Blue Owl Saison Puede as we close the place down.
9:00 a.m. Drip coffee starts the day.
11:40 a.m. Crown & Anchor's cheeseburger beckons me to return, after failing to fit one in the night before. The grackles at this place are the most aggressive in town. I take it easy and drink a bunch of iced tea, losing a handful of fries to the birds each time I get up for a refill.
7:30 p.m. Dinner is with my friend and business partner Todd at June's All Day. We start off with martinis before checking out the wine list. June Rodil, after whom the place is named, is a rock star, and her list is awesome. We split a bottle of 2015 Mosse Magic of Ju-Ju. Chenin runs through my veins these days. I order a Lagavulin Single Malt as dessert, and, sensing my mood, the bar sends out a taste of Whoop & Holler, a 28-year-old Tennessee whiskey, along with some dessert wines, including a 10-year-old Marco De Bartoli Marsala (if you haven't tried this, you should) and a delicious Müller-Catoir Rieslaner [a cross between Riesling and Silvaner].
10:30 a.m. After dinner, we walk down to The Continental Club and hang out for a few songs while sipping Macallan.
6:00 a.m. Drip coffee to start. This morning I double up, as I refuse to drink airline coffee. (I'm not a coffee snob, but that stuff is nasty.) Lots of water on the plane. The woman next to me orders a coffee with 'local' milk. I'm committed to local, but at 30,000 feet above nowhere, it feels kind of extreme.
7:00 p.m. By the time I meet up with my fiancée Helen at our Airbnb, I'm already feeling the altitude. A quick Google search confirms the worst: lots of water and no alcohol. Boo. We walk around a bit before meeting up with our friend Jessica at Matsuhisa for dinner. They send out some sake, and we order a delicious bottle of 2014 Moreau-Naudet Forêts Premier Cru Chablis.
10:30 p.m. A quick Laphroaig nightcap at The Little Nell and off to bed.
8:00 a.m. Thursday morning starts with coffee at Ink.
1:00 p.m. Our hiking plans scrapped because of my altitude sickness, we walk around town and end up at Meat & Cheese, where I have a glass of 2015 Domaine Wachau Federspiel Grüner.
5:30 p.m. And that's about it until registration and the opening reception for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Lots of familiar faces and some Bedrock Zin and Williams Selyem Pinot to kick things off, followed by a couple glasses of something sparkling.
8:00 p.m. We stop by Helen's friend Ira's apartment for a glass of Riesling.
8:30 p.m. From there, we walk over to the Magnum Party. This is pretty awesome, and if you're looking for a new way to make friends, show up to a party with large-format Allemand. The 2012 Chaillot is young and delicious. There's a lot of wine consumed, but the highlights are the NV Bérêche & Fils Brut Réserve, 2004 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva, 2014 Foillard Côte du Py, 2012 Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Genevrières and the 2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs.
10:25 p.m. Pretty sure the alcohol has killed off any remaining altitude sickness by this point, so we push on to the 40 Ounce Party, which features the new line of Muscadet and rosé from Patrick Cappiello's project. There is also some Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal and some excellent 10 and 20 year-old H&H Madeira that my new friend Eric Seed sells.
12:45 a.m. (technically Friday) Since what we need is more wine, we head over to The Little Nell and meet up with some friends. An incredible bottle of Bérêche & Fils Campania Remensis Rosé Champagne to start, followed by a good-but-not-quite-as-good bottle of NV Canard-Duchêne Charles VII Blanc de Noirs.
9:15 a.m. Coffee at Ink.
11:00 a.m. The Grand Tasting kicks off this morning, and I'm psyched to taste the English sparkling wines my buddy Aaron Meeker brings in. Tight lineup, and the Digby Fine English Brut is a standout.
11:45 a.m. Time for the SommTalks Caviar, Truffle and Champagne Brunch. It's hard, I know. I miss out on the Comtes de Champagne but am consoled with some Taittinger Prestige Rosé.
3:00 p.m. After brunch we walk around for a couple hours before checking out the Terlato party, which features a large amount of Champagne in a bathtub. I stick to water.
3:30 p.m. A quick burger at J-Bar. I order a Guinness. We run into Maureen from Illumination, so we have a glass of their Sauvignon Blanc as well.
4:00 p.m. Then we head over to the Banshee party where it's Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Champagne and Nyetimber Classic Cuvée.
4:30 p.m. Next up, the first SommTalks seminar, The Grand Crus of German Riesling. The lineup and amount of knowledge dropped is mind-blowing. We compare newer and older vintages from some heavyweights: von Schubert, Lauer, Dr. Loosen, Becker, Keller and Wittmann. Mental note to buy even more Riesling.
6:15 p.m. I walk over to the Napa Confidential party, which has snacks and drinks from Meadowood. I sip a G&T and make small talk before slipping out.
6:30 p.m. Then it's up Buttermilk Mountain for a party featuring a bunch of California wines. We have a couple glasses of Wind Gap Syrah and Pinot. Someone has roasted an entire pig. I put together a couple of sandwiches, and we go for a short walk to take in the view. A few sips of Woodford Reserve, since we're on a mountain.
10:30 p.m. We head back home and debate whether to call it a night but decide to push on. Wouldn't want to miss a party at Abe Schoener's place! We pop a bottle of Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru and a 2000 Raveneau Butteaux Premier Cru, both of which are smoke. Stephen from vom Boden opens a 1989 Becker Martinsthaler Rödchen Auslese Trocken that blows minds. There's some 2006 Dom, more mescal, and more 40-ounce rosé. I lose track of the rest.
12:30 a.m. (technically Saturday) And because I somehow developed an appetite through all of this, we decide to swing by The Little Nell for a bite. Helen's friend is pouring Glenlivet in the lobby, so I grab a glass of the 15 year, and we split a pastrami sandwich. On the way out, Helen runs into her friend Dave Bernahl who hooks us up with an incredible glass of 2011 Clos Rougeard Le Bourg Saumur Champigny.
9:30 a.m. Iced coffee at Ink.
11:30 a.m. I pop into the Amex trade lunch where Blackberry Farm is putting out some amazing food. I stick to water.
2:00 p.m. It's time for the Northern Rhône seminar, which I've been anticipating for weeks. This seminar ends up being one of the best I've attended. The wines don't suck either: Perret, Clusel-Roch, Chatagnier, Graillot, Jaboulet and Clape. Multiple vintages from each producer.
4:30 p.m. The sparkling wine seminar follows, and it too is amazing. The highlight involves a single wine poured blind at five different levels of atmospheric pressure. We try ordering them, and I fail miserably. And then I drink some Léclapart, 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Chartogne-Taillet, Dehours Trio S, Krug Grand Cuvée and 2002 Bollinger R.D. Extra Brut. Oh, and someone brought a massive bottle of Lapierre, so some of that, too.
6:30 p.m. From there, we pop into Belinda Chang's party, where I park myself in front of the caviar-heavy buffet and down some Taittinger and Fords G&Ts. Giampaolo Venica recognizes our puppy from Instagram, so we chat about dogs and planes for a bit.
8:30 p.m. The Tiki Time Out Party is next, and we stick to script: a Panther's Fang, a Tradewinds and a Daiquiri. It's all too much for the pup, who has a meltdown while attempting to make chew toys out of furniture, so we drop her off for the night.
10:30 p.m. Then it's on to Matsuhisa for more Champagne and caviar. Large format Henriot, Pierre Péters, Krug flowing like water.
12:30 a.m. (technically Sunday) We sneak out to make one final stop, the anniversary party at Jimmy's. Ron Cooper is pouring his Del Maguey mezcal, and we end up tasting through an incredible lineup: Tobala, Wild Tepextate, Madrecuixe. I make a new friend who proceeds to school me on Oaxaca. I think we plan a trip. A couple of more Madrecuixes, and it's a wrap!