The Fourth Aspen Food & Wine Classic Sommelier Challenge (directed, orchestrated and adjudicated by yours truly) has just ended and two-time Defending Champion Bobby Stuckey, the wine director and owner of Frasca in Boulder has passed the tastevin to Jordan Salcito, sommelier of Gilt restaurant in New York. The lovely Salcito, who won by a show of (many) hands in the audience, bested not only the ever- personable Stuckey (who charmed the crowd with stories of his travels in Spain and his honeymoon with his beautiful wife Danette) but also the bubbly Belinda Chang, wine director of The Modern in New York and hometown favorite, Richard Betts, wine and mezcal impressario and former Wine Director of Aspen's Little Nell.
Betts actually conceeded the competition before the winner was chosen, saying that his three competitors were all far worthier than he. Betts, one of the best palates in the business,was certainly the most entertaining: during the forty five minute challenge and tasting, he managed to invoke the beauty of sangria, display a belt buckle given to him by Ernest Gallo (could that be true?) and enjoy a nip of his own mezcal.
The crowd (which included Robert Bohr, of Cru, the 2006 Aspen Champion Sommelier and husband of Jordan as well as Aldo Sohm, the reigning World Champion Sommelier and wine director of Le Bernardin) tasted five wines - under the direction of the competing sommeliers. They included the Langlois Cramant, a lovely sparkling wine from the Loire; the 2008 Giachino Altesse, a beautifully crisp white from the Savoie region of France; 2007 Les Cretes Petite Arvine - one of my favorite Italian whites- a relatively obscure wine from the Valle d'Aosta; the 2007 Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes - a delightful Albarino, and last but not least, the beautiful 2005 Cabrida, a powerful old vine Garanacha from Celler de Capcanes in Monstant.