Insider's Guide to the 2023 Aspen Food & Wine Classic
Pass or pass-less, here's how to enjoy one of Aspen's favorite summer weekends.
By Christine Benedetti
Updated May 23, 2023
In mid-June, it’s normal to see people walking around Aspen wishing each other a “happy Food & Wine!” The three-day culinary festival draws more than 5,000 attendees to sip, sample and socialize in what’s become a beacon of indulgence in the food and beverage industry—and a beloved local holiday. It’s evolved over its 40 years, but the enthusiasm around it is constant, and there’s a special fervor this year as it fully returns after a pandemic hiatus.
The Food & Wine Classic was founded in 1983 by Gary Plumley, an Aspen-based oenophile who owns the Of Grape & Grain wine shop. Originally dubbed the International Wine Festival, it drew 300 people in its first year to attend events spread out in both Aspen and Snowmass. The fest quickly grew, and within a few years Food & Wine Magazine signed on as a lead sponsor.
Attendees purchase a festival pass, which grants them access to more than 40 seminars led by industry experts and celebrities; dozens of book signings; and entry to the grand tasting tent, which hosts hundreds of food and wine purveyors for five sessions, each two hours long, over the fest’s three days. Passes typically sell out in the spring, but in addition to the pass-accessed, scheduled events, there are countless ancillary parties held by brands throughout the weekend—so don’t fret if you haven’t secured a pass!
The Food & Wine Classic, held this year from June 16-18, marks the unofficial start to summer in Aspen—and spirits are always high. Here’s how to celebrate.
Have a pass? Take some tips from us.
- Remember, this weekend is a whirlwind of activity—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The Classic’s full schedule of seminars and tastings is released months in advance, so put in the time to plot out a calendar before you show up. Pass-holders can now sign up for seminars ahead of time, so if there’s a must-see chef or personality on your wish list, ink it into the agenda. Otherwise, make sure to arrive at venues with enough time to snag a seat before they fill up.
Drink lots and lots of water. It’s already important at nearly 8,000 feet to stay hydrated, but combine that with alcohol and a steady diet of snackable bite-size foods that don’t necessarily add up to a meal, and H20 is critical to weekend success.
Part of the Food & Wine fun is the people-watching, and the dressing up. But don’t make rookie mistakes, like wearing high heels or uncomfortable dress shoes. Not only are they a bad match for downtown’s cobblestone streets, but you’ll have a terrible time navigating the grass of the Grand Tasting Tent. Wear comfortable, walkable shoes, and pack layers. It’s the Rockies, after all, and it can go from sunshine to downpour quicker than you can say “cheers.”
- Though it’s called Food & Wine, it’s not limited to those ingredients. Spirits, beers, CBD-infused tinctures, nonalcoholic drinks and creative activations from emerging brands pepper the weekend—so don’t be afraid to stray off the traditional path to make the most of your experience.
Pass-less? There are still ways to enjoy the Classic!
- Some of the best parties during Food & Wine weekend don’t require a pass at all. It could be as simple as walking through downtown Aspen on Saturday afternoon, when restaurants and bars open their doors to various companies looking to show off new products from French rosés to tasty tequilas. These pop-ups range from intimate to raucous, and often the vibe is “the more the merrier.”
Many restaurants will host ticketed Food & Wine-specific events, such as this year’s wine dinners at The Little Nell, featuring López de Heredia and Braiden Albrecht. Reservations are required, so scroll the local newspaper listings and social media channels to find out where these events might be happening and snag yourself a seat.
- If Food & Wine without a pass just won’t do, make sure to get in on the action early for next year. The 40th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic is June 16-18, 2023, and passes ($1,800) usually go on sale in the spring.