Jensen Cummings, the exec chef of Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar, admits that he wasn't always a wine nerd -- especially when it comes to local juice -- but a little education, he points out, goes a long way. "Not so long ago, I was uneducated and unaware of how many great wines we have in Colorado, with the potential of so many more, but over the last several months, I've been really inspired by what I've seen, what I've drunk and the people responsible for making those wines," says Cummings.
So inspired, in fact, that he's created "Road.Vine.Table.," a Colorado wine-and-farm tour that will transport 48 oenophiles and foodniks to orchards and fields in southwestern Colorado, where they'll be treated to everything from winery tours to disassembly dinners.
"This all comes from a desire to connect Colorado through food and wine, to build awareness of the committed people who bring us such great local wine and food and to open people's eyes to the the state's great juice and yummy food," says Cummings, who reveals that the two-day bus tour -- the first of many Grand Valley excursions -- will hit the road on Saturday, September 8.
"We'll all meet at Row 14 bright and early on Saturday morning, hop on a bus together, get a history of Colorado wines through tastings -- lots of tastings -- along the way, and we'll pack some killer sack lunches with beefy sandwiches for the ride," he says.
The journey, which costs $350 per person (based on double occupancy), includes bus transportation, winery tours and tastings at Canyon Winds, Garfield Estates and Colterris Winery, all of which, says Cummings, "make some really fantastic wines." In addition, the price includes overnight lodging on Saturday in Palisade at the Wine Country Inn and a twelve-course disassembly dinner with Mark DeNittis, the sausage slayer at Il Mondo Vecchio. "Mark and I will be breaking down a Colorado lamb and pig from nose to tail, and serving the primal cuts for dinner, and we'll be featuring a slew of other local ingredients to accompany the noble beasts," says Cummings, adding that the "disassembly dinner is all about respecting and experiencing the gore and beauty of the animals we eat."
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Cummings points out that he's not making a dime from the tours. Instead, he'll donate whatever proceeds he makes to CAVE -- the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology. "This project is about food, wine, travel, community and philanthropy, and this is a great organization that supports Colorado grape growers and wineries, so we want to create some marketability for them," explains Cummings.
And the tours, he notes, aren't about including every winery in the Grand Valley. "We wanted the best -- this isn't T-Ball, and not everyone gets a trophy -- so while we want to promote Colorado wine and food, we also want to promote the best of Colorado wine and food," says Cummings, adding that "if the people who go on this trip learn just a little more about eating local, drinking local and buying local, then we've knocked it out of the park."
Tickets go on sale June 25; if you're interested in attending, call Row 14 at 303-825-0100.