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A Pinot Noir symphony 

Wine festival brings global orchestra to the Springs

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Pinot lovers rejoice! Top producers from around the world are bringing wines made from your favorite finicky grape to the foot of Pikes Peak for a two-day command performance. Their Pinot Noirs will star at the annual Wine Festival of Colorado Springs.

Jim Little and Peggy McKinlay, owners of Coaltrain Wine and Spirits, brought the first Wine Festival to the Springs in 1991. Every year, Little and McKinlay donate all proceeds to a local not-for-profit; this year, their two-day event will benefit the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

The festival is part hedonistic indulgence and part charity drive. Participants spend their time tasting wine, eating well, bidding at auction and participating in seminars. In the last three years alone, local oenophiles have met, greeted and interrogated Napa Cabernet cult leaders, rugged Rhone rangers, and intrepid Walla Wallans.

This year, they have gathered five pioneers who employ cutting-edge practices to achieve excellence in Pinot Noir. Hailing from Oregon, California, New Zealand and France, the cadre displays the range of interpretive styles that can be applied to Pinot without obscuring the fruit's fundamentals. As local culinary icon Victor Matthews observed at a preview tasting, they're all "modern wines with classical training."

These five producers Beaux Frres, Brick House, Domaine Faiveley, Francis Mahoney and Villa Maria will highlight Friday night's grand tasting, which will include more than 200 different bottlings. Local restaurants will join the fray by serving wine-friendly victuals, and an array of wine-related swag will be on the auction block.

The tone shifts Saturday, as chefs at the Garden of the Gods Club will serve four courses paired with wines from the vintners of honor at the exclusive wine makers' dinner, the Festival's finale.

In between, seminars cater to all, from the would-be wine nerd to committed cork dork. They offer a venue for discovering that Beaux Frres Pinot has hints of ripe fig, and that the acidity in Mahoney's literally makes your mouth water. Better still, it's an opportunity to learn about how these elements got there, why they're in one wine and not the other, and why the Pinots from Brick House, Villa Maria and Faiveley, especially, have their own unique personalities.

From start to finish, it's an opportunity for beginners to build their wine IQ, and for emerging experts to pick the brains of those who know Pinot best.

scene@csindy.com

Featured Vintners

Beaux Frres (Oregon), Mike Etzel, owner/winemaker, beauxfreres.com

Marries traditional vinification with modern science, using inert gas to limit the wine's exposure to oxygen.

Brick House Vineyards (Oregon), Doug Tunnell, owner/winemaker, brickhousewines.com

Tunnell, a leading advocate for organic viticulture, makes wines from certified organic grapes.

Domaine Faiveley (France), Olivier Portet, director of imports for Wilson Daniels, bourgognes-faiveley.com

Sending a Premier Cru from the Cote Chalonnaise that encapsulates the winery's 180 years of experience.

Francis Mahoney Estate (California), Francis Mahoney, owner/winemaker

Offering handcrafted wines that express the fruit's natural flavors and the vines' terroir, or unique characteristics of the growing environment.

Villa Maria (New Zealand), Stuart Devine, lead viticulturalist, villamaria.co.nz

Leading a global movement to replace corks with screwcaps and proving it's possible to save trees, eliminate spoilage and maintain quality and integrity.

Compiled by David Torres-Rouff

16th annual Wine Festival of Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10

Tickets range from $30 for a single event to approximately $300 for the complete gala package; proceeds from all events will benefit the Fine Arts Center. For schedule and reservations, visit csfineartscenter.org/WineFestival.asp or call 634-5583.

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