Carl’s Thanksgiving wine tradition turns 49 |

Carl’s Thanksgiving wine tradition turns 49

In a ski town we have offseasons.

While it seems as though our autumnal offseasons get considerably shorter each year, there are still some fall traditions that we cling to. The Ski Swap is one. Getting a little rowdy on Halloween is another. And then there is the Carl’s Wine Cellar Annual Wine Sale.

For 49 years, locals (and the few tourists who make their way to Aspen for the quiet days of mid-November) have taken advantage of the combination of outrageous wines and ridiculous prices that are the hallmark of the yearly event. “It really is a way for us to say thanks to our regular customers every year,” says the dreaded Maurice Eaton (he has a head full of dreadlocks) about the sale. “We see the same faces at the sale that we see all year and that’s a cool thing.” The wines that are on offer are listed in a familiar full- page advertisement that runs in the local newspapers.

The winners are those who love wine. Discounts range from $128 on a bottle Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 2012, which has been marked down from $798 to $699, to a more modest savings of $5.96 on the Chateau St. Jean California Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 that dropped from $15.95 to $9.99. On a percentage basis, the Chateau St. Jean is the much better deal having been slashed by 37 percent. And besides, you could buy 67 bottles of the California Cab for the price of one bottle of the Bordeaux First Growth from hallowed dirt. Quantity or quality? It is a balance we all struggle with.

At a recent pre-sale opening event at the Red Onion, a number of local distributors were on hand to pour many of the wines that are part of the sale. The vibe was about as casual as a wine event can get. A whole bunch of mountain folk gathered together to sip and slosh great juice and talk with anticipation about the upcoming ski season.

Wines from distribution companies, including Baroness, Classic, Republic National, Gran vin, Perrin, Pinnacle, Summit, Southern Wines and Spirits, and SYNERGY, were poured by local reps, who came armed with great bottles at great prices, exclusively for the Carl’s sale. One rep, who asked to remain ­anonymous, said, “This is the time of year we go through our inventory and see what we have left that we can give deep discounts on.” He paused and gestured to his colleagues, “All of us in this room know that this is a tradition, a part of the community, so we do our best to help out.”

Regardless of your budget there are a plethora of outstanding wines for your consideration amongst this year’s offerings. As the Thanksgiving holiday, the most American of all the holidays, is nearly upon us, let’s start with the domestic wines. The best varietal to pair with your bird may be Pinot Noir and three appellation designates that are always at the higher end of my price tolerance have dropped to the must-buy level.

Start with Vintner Hall of Famer Merry Edwards’ 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, on sale for $43.99. A cool climate gem, this wine has a luxe texture and enough acidity to play well with all that is on your Thanksgiving plate. Move to the Anderson Valley and Goldeneye 2012 Pinot Noir, Duckhorn’s project in the appellation, on sale for a tasty $38.59. And if you are a fan of the Russian River Valley, perhaps the priciest pinot dirt in America, then the Hartford Court 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir at $25.79 may be too good to pass up.

Europe and South America are well represented and there are a smattering of Kiwi wines as well. The Cloudy Bay 2014 Savvy for $22.99 is a crisp, clean taste of New Zealand, and at that price you’ll almost save enough to buy two bottles of Bobby Stuckey’s Scarpetta Della Venezie Pinot Grigio 2014 from the Friuli region of Italy, which is on sale for $12.69.

Obviously the wines are only available as long as they are available. The spoils go to those who get there early — with a week to go before Thanksgiving when it all ends, the time to strike is now.

As great as the sale is, Carl’s is also a wonderful place to buy wine on an everyday basis. When I asked the dreaded one why someone should come in to Carl’s, he said with a shrug, “Personalized service. It’s what we do.” From the days when the long narrow shop was part of what was then Mathew’s Drugs to now, Carl’s has been a must stop for wine lovers.

Swing by. Save money. Be thankful.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at

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