Take a sip of the Tour de France with Aspen wine flights | PostIndependent.com

Take a sip of the Tour de France with Aspen wine flights

The Col d' Izoard in the Hautes-Alpes is just one of the high altitude challenges that face the riders of the Tour de France this year.
Photo courtesy Getty Images | iStockphoto

It’s July and in the world’s premier wine nation, France, the world’s premier cycling event, the Tour de France, is in high gear. And, in the cycling mecca of Aspen, Colorado, sommelier Greg Van Wagner has developed a promotional program around the Tour. He calls it the “Le Tour Du Vin” and it gives guests at Jimmy’s American Restaurant & Bar in Aspen the opportunity to taste a wine each night from the wine region where Tour de France racers are riding that day.

My wife and I have been avid fans of the Tour for years. Though we do get inspired by individual riders and storylines, the attraction is not so much the racing as it is the “virtual” tour of the French countryside we get as the peloton races through France.

But Van Wagner has taken his virtual tour next level. He examined cities and routes, then visited GuildSomm to overlay wine information. GuildSomm is a nonprofit international membership organization for sommeliers and wine professionals that doubles as an online educational resource.

“There are so many great small village and commune wines that you would rarely get to see or only know by name because you are studying for the exams,” said Van Wagner. “This gave me a chance to bring them alive.” Once he identified a region and found an interesting wine, the next challenge was sourcing the wines and getting them to Aspen. “This is a list of wines that you wouldn’t ever find anywhere else,” he said.

People can come into Jimmy’s each day of the Tour and have a glass of the wine representing that day’s stage, at $14 each. The person who tastes the most days and tries the most wines will get a Jimmy’s “Maillot Jaune,” the equivalent of the Tour winner’s Yellow Jersey. If one were to “ride” all 21 stages, the jersey would come at a cool $294. But the fun of having a seat at Jimmy’s bar, getting a tasty education in the broad tableau of French regional wines, all while watching Contador, Froome and Quintana conquer the five-mountain ranges that will be ridden together for the first time since 1992 is, well, priceless.

Van Wagner’s selection of wines is what makes his Tour du Vin so interesting. “Where I had a choice, I tried to include summer wines, rosé and bubbles,” he said.

To that end there will be a pair of well-known rosés, the Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence, and the Chateau de Berne “Impatience,” Côtes de Provence, poured as the riders rip through Marseille and ride the south coast in the later stages. But there will be reds as well. Pinot noir from Jura winemaker Valentin Morel will be poured as the peloton heads south from Dole, and Gachot Minot will be featured the day they ride into Nuits- Saint Georges.

In between, look for obscure pours of wines.

“I wanted to get wines that were fun and were sourced right next to the actual courses that the riders would be on,” said Van Wagner. He has succeeded. And as the racers finish on the Champs-Élysées, he will be proud to pour glasses of Billecart-Salmon to celebrate.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

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