ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A Boulder native who grew up going to the Food & Wine Classic as a child returned to the event this weekend with a full circle moment to showcase his own wine and bring his father as his guest.
“I remember this pretty early on because I was really bored cause my dad was taking me to all these fun parties and I was probably seven,” said Jesse Katz, winemaker and founder of Aperture Cellars.
His father is a photographer who shot the first poster for the Classic. This year his father was not working the event but enjoyed the food and wine festival thanks to his son. Katz showcased the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold according to the Guinness World Records. The $350,000 sale will benefit the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.
“I’m pinching myself every day,” Katz said. “It’s an amazing the level of talent that gets here.”
He partnered with his friend and fellow winemaker, Ken Forrester, of South Africa to host an event in Aspen. He invited friends and family along with buyers to showcase his latest selection of wines at the The Wild Fig restaurant. Now based in Sonoma County, he was born and raised in Boulder. He still has plenty of friends in Colorado and his mother still lives in the state.
One of his first memories was building a fort at a house party in Aspen because he did not have any other way to entertain himself at an event for adults. Fast forward to this year when he was presenting at a seminar in front of 150 people.
“This is an event industry-wide that people are waiting for all year,” he said.
His focus is on small crafted wines and his first distribution outside of California was to his home state so his mom could buy his wine. Katz still hears from high school teachers and former soccer team players who are following his career.
Katz has attended the Food & Wine Classic for the past 10 years as a professional in the industry. In that time, he has seen the event change but also Colorado grow as a dining destination.
“The food scene in Colorado is really impressive,” he said. “It’s exciting to see what’s happening in Colorado, there’s still a lot of room for people to grow and improve.”
He is proud to see multiple James Beard Award winners in the state and wine experts working locally. For the child who was bored at the classic, it just took the chance to start tasting wine to fall in love with the craft.
“When I was able to start drinking, when I realized how cool this stuff was,” he said.
His father started traveling the world for book projects when Katz was 12, this gave him the chance to see wine regions across the globe. His education into the wine industry involved the cultures who made the drink a part of their cuisine.
“Just being surrounded by some of the people in Colorado,” he said. “Being out in nature, having an understanding and a love for the outdoors is really what has always drawn me to the vineyard.”
The international exposure paired with his time at home helped shape him as a winemaker. He remembers working for Mateo’s in Boulder as a bus boy at the age of 14. He is grateful for the exposure to some of Colorado’s biggest names in the restaurant field when they were starting their careers.
He even credits the desire to spend more time in the vineyard, around 70 percent of his time during harvest season, as part of his upbringing in Colorado.
“I think that attention to nature, what’s going on, comes from my Boulder hippie roots,” he said.
The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen always falls on Father’s Day Weekend. It’s the perfect gift for his dad to join him at the event this year and it was always a chance to spend time with him as a child.
Katz is now designing a new facility at his winery, he just came off of his first harvest at that site. He plans to return to Aspen for years to come and bring a growing family in the future.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to bring my kid here whenever that may be,” he said.