In early April, Taste of Vail returned for it’s 30th anniversary after a two-year hiatus. The spring food and wine festival has long been one of the premiere events in the country — renowned for both the incredible location and the vendors.
It was a welcome, and packed, return for the event. Guests had the opportunity to sample wines from more than 50 world-class wineries from California, France, and Colorado, while food was provided by Vail’s top chefs. Seminars like Colorado and Sonoma wine tastings, as well as caviar and Champagne pairing, broke up spring skiing sessions on one of the most famous ski resorts in the world. Live music filled Vail Village and Lionshead. A pork competition hosted by Niman Ranch and judged by myself and others in the food industry brought delicious bites one fo the days.
And, of course, the mountain top tasting held at 10,350 feet above sea level brought everyone together for wine and food with unbeatable views.
The success is no small task considering how many people are reconfiguring how to bring back events after the pandemic changed everything.
We caught up with Angela Muelle, director of Taste of Vail, for insight into what had to be changed and why it’s important for events to come back stronger than ever.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Matador Network: How big of an impact has not being able to hold Taste of Vail the past few years had on the town’s spring tourism?
Angela Muelle: Our festival has grown to the point of attracting visitors from out of state, and that absence was certainly felt in a time that is slower for the town in general. We have missed having 58 winemakers and owners in Vail and it was great to have them all back.
How do events like Taste of Vail benefit the local community, even if a place that has as much name recognition as Vail?
The event began to help bring guests to Vail for the restaurants, and it was begun by the restaurants. We are a non-profit that is committed to bringing food and wine to the forefront in the mountains. We now are working with Habitat for Humanity to help ensure that our workers in the valley have more choices for homes. We will continue this path, as we know our workers are what make everyone’s experience amazing and we will help in all ways possible.
What are some of the things that changed this year compared to past years? Was there a strategy reset in any way, a return to how things were done in the past, something new entirely?
The new norm of not being 100 percent sure the event will happen until 45 days out — assumption is something none of us can do anymore. We have worked around it and feel that we are back, and are able to evolve as needed to ensure that the event is top notch. We moved our Mountaintop Tasting to closer to the gondola, to not cause as much work. We will work with all our sponsors, our guests to ensure that the event is amazing, but also with our working population to make sure they are not pushed to their limit.
How will what worked this year be used to guide how future Taste of Vail events are held?
We have seen that bringing our guest chefs in and spreading our events out allows for change and for space for everyone to explore and enjoy.
What can other event organizers learn for future events from Taste of Vail’s latest iteration?
We had to cancel two years ago two weeks before the event. We have slowly come back, and to anyone that is striving for this, know that you can do it. There will be some bumps, but the amazing beauty of our communities will show through. The wineries, the restaurants, the sponsors, and the guests were all gifts that we are so grateful to have back in our lives.
How can towns and event organizers best prepare for what people are looking for in events over the next couple of years?
Be ready for change. It comes in a heartbeat and embrace it and flow with it.