When the first Colorado Springs Wine Festival was organized nearly three decades ago, it was a one-evening event — a wine tasting for 40 people at the Colorado Springs School. Wine tastings were just becoming popular. It was a hit.

The festival’s theme has changed every year, and the event has grown substantially. It’s now the main fundraiser for the Colorado Springs Conservatory, the only performing arts conservatory in the Pikes Peak region.

Now in its 28th year, the Colorado Springs Wine Festival is held over four days, has a much bigger grand tasting event and has added educational opportunities as well as gourmet meals.

The Colorado Springs Wine Festival will be held Thursday through Saturday. The theme is “The Wines of Portugal.”

Elizabeth Youngquist, event co-chair, has been involved with the festival “since the get-go” and has chaired it for 20 years.

“We’ve had 28 different themes. Sometimes we’ll have countries, like the wines of Portugal this year, last year southern France and before that the wines of Washington. Or we’ll do a varietal such as pinot noirs of Oregon. On the 25th year, we did the ‘Best of.’ One year it was women in wine,” she said.

“We keep thinking that every year is going to be just as good as the last, but every year it gets better. This year, we have even more seminars than ever before.”

The eight seminars, which sold out early, include a luncheon by Four by Brother Luck, a spirits seminar, a port and food pairing, and a high-end port seminar. Saturday’s $200-a-plate gourmet dinner and live auction at the Garden of the Gods Club has sold out too.

The event with room to accommodate the most wine lovers is the Grand Tasting at 7 p.m. Friday in Broadmoor Hall, open to up to 1,000 guests. It will feature tastings of more than 300 wines, food from area restaurants and caterers, a performance by the Conservatory and more. Tickets are still available.

A silent auction, DJ and dancing will cap off the evening at Broadmoor Hall.

“Every year we invite winemakers from the selected region to attend. This year, we have six winemakers coming from Portugal. They will auction off a trip. Who wouldn’t want to go?” said Youngquist.

MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM

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