The Story of Wine in the Pines

WINE IN THE PINES. Just four little words. But, for those who have attended this annual wine event in Keystone, Colorado, those four little words invoke so much more. For those living in and around Summit County and for the many front-range attendees that make the annual October trek to Keystone, Wine in the Pines has become an epicurean tradition and one of the premiere wine and food events in all of Colorado.  For nearly four decades, Wine in the Pines has been serving up culinary delicacies from some of Keystone’s finest chefs along with hundreds of fine wines and spirits to pair them with. Just as rave-worthy, attendees of the lavish event are also treated to a bevy of chocolate indulgence and creative confections that spans several tables long.

In addition to the fine wines and fabulous food, Wine in the Pines has also become known for its no-holes-barred live and silent auctions where past treasures have included exotic trips, extravagant gift packages, one-of-a-kind works of art, fat tire bikes, vehicles, sports memorabilia and, of course, exclusive wines which have gone for as much as $5,000 for a single bottle.

In 2009, Wine in the Pines upped the entertainment value with its first-ever Moonlight Masquerade. In addition to newly themed décor, guests were encouraged to dress in full masquerade, which added both elegance and mystery to the well-attended event. In fact, so popular was the event, Wine in the Pines began incorporating a different theme for each of the years going forward. Among the fan-favorite themes were The Godfather, James Bond, Cirque du Vino, Comedy Night With Josh Blue, 70’s Disco Fever, Jazz Night, An Evening With Elvis and, most recently, Keystone Country, complete with line dancing lessons for all. Other additions to the event included adding well-known local bands and an after-party complete with live music and dancing.

Summit County natives, Mike and Margaret Smith, founded Wine in the Pines thirty-eight years ago as a way of honoring their daughter, Kelly, who was born with Cerebral Palsy. The Smiths always considered themselves blessed to have the means to be able to care for Kelly and to live in a community that embraced and included her in all aspects of life. It is from that premise that the Smiths looked to “pay it forward”. Understanding the challenges and resources it took to raise a child with severe disabilities, the Smiths set out to help other families of children with disabilities overcome whatever barriers that stood in their way to providing more full and meaningful lives for their children.

The very first Wine in the Pines was held in a parking lot under a big yellow tent in Dillon, Colorado. Attended by many of the Smiths close friends and family, as well as about 100 members of the community, the event raised around $4,000. The benefactor then, as today, was Ability Connection Colorado (formerly, Cerebral Palsy of Colorado). The Smiths chose the organization for its cutting-edge services and inclusive early education, employment, and family support programs.

For Ability Connection Colorado (ACCO), Wine in the Pines has become its signature special event. Over the years, it is estimated that Wine in the Pines has raised over two million dollars. And, just as Wine in the Pines has grown in both size and scope, so too has ACCO. When Wine in the Pines first began, ACCO served less than 3,000 individuals each year. Today, ACCO typically serves more than 33,000 Coloradoans each year across Colorado.

In 2007, Ability Connection Colorado moved its corporate office to an all-new, multi-use campus. In recognition of Wine in the Pines and the incredible contributions that the Smith Family founders had made over the years, ACCO renamed its employment wing in the new building to the Kelly Smith Employment Center. The new center provides statewide employment services to youth and adults seeking employment, skills development, and benefit assistance. With the newly named program, Kelly Smith has quickly become a role model and inspiration for all the participants in the program.

Due to the Covid pandemic, Wine in the Pines has been canceled each of the last two years. Until now, the event has been a reliable source of revenue for ACCO’s Employment program. In order to offset those lost funds, ACCO is asking supporters of the event and the program to “pay it forward” by making a donation or by participating in our Wine in the Pines Online Auction. Money raised during this campaign will go a long way to ensuring the continued operation of the program, while helping youth and adults receive the critical services they need as they seek meaningful employment.

801 Yosemite Street   |   Denver, CO 80230   |   303.691.9339   |   info@abilityconnectioncolorado.org