Behind the Zion Curtain


Cocktails & Culture are alive and well in Salt Lake City!

The first stop of the conference found us at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. After High West Founder, David Perkins, delivered a keynote address, we had a chance to meet with local representatives and taste some of the great spirits that are being produced in Utah!  We then headed to Proper Brewing for some great brews, gourmet burgers and a chance to enjoy a game of pool, skeeball or shuffleboard. The night ended with a bonfire and cocktails sponsored by Dented Brick Distillery at Tinwell.



Monday morning, we headed to Beer Bar for breakfast and cocktails (or coffee) sponsored by Patron XO and Pyrat Rum. Seminars started with a panel discussion led by SW RVP, Kim Haasarud and including Kristen Schaefer (Las Vegas, President), Layla Linn (Phoenix, Board Advisor), Hal Brock (Houston, President), and Brandon Benitez (Austin, VP) offered advice and ideas on chapter programming, fundraising, and membership. This was followed by an entertaining presentation by the Oklahoma City Chapter on why they are going to be great hosts for the 2017 SW Regional Conference. Next up, local Councilman, Derrek Kitchen, addressed the group on what’s going on in Salt Lake City and how one person’s passion, dedication, and tenacity really can change a community. We then hopped on a bus and headed to the Garage for lunch and a concert by local group, Pixie & the Partygrass Boys. Lunch was followed by a roundtable discussion on where we would like to see the Southwest Region in the coming years and what opportunities exist for us to get stronger as a region and as chapters. We then headed back into town for an informative wine tasting seminar led by the incomparable Jim Santangelo of the Wine Academy of Utah. After a well-deserved break, it was time for Happy Hour at Copper Common for some amazing cocktails sponsored by Distillery 36. Under Current hosted a bountiful buffet dinner that provided ample sustenance for the “Mystery Event” that was next on the agenda. Not knowing what we were headed for and after a number of rumors, we pulled up to The Depot and realized that we were going to the George Clinton concert!!! (This is where the Utah chapter/SW Region can just drop the mic and walk away!)



After an amazing night, we still had a full agenda set for Tuesday! Hopefully….we will have a chance to catch a dirt nap at some point today.




We started with Breakfast at Tony Caputo’s sponsored by Jägermeister and featuring mini Jägermeister donuts. Breakfast was followed by the A Priori Chocolate Experience where we learned that most of us have been eating bad chocolate. Matt Caputo led us through a tasting of real chocolate from various regions. Like wine, it was interesting to see how terroir played an important role in the end taste of the chocolate. Next, it was back on the bus to head to High West for a tour of the new facility, tasting, lunch and some amazing mountain views. It was fun to geek out with David on the chemical makeup of alcohols and esters.



Next on the agenda, we headed to Park City and OP Rockwell’s for some fun and delicious cocktails sponsored by Jägermeister and some incredible tunes by Thalia Keys. The afternoon seminars ended with Sean Neves highlighting some important factors to think about when you are looking for real estate for your new (or next) bar. We then headed to Handle for dinner. To say that the food was amazing is a complete understatement, especially that caramel pudding! To close the conference, we headed to the World Class Announcement and After Party, where we enjoyed cocktails sponsored by Diageo and prepared by the incredible Liquid Productions Team. Congratulations going out to the SW Regional Finalists who will be advancing to the World Class National Finals in June - Jason Snopkoski (Denver), Kam Mataraci (Denver) and Justin Ware (Houston)!!!



By Wednesday, it was hard to leave Salt Lake and the incredible group of members that I enjoyed meeting and reconnecting with over the past few days. The entire Utah Chapter and especially Sean Neves, Tracy Gomez, Michael Eccleston, Amy Eldredge, Caleb Cannon, Josh Novaski, and Matt Pfohl should be so proud of what they were able to accomplish as hosts of this year’s SW Regional Conference. The conference covered 300 miles in 3 days and was packed with education, fun, camaraderie and several unexpected extras that we will all remember for years to come. Thank you to everyone that made this conference possible through planning, sponsorships, and attendance!


Next stop. . . .Indianapolis!!!

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