Rocky Mountain resorts offer appetizing packages

November 17, 1996|By Randall Weissman | Randall Weissman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

You say your search for the fluffiest champagne powder is taking too much time from your pursuit of the world's silkiest champagne sauce and its bubbly ingredients?

Why not sate both appetites on the same trip? Numerous Rocky Mountain resorts are offering skiing gourmets off-the-slope gustatory adventures to match the challenge of the ski runs.

Snowbird, in Utah, kicks off the gourmet skiing season with its fourth annual Winterfest, a three-day celebration the first weekend in December. This year's event (Dec. 6-8) features seminars and tastings involving such topics as Oregon pinot noirs, classic single malt Scotch and "Wine, Civilization & the Arts."

Utah's usually reliable early snow means a day of skiing can be capped with an evening spent tasting fine wines and talking with the winemakers. If you aren't in top skiing shape or if the snow isn't quite up to par (as it wasn't last season), there are seminars, luncheons and cooking demonstrations during the day.

Friday and Saturday evenings bring the Winterfest Apres Ski reception in the Cliff Lodge. More than 30 wineries pour their libations, and there is more good food than anyone could possibly need.

Winery dinners are offered on Friday and Saturday nights; make a point to partake of at least one. One of last season's best matched the superb cuisine of the Snowbird Lodge club's chef, Fred Henion, and featured Veuve Clicquot, Landmark Vineyards, Fisher Vineyards and Hine cognac. (Warm quail with herbs, served with 1985 Veuve Clicquot rose reserve; cherry-stuffed lamb served with '92 single-vineyard cabernet from Fisher Vineyards.)

Snowbird offers packages for Winterfest that include seven of the seminars, two lunches, both receptions and two days of skiing for $240. The same package plus lodging starts at $339, per person double occupancy. The winery dinners are extra ($65- $80, depending on the meal and the winery).

Jan. 21 brings to New Mexico the 11th Taos Winter Wine Festival, the oldest of the food and wine celebrations. It grew out of an autumn visit to Shafer Vineyards by several members of the Taos staff, including Chris Stagg, director of marketing for Taos Ski Valley.

This season more than 20 winemakers will be participating, including Joseph Phelps, Calera and Shafer.

Tastings and seminars on such subjects as dessert wines and the future of wine begin at various sites at the base of the mountain at 3 p.m. And they provide a delicious anesthetic for muscles aching from the day's skiing.

In the evening, three or four winemaker dinners are spread between the ski valley and the town.

"Le Grande Tasting" brings all the wineries together with many of the area's restaurateurs at the base of the mountain on the Friday of festival week. For $15, you can graze until you are stuffed and leave with a souvenir glass besides. Prices for the other events and dinners vary depending on the subject and location.

Many resorts sponsor periodic winemaker dinners throughout the season. Steamboat Springs, in Colorado, plans to hold the first of several on Feb. 27 at Ragnar's, the on-mountain restaurant.

Step from the cold mountain air into the warm, pine-finished restaurant, where you are greeted by classical guitar music and the first of seven or eight wines from a single winery that will be paired with five or six courses of the outstanding cuisine of chef Morten Hoj.

In keeping with its "family image," Steamboat offers a wine-free version of the meal for those under legal drinking age for $40; the tab with wine runs $75. And if the kids are really lucky, they get the added thrill of riding up the mountain with the driver in the cab of the Snowcat.

Another major Colorado participant is Copper Mountain, with its Copper Classics, a series of food and wine events that begins Dec. 22 with a holiday-themed dinner. The series also will feature such events as "The Romance of Wine" around Valentine's Day and an unusual paring of fortified wines with food.

One unfortunate note for this season: Telluride has dropped its Taste of Telluride. Mike Shim-Konis, director of communications at Telluride, said the Colorado resort just couldn't get all the commitments and arrangements lined up for this season. A mini version, however, is planned to accompany the launch of the resort's new gondola on Dec. 20.

The Taste of Vail, also in Colorado, is the finale of ski season gourmet festivals, and -- like everything Vail does -- it operates on a grand scale. In six years, the Taste of Vail has become the largest of the regularly scheduled events.

Although the final lineup has not been completed, the '97 version (April 3-5) has more than 30 restaurants lined up for winemaker's dinners.

More than 60 wineries will be on hand to pour their vintages.

Taste of Vail packages will be available, but prices have not been set yet. Last year's full event package was $250 and included the apres-ski tasting, seminars, mountaintop picnic and the grand tasting on the final night. Lodging and lift tickets were extra.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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