Everything seems right in the world when accomplished, intelligent and capable people come together and make magic happen. Such was the case at Ludwig's Martinelli Wine Dinner at the Sonnenalp Resort of Vail on Wednesday evening. A collaboration of the great minds and talent of Sonnenalp Executive Chef Steve Topple, sommelier Jarrett Quint and Regina Martinelli, of Martinelli Winery, lead to a charming and delightful culinary experience.
At first glance, the dining room exuded an air of old-world grace and the warmth of a family table. The guests offered up greetings and exuberant anticipation of the tastes forthcoming. Soon, Topple appeared to welcome his guests.
"I visited the Martinelli Winery and tasted some of their wines out there, and it was amazing and I wanted to have them here for a wine dinner," Topple said.
Some people think that the art of storytelling is long gone, but on Wednesday night, it was alive and well. To be transported to another time and place by spoken words is a beautiful thing.
"I am Regina Martinelli, but my official title is the great granddaughter of the original Jackass. My great grandfather and grandmother came over from Italy to the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County in the early 1880s as teenage runaways, at the ages of 19 and 16. They purchased Jackass Hill, which is the steepest vineyard in California, maybe even the U.S. We call it that because it is a non-terraced, 60 degree hill, and you really have to be a jackass to farm a hill that steep. It is actually illegal to farm a hill that steep today, and it is really tough. My grandfather farmed the land from the time he was 12 years old until he was 87, so for 75 years. My father got on the tractor and farms it now, and he is 73. So, I told him that he has 15 more years to go."
Martinelli is a great storyteller who gave descriptions that really intoned a sense of place. The tales she tells of her family camp made you want to visit and spend some time there.
"We do a lot of breakfast chardonnay with our wild boar bacon and eggs and gruyere at our family camp," she said. "It is a three-bedroom house, and for Thanksgiving, we had 30 people for three days."
As is customary, the wines came with lofty, long descriptions. The chardonnay gave hints of a beautiful creamy, lemon citrus and a little spice in the finish, characteristic of their Lolita Ranch Chardonnay.
And that only scratches the surface because Topple's menu was fit for royalty. Highlights included, but were not limited to, the festive cranberry-orange crusted elk tenderloin with wild rice pilaf and juniper berry sauce; and the gorgeous caramelized peach phyllo crisp with muscat poached apricots and Indian cinnamon ice cream. Gourmands were delighted with Topple's execution and presentation. The entire staff at the Sonnenalp Resort now sets their sights on celebrating Vail's 50th anniversary.
For more information, visit www.sonnenalp.com.
Betty Ann Woodland is a longtime resident who covers social events, soirees and fundraisers for nonprofits. She can be reached at HighAltitudeSociety@vaildaily.com.