BEAVER CREEK — When Robert Mondavi founded his Napa Valley winery in 1966, he may have never envisioned that nearly half a century later, the fruits of his work would be swirled and celebrated in a mountain cabin on the side of a Colorado ski slope.
The Mondavi wine dinner at Allie’s Cabin in Beaver Creek on Jan. 9 was one in a series of Thursday night cellar collaborations, offered through March 20 on select weeks, coinciding with the resort’s Thursday Night Lights fireworks show.
Bob Battle, general manager of Allie’s Cabin, said he chose well-respected wineries for the series, but also those that offer a unique product.
“We went through the wineries and hand-picked,” Battle said. “We chose the ones that would have a name recognition for everybody and would still have a special enough program to be involved in something like this.”
This week’s dinner will feature Mauritson Wines out of the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma Country, Calif., a winery known for its small vineyard lot separation and fermentation in the winemaking process. This single vineyard methodology is well known in the wine world, but Battle said the family-owned winery takes consistency one step farther by making the wines single soil.
“Mauritson is one of the long-term California farming families that has turned into a true winery family,” Battle said of this week’s featured winery. “They have a great family winery story, and they make unique and wonderful wine.”
Pairing culinary craft
Allie’s Cabin’s large fireplace, high-beam ceilings and wall of windows give the cabin’s great room a sense of warm expanse, all the while enveloping guests with a rustic glow from the wall’s low-lit iron sconces.
The cabin can only be accessed by its members’ snowshoes and skis during the day, and by a snowcat-drawn sleigh at night. The Thursday night wine dinners are open to the public and are an opportunity to experience Allie’s.
“When you are riding a sleigh up to a restaurant like this, how can you lose?” Battle said. “It’s either a beautiful starry night, or you get to go for a snow ride.”
Executive Chef Kirk Weems has been working up at Allie’s for eight years, and he explained how he enjoys getting creative with the menu for each individual wine dinner.
“For me, it’s like I get to turn that creative valve back on,” Weems said. “I am very comfortable working with food flavors and what’s there, but then we get to look at the wines as well.”
The chef said the pairing process begins by breaking down the flavors in the wine, which are different and often more complex than food, and then the work to combine and complement begins.
To start the Mondavi dinner, a glass of 2012 Fume Blanc greeted the guests at the door, followed by the fireworks show and a brief introduction to the winery. A pair of Island Creek Oysters with fleur de sel and citrus mignonette paired well with the crisp white wine, awakening taste buds for the four courses to come.
Throughout the evening, Battle talked about the wines, educating attendees, but the point of the dinners is to really enjoy the whole experience, rather than focus on the learning part.
“In my mind, don’t bring your pen, and don’t bring your notebook,” he said. “Come in, relax, and enjoy yourself; settle in to see what the food and wine brings to you.”