VAIL – The Sonnenalp’s “Gather in the Garden” series is a little like having a delightful dinner with your favorite people in one the world’s most beautiful spots.
Sonnenalp head sommelier Jarrett Quint co-hosted the event with Carroll Kemp, founder and winemaker of Red Car wine company. Kemp brought along his award-winning Sonoma Coast pinot noir, chardonnay and rosé.
Pairing these wines with the menu Quint and the Sonnenalp’s culinary team put together is like Lou Gehrig following Babe Ruth in the lineup — home run after home run.
“Mr. Kemp is an accomplished wine maker and excellent presenter,” Quint said.
About Red Car
Red Car Wine was founded by Kemp and partners Mark Estrin and Richard Crowell in 2000 with 50 cases of wine from a single ton of grapes. They named their upstart venture after the electric trolley cars that used to run throughout Los Angeles from the late 19th century through the early 1960s.
Kemp, 47, grew up in rural Arkansas in a dry county, surrounded by other dry counties. It’s against the law to sell alcohol in a dry county, so he was in college by the time he was introduced to adult beverages.
He moved to Los Angeles and became a Hollywood agent and later a producer in the movie industry.
“Hollywood prepares you for life, not the other way around,” Kemp said.
Hollywood taught him that, most of the time, less is more.
“Wine is about what you don’t do to it,” Kemp said. “Everything is done in the vineyard. My job is to take what happens in the vineyard and transfer it to the glass without my interference.”
Kemp grows 65 percent of his own grapes, and contracts with a few trusted friends for the rest.
He says he knows he’s not supposed to have favorites, but there’s this spot on the Sonoma Coast that makes him smile.
It was a pasture when he bought it and planted it in 2006. This year’s wine is the first from that vineyard, he says as he holds up the bottle of pinot noir like a proud father.
Gather in the Garden
The Sonnenalp’s Gather in the Garden dinners are served family style, right down to the red checked table cloths and napkins.
You sit around large round tables in the Sonnenalp’s garden beside Gore Creek. Those round tables help inspire interaction and conversation. With Gore Creek babbling in the background, you can wave at the kayakers as they roll by enjoying the spring runoff.
Wednesday’s three-course family-style dinner menu included passed appetizers paired with a sparkling wine; Colorado trout with fresh garden salad topped with a spring onion vinaigrette and paired with Red Car Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ‘11; herb-crusted rack of lamb served with rustic ratatouille and pan-fried gnocchi, paired with Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ’11 and a lavender parfait with caramelized peach and strawberry crème brulée paired with Red Car Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir ’12.
The trout was wrapped individually and poached to perfection. Quint paired it with a Red Car Sonoma Coast chardonnay that tasted like a bright spring day.
The lamb and pinot noir was an intriguing combination of Old World and New World.
Red Car’s rosé had floral notes brought out by Sonnenalp pasty chef Bernie Oswald’s lavender parfait with caramelized peach and strawberry crème brulée.
By the end of the evening you feel like family and are practically promising to stay in touch. Then again, while dessert is other worldly you sort of don’t want it to come because that means your evening is coming to an end, as all evenings must.
“Wine is about the friends you make and the times you have,” Kemp said. “I’ve been coming here for years. Vail has always been good to me.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and firstname.lastname@example.org