Beaver Creek’s Golden Eagle restaurant hosts wine dinner |

Beaver Creek’s Golden Eagle restaurant hosts wine dinner

Wren Wertin
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Golden Eagle 02 TS 02-07-08

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” It’s lunacy, a winemaker who’s a distiller and a farmer to boot. But Lance Hanson sounds quite coherent ” at least over the phone ” when he talks about his wines and spirits. People will be better able to judge his mental state tonight at the Golden Eagle in Beaver Creek Village. The restaurant is hosting a five-course dinner paired with Peak Spirits quaffs and Jack Rabbit Hill wines; Lance and his wife, Anna, will be in attendance.

The Hansons planted their first vines in 2000. Just this week the winery was named the best in the state by the Denver Post. Vail restaurants have been calling it such for longer than that. The grapes the Hansons grow ” pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay, riesling, foch, vignoles and cabernet franc ” fuel not only their wines, but their CapRock vodka and gin, too. That’s right. And once you taste it, you won’t want to return to grain or potato-based liquor.

“We view these things as agricultural products,” explained Lance. “The way we grow the grapes is as important to the product as what we do in the winery, the distillery, the cellar.”

Really, the flavor is a discovery. A rounder, smoother mouth feel leads the drinker to rather seductive thoughts. Does it taste like grapes? No. Is there a sense of fruit? Most definitely.

“The fruit is super expressive and flavorful because of the way its been farmed,” Lance explained. “We try to focus on producing really good products through the best farming practices. Obviously we pay attention to what we do in the cellar, we use good technology. But it’s the fruit.”

That fruit lends an almost-sweetness to the drinks. It’s not sugar, but glycerol, which is created when fruit is fermented. “What’s the difference? Our argument is it’s better,” Lance quipped.

The evening at Golden Eagle both begins and ends with the spirits. Cocktailing with passed apps and CapRock vodka drinks will kick off the festivities. Once seated, guests will be able to try the wines. Chef Marshall Blanchard has participated in a myriad of tasting dinners. He’s particularly excited about this one.

“I like to work with local products as often as possible,” he said. “This is the top winery in the state. They’re certified organic ” you don’t see too many of those. Chefs are always striving to work with the purest ingredients possible.”

To show his appreciation he’s rolling out a veritable red carpet of cuisine. From sea scallops and sweet potato puree to moulard duck with mandarin gastrique,

Blanchard looks to wow folks without overwhelming them. The main event will be the 2006 Barn Red and Broken Arrow Ranch antelope. For almost two decades, Golden Eagle has been known for wild game, especially elk. Blanchard prefers antelope to elk.

“It’s lean, high in protein,” he said. “It’s pretty interchangeable with elk, kind of similar, but with a nicer, almost sweeter flavor.”

The ’06 Barn Red exceeded all of Lance’s expectations. A blend, this year it’s made with malbec, cabernet franc, petit verdot, a little merlot, and foch ” an unusual grape.

“All of these things were blended into a monster red,” Lance exclaimed. “It’s a pretty complex wine. It’s rich, it’s complicated, but not real aggressive.” On his website, he declares “the genie got out of the bottle on this one.” But don’t be afraid; Jack Rabbit Hill wines are meant to be food-friendly ” expressive, but with an element of surprise.

The evening will finish with a flourless chocolate cake and a selection of spirits: grappa, eau-de-vie or brandy, typical digestivos. Lance will introduce his elixirs (and himself), but the evening is meant to be an experience, not a lecture. It’s all about trying new things with old friends.

“It’s a neat thing for us to have the opportunity to introduce people to something they’ve never had before,” he said. “We love being there, seeing the eyes go wide.”

It does sound like a fun job.

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