Sonnenalp’s first Gather in the Garden dinner brought foodies together for an outdoor party |

Sonnenalp’s first Gather in the Garden dinner brought foodies together for an outdoor party

Caramie Schnell
On Thursday evening the Sonnenalp hosts its first Gather in the Garden dinner of the season. Similar dinners will take place in July and August.
Townsend Bessent | |

Garden dinners

Gather in the Garden dinners are slated for:

• July 15: “Champagne in the Garden”

• Aug. 5: “Tastes of Spain”

The dinners begin at 6 p.m., with a fixed price of $74 per person for dinner with wine pairings. Tax and gratuity are additional. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 970-479-5429. For additional information and to view the full menus, visit

VAIL — With tables set feet from the swollen Gore Creek, the sound of rushing water, tinkling glasses and convivial conversation provided the perfect soundtrack to the Sonnenalp’s first Gather in the Garden dinner, which took place Thursday evening between the garden and the creek bank. It was the first in a once-monthly series of dinners the hotel hosts during the summer. While past dinners have been moved inside Ludwig’s sunroom due to threatening storm clouds, Thursday’s sky was nearly cloudless.

The dinner’s theme was Celebrating Colorado, and it featured products from a slew of Colorado farms and companies, including the two featured purveyors: 7X Beef from Hotchkiss and Colterris from Palisade. Started in 1999, Colterris was derived from the words Col for Colorado and terris, which is Latin for “from the land,” so it literally is “from the Colorado land.”

As attendees sipped on welcome bellinis and chatted with new friends, waiters passed appetizers like Colorado bison meatballs with pesto and vegetable spring rolls made with produce from DiSanti Farm in Pueblo.

Happy cows become tasty beef

Diners tucked into the first course — a goat cheese terrine with manchego, pesto and peaches atop greens, and a simple salad — while Scott High, the proprietor of Colterris, explained the virtues of Colterris Coral, the second vintage of the winery’s white cabernet saugvignon. You expect the rose-colored wine to be sweet, but it’s not. It’s a refreshing wine with delicate floral notes, perfect to sip at an outdoor concert or picnic this summer.

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“We did Taste of Vail this year, and Josh Wesson thought this was the best wine there, and we were the only Colorado blush wine at the event,” High said.

Big words coming from Wesson, a highly-respected sommelier.

Next, Patrick Welch, of 7X Beef, explained to diners what sets their cows apart — namely they’re full blood Waygu from Japan that have never been crossbred with Angus. On the Japanese 1-12 marbling scale, with Kobe beef being a 12, the 7X Beef comes in at a nicely balanced 7 to 9, Welch said: “One of the highest ratings in Colorado if not the U.S.”

The cows are left to forage and roam freely on big sections of the 10,000-acre ranch until they’re finished on grain when they’re two years old.

“The cattle live a beautiful life and have magnificent views,” Welch said.

Welch set the bar high with his speech, prompting attendee Roger Affa to issue an ultimatum to Welch, who was seated across the table from him: “If the beef isn’t good, we’ll throw our plates at you.”

Diners got a chance to experience the meat with the third course: 7X rib eye steak with a sweet and spicy pear sauce and Avalanche blue cheese, which got a round of applause as it arrived on platters at the tables, flanked by plates full of white and green asparagus and perfectly golden hunks of confit potatoes. The complex Colterris cabernet sauvignon paired beautifully with the course. The beef has been popular among high-end chefs since it came to market in early 2014, popping up on restaurant menus at places like Hooked and the new Revolution, both in Beaver Creek. Chef Florian Schwarz called the beef “insanely good,” the same term I used for his preparation of it, seared medium and served with the slightly sweet pear sauce and small gobs of rich blue cheese.

The evening closed with more decadence: hot lava cakes paired with homemade ice cream Schwarz made using the final wine of the evening: the limited production cabernet franc, made using fruit from 25-year-old vines.

There weren’t any thrown plates to speak of, but those lava cake ramekins were remarkably clean.

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