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Aspen Times Weekly: A Penfolds Pairing

IF YOU GO …

Penfolds and Lamb Range and Wine Dinner

Eight K at The Viceroy Snowmass

Wednesday, Feb. 3

Price: $150, per person

Call 970 923-8035 for reservations

Amuse: Champagne

• Arancini piccolo stuffed with lamb, peas and chèvre

First course: bin 311 Chardonnay

• Smoked lamb belly, persimmons, robiola, frissee, Saba

Second course: bin 389

• Lamb pie, roasted fennel, sweet onion purée, thyme jus

Third course: St. Henri

• Roasted Colorado lamb rack, chèvre angiolotti, crispy garlic, rosemary sauce

What do you get when you pair the wines of Australia's most iconic winemakers with the cuisine of one of Colorado's most creative chefs? A wine dinner that is a must-mark on the calendar.

Next Wednesday, February 3rd, at Viceroy Snowmass' Eight K restaurant, the wines of Penfolds will be poured at a special four-course meal prepared by Eight K executive chef Will Nolan. It is just one in a series of wine dinners that are on the upcoming schedule at Eight K. But for those who know Penfolds and the special relationship between the Aussies and the Viceroy, this is a premier event.

Chef Nolan, who over the last few seasons been the single most significant stalwart in keeping the Snowmass dining scene relevant by showcasing his take on French cuisine at Ricard and his fine dining chops at Eight K, will be creating a menu that features Colorado lamb with each course. It is part of what the Viceroy is calling their "Range and Vine" dinners that pair a single protein with a single winemaker on selected Wednesdays throughout the ski season. Future fusions will include Argentinian malbec makers, Catena, dancing with pork and California's Merryvale winery flying with fowl.

"It makes it fun for both our kitchen staff and the wineries," said Nolan about the concept of creating a variety of dishes where just one animal is the star attraction. "We have to be on our toes and come up with dishes that work perfectly with what flavors that animal can give us that will pair with the wines."

Rick Lang, wine director at the Viceroy, says that wine dinners have been a part of the culture at the hotel and Eight K since its inception, noting, "We love doing these dinners for our guests and locals and have been doing them for the past six years." He also notes that there is a natural "pairing" that takes place when Penfolds comes to town. "I'd say 5 to 10 % of the house (hotel) guests right now are from Australia, they of course all know Penfolds. And the ties run even deeper as Hugh Templeman, Regional Vice President & General Manager at Viceroy Snowmass, was born and raised down under and became a US citizen in 2012. If anyone can relate to the joys of Aussie wine and Rocky Mountain lamb, it would be him.

This is not the first Viceroy rodeo for Penfolds. Back in the summer of 2011, Peter Gago, the chief winemaker and promoter extraordinaire of Penfolds, came to Snowmass to pour wines and influence people. As an ambassador for both the brand and the Australian wine industry, Gago, who is just the 4th winemaker to be associated with Grange, Australia's most famed wine, since its creation in the 1950s, works tirelessly promoting the top drops of his nation. As the US to Aussie dollar disparity has progressed over the past couple of years, the prices for Australian wines have fallen dramatically. In fact, due to the discrepancy some of the best wine values today are in mid-range Australian wines.

While Peter will not be in attendance next Wednesday, outstanding expressions of his wines will be. The first pour will feature Bin 311 Chardonnay with smoked lamb belly. While Penfolds lives in South East Australia and is perhaps best known for wines from the heated Barossa region, this wine is sourced from Tumbarumba, a small but increasingly significant cool-climate district southwest of Sydney in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. Next up will be the bin 389, the classic shiraz/cabernet sauvignon coupling for which the Barossa is so loved. Chef Nolan is making his take on a lamb pie for this one.

But the leading lady (or is it leading man) at this dinner will assuredly be the main course, where a roasted rack of lamb from Brook Le Van's Sustainable Settings in Carbondale will share the stage with a 2008 St. Henri, one of Australia's epic wines. "Americans love Shiraz, they are big, bold, full of flavor," said Lang with a lick of his lips, "and this is a great example of the grape." Where Rick is enthused by the wine, so too is chef Nolan excited about the protein. "I just love the product from Brook," he said with admiration. "His lamb is just big on flavor. I think it's the soils, it's like terroir with wine, it just makes the flavor of the lamb that much more distinct."

Sustainable Settings, for those who don't know, is a true treasure of the Roaring Fork Valley. A Demeter certified working ranch that sits in the early morning shadow of Mount Sopris, the non-profit farm raises animals and produce that is of uncompromised quality.

We are fortunate to live in a world where we can take advantage of locally grown products and pair them with the fruits of other Eden-like gardens from thousands of miles away. The Penfolds and lamb dinner will be a perfect example of the opportunities of our times.

Good on us!

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.