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Aspen Times Weekly: Wine and Whiskey

by KELLY J. HAYES

IF YOU GO ...

St. Regis Midnight Supper

Featuring Pappy Van Winkle

Thursday, Sept. 1, 8 to 11 p.m

The St. Regis Aspen Resort, Trecento Quindici Decano Courtyard

Tickets for the exclusive dinner are extremely limited and as of this writing cost $350 per person (plus tax and gratuity). For reservations visit Eventbrite.com.

“So put your nose in the first glass and take a sniff. Tell me what you smell.”

Dutifully, the 20 or so people gathered around the long table in the St. Regis Aspen Resort’s Trecento Quindici Decano restaurant swirled their glasses, dipped their heads and inhaled the aromas of the Zuccardi Torrontes from the high hills of Argentina’s Salta wine region. “Lemon,” someone shouted. “Flowers,” came the assessment from someone at the other end of the table.

Ericka Briscoe, the sommelier at the St. Regis, smiled. She had the assembled group in the palm of her hand. And she was doing what she loves best: sharing her passion for wine with people who crave both knowledge and understanding in their own wine experiences. This was another in a series of “Wine Wednesdays” at the St. Regis Resort that take place each week at 5:30 p.m., bringing smiles and wine wisdom to those in attendance.

On this Wednesday, Ericka brought “props” to the tasting. Each participant received a “Wine Aroma Wheel,” a simple device designed by former California-Davis enology professor Ann Noble that categorizes the aromas and flavors in a wine. And to help further with the tutorial for the nose, she had put together a series of glasses with wine aromas ranging from citrus to pears to plums to chocolate to marshmallow to bacon.

This hourlong session, which featured four wines, was fun, informative and a tasty way to beat the hump day blues. Though it took place inside the restaurant due to inclement weather, usual Wine Wednesday are hosted on the patio beneath the epic shadow of Aspen Mountain and the Lift 1 ski terrain.

“Ericka has really upped the game,” said Tobias Rimkus, director of catering, events and beverages at the St. Regis when talking about the Wine Wednesdays that have the feel of becoming an emerging tradition at the resort. He could well have been talking about the entire wine program at the St. Regis, one of the triangle of Aspen hotels that provide drinkers myriad options.

The Hotel Jerome and The Little Nell are at the other ends of the triangle. Both, partially due to location and history in the case of the Jerome, and the tradition of long-standing excellence as a wine destination in the case of the Nell, occasionally seem to overshadow the offerings at the St. Regis.

But the St. Regis offers wine and cocktail lovers world-class dining and drinking experiences as well. Over the past few months, since Briscoe’s arrival in April from the California wine country, where she had worked for both Bill Foley and Jackson Family Wines, there has been an enhanced focus on the wines offered at the resort’s lounges, patios and restaurants. A glass of wine in the Shadow Mountain Lounge in front of the stone fireplace with the view of Aspen Mountain is a great way to start an evening.

In addition to the offerings within the St. Regis-operated bars, the hotel also plays host to the independently owned Chefs Club by Food & Wine. A sister to the New York restaurant of the same name, Chefs Club has arguably the most innovative and creative bar program in town. And the wine list, under the auspices of Master Sommelier and Chefs Club CEO Jonathan Pullis, is globally focused, compact and incredible.

The St. Regis Resort also has seen a renewed emphasis on spirits and cocktails. On September 1, the Trecento Quindici Decano patio will be the scene for the second annual St. Regis Midnight Summer. This dinner, which actually takes place from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m., will feature a four-course meal paired with the offerings from the Buffalo Trace Distillery of Frankfort, Kentucky. Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare whiskey will be poured, but unquestionably the highlight of the event will be a special tasting of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-aged whiskey.

Now amongst whiskey connoisseurs, the entire Pappy Van Winkle lineup is prestigious. Limited in production, difficult to find and extremely pricy, the products also rate high with enthusiasts and score well in blind tastings. But the Pappy Van Winkle 23 year, designated because the youngest whiskey in the blend must have spent at least 23 years in barrel, is, well, the holy grail. Recently, online listings show prices exceeding $2,500 a bottle. And that’s when it is available. This for a whiskey that has a suggested retail price of $249.99 a bottle. A quick nip of this national treasure is a worthy experience.

With the summer fading fast, fall is a fine time to find your way to the southwest corner of Aspen’s hotel triangle.

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.


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