Dinner with wine, Twin Farms-style
September 25, 2007
Sit down to dinner at a fine restaurant and generally the first things you are presented with are a menu and a wine list.Ah, but what if there were no menu? And what if the wine you were to drink for dinner was already selected for you? Well, that’s exactly what happened at a recent dinner at Twin Farms, a luxury country inn in Barnard, Vt., that has earned an international reputation for exceptional food and wine offerings and its unique approach to both.With no menus and no wine list, I did feel a little naked without something to hold onto and no decisions to make. But, if you have a little faith, you just may have an epiphany.As an all-inclusive resort, Twin Farms feeds its guests in the main dining room. Though guests fill out forms prior to arrival, outlining dietary restrictions, likes and dislikes and special dining requests, they are not told beforehand what the meals will be. At dinner, each course comes as a surprise.It is wine director Eric Reichenbach’s job to select the perfect wines to complement each of the innovative, highly seasonal courses prepared by chef Ted Ask. “People get into ruts with wine, and sometimes they don’t even realize it,” says Eric. “We try to pour quality wines with dinner that perhaps people haven’t tried before.”Eric’s choices come from a wine cellar that on any given day counts out 26,000 bottles, give or take, including many of the world’s great wines. The selections help to make this resort property, which features just 20 exquisite rooms in cottages spread out over 200 picturesque acres, a wine lover’s paradise.Reichenbach is a self-trained, passionate enthusiast who oversees the wine program and has the task of caring for the extensive cellar, hosting wineries for wine-focused dinners and, perhaps most important, selecting the wines for each day’s meals.The night we had dinner at Twin Farms, Eric poured a Ken Wright “Canary Hill Vineyards” Pinot Noir, 2001 with our spinach and ricotta risotto and followed that up with the Patz & Hall “Durell Vineyard” Chardonnay, 2004 paired with a Maine lobster dish. Besides being terrific wines and great expressions of their places of origin, Eric poured the red before the white, breaking what many see as traditional rules of the wine road. And it worked, as diners got a taste of an Oregon pinot noir that, with a production level of around 500 cases, would likely not make it into their universe otherwise. And the wines poured with dinner are not cheap. If one were to order this caliber of wines at a different restaraunt they would cost anywhere from $75 to $150 a bottle. And Twin Farms diners never go away thirsty, as there is no limit to how much one is allowed to partake. Eric says he never has had to cut someone off after too much wine. And the fact that guests can walk back to their cottages keeps them off the roads.If guests have special requests and desire special wines, that, too, is no problem. In each of the property’s cottages there is a Reserve Wine List with vintages from the likes of Chateau Latour, Hermitage and Diamond Creek, to name a few. And Eric has just taken delivery of an eight-year ‘vertical’ (1996-2004) of California’s sought-after cult cabernet sauvignon, Screaming Eagle. During our stay, a group pre-selected a number of wines from the cellar to drink with their dinner and asked the kitchen staff to prepare a meal around the wines, reversing the normal process. No doubt, they, too, went away happy.Twin Farms also pairs with great wineries to host dinners that showcase winemakers. While some properties do these dinners to create marketing opportunities, Eric says Twin Farms does them to “create relationships” between the resort and the wineries. Recently, Ehren Jordan brought wines from Turley Vineyards, where he makes many of California’s top-drawer zinfandels, along with selections from his own label, Failla. Both labels are now extensively represented in the Twin Farms’ cellar.While at Twin Farms we were fortunate to catch up with John Egelhoff, who is now part of the management team at this prestigious resort. Many of you may remember John from the time he spent at The Little Nell. Prior to coming to Aspen, he spent a decade in the Napa Valley at Auberge du Soleil. When I quizzed him about Twin Farms, he smiled and, with enthusiasm, noted that he has been lucky to be employed at three properties, “all of which have outstanding wine programs.”List or no list, that is good company indeed.Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.