A delectable, distanced wine dinner hosted by Free Range Kitchen

Montalcino comes to the Frying Pan

Kelly J. Hayes


What: Brunello di Montalcino Wine Dinner

Where: The Dallenbach Ranch, 2561 Frying Pan Road, Basalt

When: Wednesday, Aug. 19, 6 p.m.

How much: $175 plus tax and gratuity

Contact: Robin@; 970 279 5199

More info: Reservations will be limited due to County restrictions.


Brunello di Montalcino

What does a great Brunello taste like? “A good Brunello di Montalcino has a foresty, smoky quality: drinking it is like eating berries in the wood, the spicy scents of the underbrush mingling with the sweetness of the fruit.” So says Joseph Bastianich in his book with David Lynch, “Vino Italiano.” Now you know what to look forward to.

“It’s going to be a pretty unique experience,” said Steve Humble in what may be the understatement of this most understated summer.

Next Wednesday, Aug. 19, Humble and his wife Robin, proprietors of Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar in Basalt, will be partnering with the historic Dallenbach Ranch to host a four-course, four-wine, al fresco dinner on the banks of the Fryingpan River. The featured wines will be the recently released 2015 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino, which is already being hailed as the best vintage of the current century.

The wines of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG are rare and legendary. Grown in vineyards that surround the historic and picturesque hilltop town of Montalcino, these 100% sangiovese based wines are aged for three or more years, often in large Slavonian oak casks and then smaller French oak barriques. The bottles labeled normale are released on the market 50 months after harvest and the riserva bottlings are released a year after that. In other words it takes five years of patience to produce these artistic wines.

“In the fall of 2015, I traveled to Tuscany and Montalcino and was able to taste the 2010s just before their release,” said Humble about the region that lies south of Sienna. “And, though they were spectacular, all of the winemakers kept saying to me, ‘You think this is good, wait ‘til the wines we just brought in are ready.’ I couldn’t wait to try them and I remember thinking then that they would make for a great wine dinner. And now, five years later, it comes to fruition.”

There will be four wines poured from epic producers, including offerings from family-owned and -operated wineries, Tenuta di Collosorbo, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Arogona, La Sirena and Mocali. All are represented by Steve Lewis’s Boulder-based Giuliana Imports and Giuliana’s new general manger, advanced sommelier Mark Yaeger, will be on hand to speak to the wines. The event marks a return of sorts for Mark as he got his start in the wine industry at the Little Nell.

These wines are both hard to acquire and pricy, but perhaps even more amazing than the opportunity to taste them together is the act of simply hosting a sit-down wine dinner in the midst of the current pandemic.

“In 25 years of doing wine dinners I’ve hosted way north of 100 in my career,” said Humble, who made an art of the summer events during his stint at the Roaring Fork Club and has continued the tradition at Free Range. But this is different. “We are limited to less than 50 people and we need to have strict social distancing of all the tables and adhere to all of the Eagle County rules.”

Free Range has catered other outdoor events this summer, so they have experience with the new reality. But this foray is special because of the location. Located 2.5 miles up the Fryingpan Valley, the Dallenbach Ranch has been family owned since 1973. You know the name because of the family’s long history in auto racing. And you may know the ranch because of its pristine beauty, luxurious lawns and Gold Medal river frontage. It is one of the premier wedding and family rendezvous spots in the valley and the size of the outdoor space makes it perfect for spreading out tables on the lawn.

“Wyatt Dallenbach is one of our bartenders here at Free Range,” Humble said about the alchemy of putting this event on. “He suggested that we get together and let people experience the river. Our thinking was, we are all in this together, so let’s see what we can do.”

The meal will be prepared by Free Range chef Chris Krowicki in consult with Humble. “The thing about wine dinners is I feel that the focus should be on showing off the wines. I always sit down with the chefs and go over the wines and look for dishes that will make sure the guests get a great feel for the wines,” Humble said.

On March 15, two days before the state shutdown, Alessia Antinori was scheduled to lead what would have been an epic Italian wine dinner at the Little Nell hotel. At any other time, this Free Range/Brunello dinner in a stunning outdoor location, offering wines of renown, would make for a stellar event of that magnitude.

But now, given the state of the summer, it feels like a renaissance.