Thursday, March 1, 2001
Steamboat Springs On a windy, snow-packed road along the Elk River, vehicles and snowmobiles drive into an abyss of alpines and Douglas firs with the only sounds being the purr of the motor and the wind whipping past.
Veering left to follow the snow-hidden signs, the road leads to Vista Verde, a 500-acre ranch set off the road about a mile. One customer called it heaven.
"I think I'd like to live up here," said Kathy Cox while delicately slicing her scallops.
In the winter, Vista Verde becomes Vista Blanca as the snow covers the ground and the trees that surround the ranch. And a full glass of Silver Oak Cabernet soon will help warm the blood.
At the second Vista Verde Wine Dinner, patrons need not worry about drinking and driving on those roads back to Steamboat, an Alpine Taxi will chauffeur any wine-loving patrons.
Silver Oak Vineyards, accompanied with an eight-course Vista Verde menu, will present various years and different valleys of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Each biannual dinner presents a new vineyard, but general manager Stephanie Offen said those evenings are becoming too much work for the belabored chefs.
"Johnny is incredibly creative and tries to choose food that complements the wine and vice versa," Offen said of the executive chef Jonathon Gillespie.
Although Gillespie's taste buds have not yet been tempted with some of the entrees he will prepare for the March 10 dinner, his experience with textures, tastes and tones create an extensive list.
"I'll just go home, have a little scotch and think about the wine and try something," Gillespie said.
Whether chocolate mousse complements a cabernet, or vice versa, Gillespie and customers will soon find out.
Gillespie said that his experience working at the ranch has been food for his soul because of the ability to invite new delicacies to the kitchen and give them the needed attention.
"(John and Suzanne Munn) have been the best bosses," Gillespie said praising the owners who give him a generous food budget. "(John) says to me, 'As long as the guests like it, go at it.'"
After taking wine classes, reading libraries of wine publications and drinking more wine than his mother ever imagined, Gillespie said usually that gives him a better understanding of how to prepare an ambrosial food and wine fusion.
"The rabbit is mild and the sweet onions hopefully will bring out the fruit and blackberries in the wine," Gillespie said.
If customers feel like staying at the ranch, nine cabins and three lodges with hotel-style rooms are available. The log-wooden cabins sit behind the main lodge with a variety of interior designs.
About 30 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, sleigh rides, snowshoeing or simply soaking in the hot tub outside of each cabin are activities available in the winter. Summer events include: horseback riding, rock climbing, river rafting, kayaking, guided fly fishing, mountain biking and hiking.
"The only thing more beautiful than winters are the summer," Gillespie said. And once again the seasons change and Vista Verde lives up to its name.