Vail’s family-run Sonnenalp Resort hosted dinner featuring the Melville family’s wines –and kangaroo
These days, there is no lack of five-star luxury lodging and dining to match in Vail and neighboring Beaver Creek, but the Sonnenalp with its lofty European standards of luxury, service and dining was there before any of the American chains arrived in the Vail Valley. Johannes Faessler, who owns and runs the resort, is the great-grandson of Eleonore and Adlof Fäβler, who turned a rustic farmhouse into the original Sonnenalp in Bavaria’s Allgäuer Alps in 1919. Johannes’s brother, Michael, now owns the German hotel. The brothers are the fourth generation in the Fäβler family (Faessler in English) to do so.
Ludwig’s Restaurant, the fine-dining option at Vail’s Sonnenalp, puts on a monthly winemaker dinner during the winter season. I was fortunate to be invited to join the February dinner, which executive chef Steve Topple created to pair with wines from the Melville Vineyards & Winery of Santa Rita, California. Like the Sonnenalp, Melville is famly-owned and -run. Father Ron Melville and brothers Brent and Chad, along with winemaker Greg Brewer, operate the vineyards and winery. The Melvilles left the financial and stock-trading arena to grow grapes and make wine; Brewer’s myriad accomplishments include partnering in the highly regarded Brewer-Clifton Winery. Melville Vineyards are in cool, foggy, low-nutrient acreage north of Santa Barbara that stresses wines. The Melvilles’ responsible farming techniques creating healthy soil in conditions that force the vines to become strong and healthy and the fruit intense and robustly flavored. The family likes to say that their wines are “made” in the vineyard, not altered in the winery. They prefer to age in new oak and stainless steel to let the grapes’ purity shine.The location is Lompoc in the western Santa Ynez within the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.
Chad brought five small-batch wines to Vail, where Steve Topple, Ludwig’s new executive chef, created a dinner to pair with the wines. Topple is new to the Sonnenalp but not to Vail. He previous was top toque at the Lodge at Vail’s Wildflower Restaurant (now replaced by Elway’s) and at Beano’s high on Beaver Creek. After a lovely little amuse, the announced dishes started with a bright salad and pale ceviche and ended with a colorful dessert, but in between were two hearty, meaty, winter-hued courses. One was loin of kangaroo — a first for me.
Price check: These 5-course wine-pairing dinners have been $95 this season.