USA Ski Trip Wines


L and I were extremely fortunate to join a bunch of lovely friends recently for an adults-only (no kids) skiweek holiday at Steamboat Springs in Colorado, USA.

Many years ago (30 years to be exact, gulp!), I spent most of a season working as a ‘lifty’ at Steamboat, on a student visa, and it was a real delight to have the opportunity to go back. And hadn’t the place changed! Gotten bigger. More condos. More ski lifts. More people recognised my accent, and knew where I was from (“oh, my nephew/cousin/friend’s child is living/studying/playing rugby in NZ…”) But the friendly people were still there. And the light powder snow. And the terrible food…

We smashed it skiing. By the sixth day I was shattered. Where I ski, getting to ski two days in a row in a novelty, but here at Steamboat, we could ski every day. Wonderful.

Also wonderful was the chance to try some US wines. Especially Oregon Pinot’s. They are so hard to get in NZ. The good ones are really rare and expensive, while the more common are just not imported. Here are some I tried:


Simi Landslide Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – Drunk at the Cabin Restaurant in the Steamboat Grand Hotel. Not a Pinot, but rich, unctuous, savoury.  90 pts


St Innocent Villages Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2016 – Drunk at Mambo Restaurant. Savoury peppery & dense. Sweet entry, delicious fruit, slight spice heat on finish. 92 pts


OPP Other Peoples Pinot Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015 – from a bottleshop. Very simple, fruity and forgettable. 83 pts


Seghesio Family Vineyard Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County 2015 – from a bottleshop. I like Zin. And I liked this. Savoury, rich, flavoursome. 89 pts


One of our friends arranged a degustation meal at Cloverdale Restaurant in Steamboat Springs. The food was a mazing. We could choose a wine match option with our meal, and we were fortunate to be there at the same time as the winemaker from J. Wilkes Wines, Wes Hagen.


Here is me a Wes (WeSS!) Wes Hagen is the winemaker and brand ambassador for J. Wilkes Wines in the Santa Maria Valley, California. In 2013, Michael Cervin (Wall Street Journal, Decanter) rated Wes as one of the 100 most influential winemakers in the United States.

Because Wes was there at the restaurant, we had the chance to select his choice for wines to accompany the food from his own range. I said yes, as did a few others, and Wes came to our table and talked us through what were drinking. Fabulous.


Wilkes Wines Pinot Blanc Santa Maria Valley 2014 – clean, aromatic, austere & steely, mineral cool climate, bitter finish, apple. 90 pts


Wilkes Wines Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 2015 – Savoury sous boir, red cherries, delicious, dense red fruits, pepper. 91 pts

Wilkes Wines Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2015(Wes is holding the Chardy in the picture with me above) Delicious, elegant, creamy. Like a Meursault, refined minerality. 93 pts


Wilkes Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Highlands 2014 – Elegant, lifted, big, dried fruit and spice, vanilla, aniseed, choc. 90 pts


Saferon Fields Vineyard Roots Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2012 – Promised much, didn’t deliver any savouriness or florality. I didn’t score it, so forgettable.  USD 50, expensive…!

A memorable meal one night was us all taking a sleigh ride behind a Caterpillar Snocat up to Ragnars Restaurant atop the skifield for a yummy Nordic-themed meal. There I had…


Stags Leap Petite Syrah California – Funky vanilla warm rich spice finish tannic drying dark plums. 90 pts


Meiomi Pinot Noir California – Smokey spice dark cherries rich fruity spice long. 87 pts

And at the airport about to fly home…


Francis Ford Coppola Merlot California – soft, round, fruity. Sorry Miles. 88 pts

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