Viceroy Snowmass executive chef Will Nolan. Photograph: Real Aspen

Viceroy Snowmass Executive Chef Will Nolan. Photograph: Real Aspen

Story by Laurel Miller

Farm dinners are all the rage nationwide, but what’s a high-altitude region to do in winter? The Viceroy Snowmass and its executive chef Will Nolan have come up with the ideal solution: Range & Vine Dinners. The series debuted January 13 with a Canard Vineyard (Napa Valley) and Colorado bison dinner, featuring multiple courses and pairings selected by Nolan. Each dinner features the host winemakers or their brand ambassadors, Viceroy wine director Rick D. Lang, and sommeliers Ben Chesna and Adam Etchegoyen, as well as sustainably-sourced Colorado proteins including pork, lamb, and duck (and sometimes, the people who raise them).

While I love the concept of the Range & Vine Dinners, I also need to ‘fess up that I’m a big fan of Nolan’s. He’s a chef’s chef—talented, diverse, and able to execute amazing food whether he’s behind the stoves at the Viceroy’s signature fine-dining venue, Eight K (where the dinners are held, in a private room), helming the line at  brasserie Ricard, or cooking at local ranches and farms like Sustainable Settings.

cowboygood photograph by All Smiles Sheep

Churro sheep. Photograph: All Smiles Sheep

I attended the February 3 Range & Vine Dinner, “Penfolds and Lamb.” The evening featured a five-course meal of Sustainable Settings’  Churro lamb (a native Navajo breed), paired with offerings from Penfolds—one of Australia’s most prestigious and oldest wineries, established in 1844. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the famed Magill Estate in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills designation, but the winery has vineyards throughout the state, including the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions.

Photograph: Best Wines Under $20

Photograph: Best Wines Under $20

Penfolds is famed for its red wines, most notably The Grange, St. Henri Shiraz (made from grapes grown on 100- year-old vines), and Grandfather, an Old Tawny Port. Each course was prefaced by a brief talk on the featured wine and dish from the Penfolds ambassador Robert F. Ord, Nolan, and Sustainable Settings’ co-founder and director Brook LeVan (“Will has had his way with our lamb.”).

The standout dish and pairing, it was unanimously agreed, was the lamb pie (Nolan’s nod to Aussie culinary tradition) with roasted fennel, sweet onion puree, and thyme jus, matched with Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz. A shout-out is in order to Viceroy’s skilled pastry chef Ashley Jenkin for her delicate, lamb fat-based crust, and the brown butter pear and walnut tart with toffee sauce (incredible with the aforementioned port).

The best meals are always about the company as much as the food and drink, and part of what made the evening so special was the Penfolds ambassador, the down-to-earth Viceroy team, led by Nolan and having the LeVan’s in attendance. For a rancher to see that a chef has done right by their animals is the highest possible honor.

The next Range & Vine Dinner is on February 24, featuring Argentina’s Catena Wines and Pork. For tickets, call 970.923.8035. The final dinner of the season is on March 30, with Merryvale Vineyards and Fowl.

Nolan's Rack of Lamb with Avalanche Chevre Agnolotti. Photograph: Eight K

Nolan’s Rack of Lamb with Avalanche Chevre Agnolotti. Photograph: Viceroy Snowmass

Lamb Chops with Red Wine Jus

Nolan’s Penfolds and Lamb menu featured classical French and Italian techniques and methods like smoking. If you’re looking for a simple lamb recipe that highlights red wine, try these grilled chops (they can also be roasted) from Aspen chef Jonathan Leichliter of Justice Snow’s.
Serves 6

12 Frenched lamb rib chops
3 cups Aspen Brewing Company Brown Bearale
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup finely chopped rosemary
6 cloves finely chopped garlic

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and marinate chops overnight in the refrigerator.

Red Wine Jus
½ bottle good-quality dry red wine
3 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups demi-glace (available online or at specialty food stores)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fleur de sel, for garnish.

1. In a saucepan, combine wine, peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme and bring to a low simmer. Cook until reduced to one-quarter of original volume.

2. Add demi-glace to wine and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Remove lamb from refrigerator and marinade one hour before cooking, and bring to room temperature. Grill over high heat, 2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove from grill and let rest on warm plate. To serve, arrange chops on a platter and drizzle with red wine jus and a sprinkle of fleur de sel.
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Laurel Miller is a Basalt-based food and travel writer and cheese consultant, the co-author of Cheese for Dummies and the contributing editor at the magazine culture: the word on cheese. She persists in freelancing because it gives her more time to play outside. Find out more about Laurel at SustainableKitchen.com.

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