Mountain Table Dinner at Zephyr Lodge

Simply put, the Mountain Table Dinner Series is the coolest event that Northstar California puts on. A five-course food and wine pairing, atop a ski mountain, to the sound of live music? Yes, please.

Happening several times per winter, the Mountain Table Dinner Series couples Northstar’s top chefs with a great local or regional winery for an amazing night of good food, good drinks, and great company. What's more, it all takes place from one of Lake Tahoe's most scenic mountaintops, atop Northstar California at Zephyr Lodge, to the tune of live music, and while supporting non-profit, Tahoe Food Hub. The dinner is undoubtedly one of the most unique dining experiences around Lake Tahoe.

However, this winter’s dinner series even took it up another notch. While guests typically arrive to dinner by gondola, guests this year had the option of taking the Big Springs Gondola to mid-mountain, before continuing up by a massive sleigh pulled by a snow cat. Yes, a sleigh ride to the top. The icing on the cake last month was a light snowfall as the sleigh made its way to the top.

For the February 24th dinner, Northstar partnered with California winery Bonny Doon Vineyard, located on the Central California coast, just north of Santa Cruz. Bonny Doon is a longtime winery, dating back to the early 1980s, with the release of their inaugural vintage, Le Cigare Volant, a red blend. It was only fitting then that Le Cigare Volant was one of the wines served during the dinner.

Introducing each course was Northstar’s own Aramis Torres, executive chef at Zephyr Lodge, and Lee Codding from Bonny Doon. After everyone had been presented the course, Aramis and Lee talked about each pairing, what made it unique, and why the flavors were so complementary.

The first course was a lobster risotto in a thyme brown butter paired with Le Cigare Blanc, a dry, full-bodied white blend. Even if it was the first course, this may have been my favorite of the night (save for dessert, naturally). It was just so rich, and such a great pairing, since this is the kind of wine I’d often enjoy with shellfish. For a moment there I felt taken back to a warm, sandy beach.

However, it was actually the second wine that was my favorite wine from the evening, the Vin Gris de Cigare, which is an incredibly delicious, and affordable, Provencal-style pink wine. Honestly, I could have just drank that the rest of the evening. Paired with it was the Berkshire pork belly, with endive salad, persimmon vinaigrette, pancetta, Brussels crisps, and grilled sourdough. Mouthwatering! (It’s completely acceptable, if by this point, you're drooling.)

Course three was smoked squab (tastes like dark meat chicken) and black lentils paired with the Le Cigare Volant, Bonny Doon's flagship wine, which I mentioned above. That was then followed by the lamb stew with acorn squash and bone marrow paired with the Le Pousser Syrah.

Finally, it was time for dessert, as the live music duo continued to play in the background. I was particularly excited for this course, since I had just returned from Porto, Portugal, which is known for port wine, typically considered a dessert or post-dinner wine. The wine for the dessert course form Bonny Doon was a sweet, aromatic Grenache Blanc, which was delicious on its own, but even more so when paired with the poached apple tart with dark chocolate, salted caramel, and buttermilk vanilla bean ice cream. I left none to waste.

As the evening concluded, I grabbed a hot chocolate on my way out and took the gondola back down to the Village at Northstar. 

All in all, the evening made for my favorite experience at Northstar California. It's only fitting from a ski resort that really prides itself on its luxuries that go beyond your typical ski resort experience. And this certainly was a luxury for Lake Tahoe. It’s not anywhere, after all, where you can take a sleigh ride "after hours" to the top of a ski mountain to enjoy a five-course food and wine pairing featuring an award-winning winery and to the sound of live music. Now that's my kind of après-ski. 

Southern born and bred, Spencer was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, flying on a plane for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at seven. While he continues to travel around the world in search for the best whiskey, Spencer now calls Reno home, where his search is for the best cocktail (and first tracks, naturally). He has written about travel, food, and drinks for a number of publications that have included the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, just to name a few. See a more candid version of Spencer on his website, whiskeytangoglobetrot.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.