10th Annual Killington Wine Festival
Last July I drove up to Killington with my friend, Joni Cole. It was one of those summer days when you know you live in a piece of paradise, and you’re willing to let a few people in on a secret. Killington Mountain is known affectionately in ski circles as “The Beast of the East” for its vertical challenge. The secret? Come summertime, the beast becomes a beauty. That afternoon, we were driving up the mountain for the Killington Wine Festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
With a brilliant sky overhead, the view just kept getting better as we drove up the mountain. Our first stop was at the K-1 Base Lodge, where we could see the merrymaking in full swing under the tent. At the entrance, Joni and I each picked up a wineglass, a wine guidebook, and a keepsake burgundy-red cloth bag to carry them in. The guidebook offered plenty of room for taking notes on all the wines, plus information about where to obtain them. Later, our notes would help us retrace our steps to see if our favorite wines still held the same interest the first taste had promised.
From Popping the Cork to On the GreenThe weekend kicks off on Friday evening with an Estate Wine Tasting at Killington Grand Hotel, followed by the Pop the Cork Wine Party with live entertainment. On Saturday afternoon, the Grand Wine Tasting is launched at the K-1 Base Lodge and moves up the mountain via a gondola ride to the Peak. On Sunday, there’s a Bubbly Brunch at a restaurant on Killington Peak Road and Wine & Nine, an afternoon of golf at the Green Mountain National Golf Course. Throughout the weekend, area restaurants and inns including Birch Ridge Inn, the Vermont Inn, and Red Clover Inn offer special food and wine pairings so the party can continue over dinner and dessert.
Perfect PairsBack under the big white tent at the K-1 Base Lodge, food purveyors and restaurants catered to our stomachs. It’s a delicate balance—not letting the food take over the wine or vice versa. Cabot Creamery’s cheddar brought just the right amount of bite to accompany the wines. On the Rocs (Killington) and Hawk Inn and Mountain Resort (Plymouth) provided inspired treats from their restaurant menus, rousing us to make dinner reservations. And then there were the chocolates from That’s Different Chocolates. Their scrumptious chocolate bark, spicy chocolates, and fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate paired perfectly with different wines.
Aging Like a Fine WineThe Killington Chamber of Commerce has been presenting The Killington Wine Festival every year for the past decade. Bill Vines, the Chamber board member responsible for the festival, said the idea arose when the board began talking about summer events in Killington. “We were interested in creating an event that would pair food and wine, and provide a nice weekend in the mountains for adults.”
“People think of Killington as covered in snow,” Vines said. “They’re amazed at how nice the surroundings are in summer—and how relaxing it is to just be on the mountain.” The wine festival gives people a wonderful excuse to come up here in the summer—not that they need one. This year, more than 40 wineries and distributors will present over 400 wines. Last year, more than 500 people tasted wines from around the world. I intended to sample as many as reasonable, but even committing to just a sip, it became clear I’d only sample some of these wines. Instead, I opted for a second taste of those that appealed to me most.
From Argentina to California to Killington PeakWe started off sampling white wines, and then moved to the reds, switching between the varietals and the blends. I wanted to explore different regions from Argentina to New Zealand, and to dive into domestic American wines, which made a strong showing from up and down the California coast to Washington State. And I wanted to save a taste for the fragrant varieties of sake and the sweet, wooded flavors of cider that added both local and international dimensions to the festival. We made notes as we went, and then headed out into the bright sunshine for the K-1 Gondola ride to the 4,241-foot summit—about an eight-minute ride to the top. The view was spectacular, and when we arrived, the tasting continued at the Killington Peak Restaurant with its awe-inspiring vistas.
At the Peak, I was drawn right away to the bottles from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The director of such movies as Apocalypse Now, The Cotton Club, and The Godfather, Coppola has brought his outsized vision to wine. After spending decades as a vintner in Napa, California, he opened his own winery in Sonoma County in 2010. These days his reputation as a vintner is perhaps as great as his legendary filmmaking, at least in California.
I held out my glass for the Coppola Winery’s Moscato, described as “a bright, juicy rosé enlivened by flavors of apricots, lime zest, and cloves.” My palate is not quite that discerning, but it was good . . . very good. I’m normally drawn to the deeper reds, but this was a rosé I could take home and love. Joni had just tasted the Sofia Blanc de Blancs, a light sparkling wine. There are several wines in the Sofia family, named after Coppola’s daughter. From my first taste, I was smitten. The Coppola Winery describes the Blanc de Blancs as one of their most popular, a favorite for parties and weddings. I gave it a big thumbs up.
We also tasted the Rosé and the Riesling from the Sofia Collection. The Rosé lived up to its description as easy sipping on a lazy afternoon; I could imagine the Riesling paired with Asian or spicy foods.
Joni and I made notes in our tasting guides and moved on to the food provided courtesy of the Killington Chamber of Commerce. Black River Produce, known for a commitment to local and fresh produce, and Westminster Cracker, whose rich, flavorful history dates back to 1828, put out a delicious spread. Maple Brook Farm’s handmade mountain mozzarella was a standout! This is the real deal.
Joni headed to the Vermont Wine Merchants table, and I made a beeline for the sake, where a full sampling of Gekkeikan Sakes was available. Founded in 1637, Gekkeikan is one of the oldest family-operated businesses in the world. I chose two chilled sakes: the Traditional and the Black & Gold. Both were striking and delicious. I tried to hail Joni from across the room, but she clearly had her mind on the Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. When she waved back, I pointed to the outside door. We refilled our glasses and made a trip out to the balcony. On our way out, we stopped to vote for our favorite wines and entered a drawing to win a pair of tickets to the next Killington Wine Festival Grand Tasting.
Outside, our heads were in the clouds—literally. At this altitude, it felt like we could touch the sky. The fresh air felt good as we took in the 360-degree view of the Green Mountains. We raised our glasses and toasted the day, the mountains, the wines, and our good fortune at just being here to enjoy it all.
10th Annual Killington Wine Festival July 22–24, 2011
When You Go
Bring a light sweater or jacket.
If it’s sunny, bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
A complimentary wineglass and tote bag are supplied.
For More Information & Tickets
Killington Chamber of Commerce
Estate Wine Tasting
An exclusive event sampling estate and reserve wine selections from the world’s leading wine makers at the Killington Grand Hotel.
Pop the Cork Wine Party
Meet vintners and wine representatives behind some of the wines being sampled over the weekend. Enjoy live entertainment, an extensive wine bar, and light hors d’oeuvres.
Grand Tasting at 4,241'
Sample 400 wines with Killington Peak as a backfrop. Start your sampling adventure at the K-1 Gondola base under a festive tent. Ride the K-1 Gondola to the top of Killington for scenic views of the Green Mountains.
Enjoy a world-class brunch at Wally’s Restaurant on Killington Road while sampling sparkling wines from across the globe.
Wine and Nine
Close out the Killington Wine Festival weekend with a special golf outing at the Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, voted Vermont’s #1 public course by Golf Digest. Enjoy specially selected “golf friendly” wines, 9 holes of golf with friends (scramble format, cart included), a light dinner, and awards based upon your prowess on the links.
Other Tasting Events: Enjoy a welcome party complete with live music, great giveaways, a wine tasting dinner, and more!Winners of the 9th Annual Killington Wine Festival Best White: Danese Pinot Grigio presented by Pazzione Wine Imports Best Red: Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Claret Honorable Mention: Pine Ridge Napa Cabernet 2007 Falesco Ferentano