K.R. Rombauer winery graces Keystone event | SummitDaily.com

K.R. Rombauer winery graces Keystone event

KEYSTONE – A night of indulgence.

Gourmet food. International wines. Mountains of chocolate. Harleys, hot tubs, trips and jewelry to bid upon. And everyone beautifully dressed.

Whether your downfall is eating, drinking or shopping, Wine in the Pines has it.

Last year, Mike Smith, co-founder of Wine in the Pines, promised the event would be the finest yet. This year, he’s upping the ante on that promise with the 20th annual celebration of the finest foods and wines.

“If you like wine and you like food, you will never go any place better in the country and taste better wines and better foods in combination,” Smith said. “We have virtually every distributor in the state of Colorado providing some of their finest wines.”

K.R. Rombauer, whom experts in the wine industry regard as one of the finest wine makers in the world, will make a rare appearance at Wine in the Pines.

“What makes this special are the quality of the grapes and the quality of managing those grapes and their juice from his family estate in Napa Valley,” Smith said.

Rombauer joins distributors who, collectively, will present 600-800 wines to taste.

“I can’t stress enough the quality of some of the wines,” Smith said.

Then there’s the food.

Saturday’s wine-tasting gala features a taste of Keystone’s gourmet entrees from its finest restaurants, as well as a selection of gourmet desserts.

“The chefs try to outdo each other,” said Carol Core, Cerebral Palsy of Colorado marketing and

development coordinator.

The Ski Tip Lodge presents banana leaf wrapped sea bass and masa crusted shrimp. The Garden Room offers steak Diane with wild mushrooms and a Caesar salad, and the Big Horn brings prime rib with garlic-whipped potatoes. RazzBerrys cooks up Mongolian marinated pork loin, Keystone Ranch prepares medallions of High Country venison, and the Edgewater Cafe offers basil-poached shrimp.

Aside from the abundant food and wine, it’s the mountain of chocolate – literally – that attracts some guests. The 16-foot dessert buffet features a 6-foot high, solid chocolate volcano, complete with flowing chocolate lava.

“People go there for no other reason than to eat the chocolate,” Smith said. “The pastry and dessert chef (Ned Archibald) goes completely out on this thing. Every year, he does something different, and it takes him almost all day Saturday to set up the dessert table. He has every single type of chocolate dessert you’ve ever tasted.

“It’s the No. 1 social event in Summit County. It has grown to be recognized as the most successful fundraising event in the state of Colorado. We have people coming from all over the nation – people from Arizona, Florida, Washington who have heard of it.”

“Wine in the Pines is our signature event that grosses the highest amount of money – almost two to three times more than our other four major events,” said Judith Ham, executive director of Cerebral Palsy (CP) of Colorado.

Plus, it’s a great place to bid on items ranging from fine art to sports memorabilia at live and silent auctions. This year’s highlights include a fully decked-out 2004 Harley Davidson Duece from Freedom Harley, a hot tub from Cal Spas in Silverthorne, a 55-inch, high-definition television from Alpine Audio and Video and a Yamaha ATV and kid’s dirt bike from Silverthorne Power Sports.

Wine in the Pines began as an Oktoberfest celebration at the Best Western in Frisco 20 years ago, when the county was definitely beer-oriented. Mike and Margaret Smith, who own Dillon Ridge Liquors and Blue Valley Discount Liquors, wanted to introduce more people to the art of wine tasting, so they began Wine in the Pines at Keystone Ranch.

They raised $4,500 the first year for CP of Colorado, an organization they hold dear because their daughter has cerebral palsy. In the past 20 years, they have raised about $2 million for the organization, Ham said.

Within four years, the 250-plus guests outgrew Keystone Ranch, and within three years, the wine tasters outgrew Keystone’s original convention center above the Edgewater Cafe. The Smiths added a winemaker’s dinner at the ranch to the wine-tasting event, but attendees quickly outgrew it again. Mike Smith attributed the phenomenal growth to the fine food and wines.

Saturday’s Wine in the Pines costs $100 in advance or $115 at the door ($50 is tax deductible). Tickets may be purchased in advanced until 3 p.m. Saturday at Dillon Ridge and Blue Valley liquor stores.

Tonight’s wine makers’ dinner at the Ranch is sold out. (But, if you have a ticket, be on the lookout for the premiere items of tonight’s auction: a 3 3/4-carat diamond ring and a large Tahitian pearl necklace from the Diamond and Gem Exchange.)

Ninety percent of the proceeds from Wine in the Pines returns to the community. A portion goes to Cerebral Palsy of Colorado, and a portion goes to Summit County nonprofit organizations.

Past recipients include The Summit Foundation, Bristlecone Health Services and Timberline Adult Daycare Services. CP of Colorado has served Coloradans with disabilities for more than 56 years through inclusive early education programs, comprehensive community-based employment and statewide education and support that promote the development of human potential.

For more information about CP of Colorado or to make reservations for Wine in the Pines, call (303) 691-9339, ext. 32.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

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