Little sips and fine flavors |

Little sips and fine flavors

Lindsey Krusen and Kimberly Nicolettisummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado

At Samplings in Frisco and The Cellar in Breckenridge, satisfaction comes in a variety of small packages. Both restaurants focus on seasonal flavors that pop, paired with carefully selected wines. Eric Hastings, wine and beverage director for both restaurants and floor manager for Samplings, said Samplings operates on a small-plates concept. This gives the diner an opportunity to try many different items on the menu. Another option, called the flight program, offers wine drinkers a chance to sample three wines that share common qualities.Diners in the lounge of The Cellar will find the same small-plate concept, but once they ascend to the dining room, a three- to five-course prix fixe menu is on hand for a traditional fine-dining experience. More than 350 wine selections are available at each locations wine cellar. Hastings tastes each wine before he adds them to the list. He said seasonal wines are most popular, along with pinot noirs. Even with an impressive wine list and so-called fancy food, Samplings and The Cellar manage to keep their mountain-town, laid-back appeal. This is fine dining without pretension, Hastings said. We have a deep beverage program, but its not white tablecloth and stuffy. Breck store brings fine flavors to the mountainsAt one Breck wine store, its all about being 10 and under. Thats price, of course. Enter Ridge Street Wine/Breckenridge Cheese and Chocolate at 301 N. Main St., Breckenridge, and you wont be in for a high-dollar tasting experience. Theres a whole rack of wines less than $10, specially chosen by owner Anne Dowling to be easy on both your taste buds and wallet. Dowling opened the shop in 2000 after leaving a company that represented boutique wineries. She took a year off and went to France, where she encountered wine shops selling exclusively wine. She thought Summit could use its own version. Turns out, she was right. A year ago, the shop expanded to include cheeses and chocolates, two things that Dowling said are a natural fit with wine. The shop offers unique flavors, such as curry truffles and ancho chile bars, along with traditional fine chocolates. Dowling said the ease of shopping helped her customers as well. So many people asked if we sold cheeses before this opened, she said. Now its one-stop shopping; you come in before a party and get everything you need.Ridge Street Wine/Breckenridge Cheese and Chocolate holds tastings on Fridays from 4-7 p.m. And dont expect an ordinary flight of wine from this adventurous store. We like to mix it up, Dowling said.Frisco goes gourmet Foodies, at 721 Granite St., Frisco, also mixes things up with a variety of cheese, meat, jams and more everything to delight your eyes and taste buds. In fact, you can sample anything in the store, which is next to Frisco Wine Merchant. It offers difficult-to-find gourmet food, including more than 50 cheeses, 20 different salamis, caviar, organic steaks, demi-glaze and high-end olive oils. The store features food from small farms and family-owned suppliers, and, similar to Ridge Street Wine/Breckenridge Cheese and Chocolate, its one-stop party shopping, said Foodies owner Susanne Johnston.The fact that Foodies has a restaurant license is a bonus for anyone who walks into the store. It usually has 15 bottles of wine people can sample, plus meat and cheese plates and chocolate. The store also offers wine education, wine dinners and discussions with winemakers. These special events are posted on the door and online at door, Frisco Wine Merchant stocks more than 200 wines, from vintage ports and high-end cognacs to very affordable wines. The average bottle sells for $13, Johnston said.Johnston opened the store in July, 2005, after working in the world of gourmet food and retail at Dean and Dulca in the Napa Valley. She grew up in Colorado, and her family has owned property in Summit County for 30 years, so she was glad to transfer her passion for wine to the mountains. She specializes in small brands of wine that most people havent heard of. She samples every wine she brings into the store, and her standards demand well-made, nice-tasting and good-value wines. As a result, she can describe how every bottle of wine tastes. And, so as not to get bored, she changes her inventory regularly.I love what I do, she said.She shares her passion with customers every Wednesday night from 5-7 p.m., during free wine tastings.More, more, moreIf youre not into sampling or buying the goodies that can make wine pop, all you have to do is drive a few blocks (pretty much anywhere in the county), and youll find a liquor store that offers aisle after aisle of choices.If we listed them all, wed look like the yellow pages, but here are a few stores with the widest selection of wines: Dillon Ridge Liquors is conveniently located in the City Market shopping center in Dillon. Antlers Discount Liquor & Wine Cellar in Frisco (again, near a grocery store) has 9,000 square feet of booze and boasts the largest selection of wines in Summit County. City Liquors and Skee Vue are big in Breck.

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