New restaurants cater to a more refined taste

ANDREW TOLVEsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

BRECKENRIDGE – It was Friday night, and the Breckenridge Brewery was abuzz. A hectic mix of patrons were sliding down shots at the bar, while high-octane music was pulsing from the speakers and freshly brewed beer was disappearing in every sector of the establishment. As Kent Schuhart, one of two bartenders working at the time, described the scene, it was “a little bit mayhem.” Two miles down Main Street, the mood was different. A small number of locals were gathering at Breckenridge Cheese and Chocolate for the store’s grand opening, an event that promised an elegant pairing of wines and fine foods. Music was flowing softly from the store’s single stereo unit. Helpings of wine, cheese and chocolate lined the tables.”They’re very crazy,” Anne Dowling, the proprietress of the shop, said of her selection, explaining that her cheeses ranged from a thick Humboldt fog to an ashy Morbier, and as for her chocolates, they were filled with everything from curry to Mexican vanilla bean to absinthe. Dowling urged her guests to be daring.”Broaden your horizons!” she said.

As of late, Dowling’s breed of adventurousness – that defined by pairings of sophisticated foods and wines, not pitchers of beer – seems to be taking hold in Summit. Samplings Wine Bar opened in Frisco last spring, The Cellar Wine Bar opened shortly after in Breckenridge and now with the addition of Dowling’s Breckenridge Cheese and Chocolate, an enthusiast can experience wine and food pairings nearly every night of the week.”I really didn’t think that Frisco, Colorado was a wine place,” said Sue Berger, the sommelier at Samplings and The Cellar, “but you’ve got people who did the burgers and beer in their 20s, who are looking for a little bit more now, and they got it through Samplings.”Dowling, a former skier for the U.S. Ski Team and now a sommelier in her own right, said the same used to be true in Breckenridge.”Every year the wine consumption in the U.S. goes up,” she said. “Wine consumption in Europe has always been huge per capita, and Americans are just catching on … A lot of people in Breckenridge like to live the good life. I think there’s definitely room for both (a party scene and a wine scene).”For decades, nice restaurants that feature fine wines have called Summit County home, but the arrival of the likes of Breck Cheese and Chocolate (which abuts Ridge Street Wine) and Samplings is something new. In the case of Samplings and The Cellar, the two wine bars are classy après ski-type destinations, places to relax in the company of wine (not Budweiser) and gourmet food (not burgers) after a long day on the mountain.

And as for Breckenridge Cheese and Chocolate, the newest shop in Breck is designed to bring this same refined mentality into your home. Although Dowling does offer food and wine pairings on Tuesdays and Fridays, the chief purpose of her shop is to sell fine wines, cheeses and chocolates for dinner parties or special occasions at home. Diane Cohen, a Breck resident of eight years and a member of a local gourmet group, appreciates the shop’s intention. The gourmet group consists of about six couples who convene roughly once a month to indulge in specialty wines and themed meals.”Now we don’t have to go all the way to Applejack’s (Wine and Spirits in Denver),” Cohen joked. “I’m really happy to see her expanding into the cheeses (too) … The more variety she brings in, the better it is.”Tuesday night at Samplings was all about bringing in variety. Six employees at the Juniper Tree in Frisco had gathered to partake in Sampling’s weekly wine tasting, which included six flights of wine and several downright sinful plates of buffalo, lamb and salmon appetizers.”We all prefer wine,” said Jan Shackelford, owner of the Juniper Tree, on behalf of the group. “We are totally part of the wine culture. We exchange wines, and we’ve come to Samplings a lot.”

When pressed about the rising tide of wine in Summit, Shackelford agreed.”The town has grown up culturally where they don’t have to drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap,” she said. “I just think we’ve become more sophisticated.”Even Kent Schuhart back at the Breckenridge Brewery conceded that wine is starting to press into beer’s domain in Summit.”We’ve been moving through a lot of wine, especially in the winter,” Schuhart said. “I think there were a lot of people who were afraid to come in here and drink something else, and now I think it’s more accepted. You know, drive whatever kind of car you want and drink whatever kind of drink you want … different strokes for different folks.”Andrew Tolve can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13629, or at

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