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Wine Talk: Olympic Skier Tommy Moe Enjoys Sipping Wine in Extreme Conditions

The gold medalist endorses high-altitude wine drinking

Katherine Cole
Posted: November 13, 2012

At the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, American alpine racer Tommy Moe became the first U.S. skier to win two medals in the same games, capturing gold in downhill and silver in super G. But it wasn't until after he quit the professional circuit that he became interested in wine.

Today, Moe is a ski guide and ambassador for Jackson Hole Resort, near his Wyoming home. He is also, along with longtime ski buddies Greg Harms and Mike Overcast, co-owner of Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, located near Alaska's Denali National Park & Preserve. At this remote getaway, a 40-minute floatplane ride from Anchorage, Moe and his pals spend their days guiding heli-skiing, hiking, fishing and rafting trips, and their evenings working their way through the wine cellar. Wine Spectator caught up with Moe to talk about wine over a crackling satellite phone connection as he was relaxing "out in the bush." Despite being 90 miles from the nearest road, he'd just enjoyed "a nice bottle of rosé" with lunch.

Wine Spectator: The World Cup tour must have required a lot of European travel. Did you discover wine during that period of your life?
Tommy Moe: It wasn't really until I had retired from World Cup ski racing that I took an interest in wine. As an athlete on the road, there wasn't enough time to eat and enjoy long dinners and have that full European gastro experience.

WS: And you were only 16 when you joined the U.S. Ski Team …
TM: And I retired at 24. There was a time period in there where you focus on your body and the work you have in front of you. Unfortunately, that generally does not include guzzling wine at night.

WS: What do you love to drink now?
TM: My favorite wines are Italian. The values are excellent; they could go toe-to-toe with most French wines. Among super Tuscans, my No. 1 favorite is Ornellaia, and a close second would be Sassicaia. And of course, Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos. We have sporadic availability here in Alaska, but when we can get these wines, we buy them.

WS: I've read that our taste buds are numbed at high altitudes. Do you find that to be the case when you're out heli-skiing?
TM: That's interesting; I think that might be true. We are much more likely when we are heli-skiing to want to come back and open a big bad Cab like a Caymus Special Selection. There is nothing more satisfying than a heavy Napa Valley red with a big steak on those cold days.

WS: Some pretty high-powered people come and visit your lodge. Do they bring wine when they travel?
TM: You would not believe it. We have people who come in on private jets, carrying wine packaged in protective cases. A lot of people will not bring a ski bag; they'll bring a case of wine instead and just use the skis we have here. Guests have brought some wonderful wines to share: Lafite, Cheval-Blanc. First-growth Bordeaux is popular.

WS: What are the logistics of keeping a wine cellar in remote Alaska? The below-freezing temperatures must be a concern.
TM: The wine is stored in a root cellar at the lodge. We evacuate the place every October and don't come back until February for heli-skiing, so we have to move all the wine back into town on floatplanes. We keep it in temperature-controlled storage in Anchorage while we are gone. So we can't keep a huge inventory of high-end wine; we have maybe 500 to 600 bottles. We've been dreaming of taking a backhoe and digging underground and putting in a propane heater that would keep the cellar at 50° F, but it would be taking a big risk to leave the wine out here while we're away—we could easily lose the whole cellar.

WS: What was the most memorable bottle you've had?
TM: A 3-liter jeroboam of Dom Pérignon rosé 1990, while out heli-skiing under the midnight sun.

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