High up in the Rockies, sunshine skiing season is in full swing, and this year, there's a new way for the slopeside wine lovers to après to the extreme. Just opened this year at Colorado's Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (known fondly as A-Basin), restaurant and wine bar Il Rifugio at Snowplume invites winter sportspersons to get cozy, sip wine and nibble on Italian bites … if they can get to the place, perched 12,500 feet up on the Continental Divide.
Claiming the title of "highest restaurant in the country," Il Rifugio (meaning “the shelter” in Italian) is only accessible to guests by chairlift, and diners are expected to ski or snowboard back down to the base of the mountain once they're sated. The restaurant's reusable plates, cups and cutlery are also taken via lift to be washed at another restaurant mid-mountain, since there is no running water in the building. Food and beverage supplies are taken up the mountain via snowcat—only twice weekly, to be mindful of the environment.
"It was not a goal to become the highest restaurant in the U.S.; just a happy realization," Katherine Fuller, A-Basin's communications manager, told Unfiltered. "There was already a building there—patrol headquarters is in the bottom level of the Snowplume building. A little over 10 years ago, we used to sell simple grab 'n' go lunches, like premade sandwiches and soup, out of that building. But up until this winter, it was just a warming hut on the top floor."
That former warming hut is now open for lunch seven days a week during season (expected to last through early June this year), allowing ski-in enophiles to take in 360° views of A-Basin’s terrain and the surrounding mountain ranges while enjoying antipasti, zuppe and panini along with a selection of nine vinos by the glass or bottle. For an Italian-inflected alpine experience, there are two Proseccos, the Querceto Chianti Classico, Damilano's Barbera d’Asti and Rocca di Frassinello's Le Sughere from Tuscany. Which may or may not be just what you need to power your very long, steep, snowy trek home down a mountain afterward, so enjoy molto responsabilmente.
“At ski areas, most people expect to pay a premium for mediocre food," Chris Rybak, A-Basin's director of food and beverage, said in a press release. "With Il Rifugio, I wanted to offer something nicer and more European."
Of course, Il Rifugio's entrance into the very loftiest tier of dining means that another eatery was knocked down from its "highest restaurant" pedestal: Alpino Vino, at Colorado's Telluride Ski Resort, sits pretty at 11,966 feet. The restaurant, which is a sibling to Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Allred's Restaurant, has a bit more on the menu, including a prix-fixe dinner and a 150-selection wine list, so it has now tweaked its title to "highest elevation fine-dining restaurant in North America." See, there's plenty of room on the mountain (of mountaintop dining) for both of these spots.
Some of our eno-robotic friends are more the homebody types—offering glasses of bubbly to weary humans or uncorking and enjoying the fruits of the vine themselves. But a new autonomous vinebot is more willing to get its mecha-appendages dirty, joining "outdoor" bots like Bordeaux's Ted and Portugal's VineScout in plotting vineyard mastery.
This AI viticulturist goes by the name of Bakus (android for "Bacchus"), and it calls the vineyards of Champagne home. Bakus was born of France-based startup VitiBot's desire to improve sustainable viticulture. "We are confident that Bakus will soon become the salutary god of the vineyards of France and of the world, which will facilitate the long-awaited environmental transition," CEO Bernard Boxho told Unfiltered, in the closest French approximation yet of, "I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords."
One of the main tools at Bakus' disposal is its internal sensors designed to identify where herbicides and other sprays are most direly needed, thereby using them as sparingly as possible. "This is a major asset," said Boxho. "Not only is man far from this potentially harmful spray, but the product is no longer dispersed [more widely]." Bakus can work up to 10 hours straight, day and night, and at 2.75 tons it's also relatively light on its feet compared to most tractors, which reduces soil pressure and compaction.
Boxho says the company is working on adding features to the bots, like the ability to trim and prune vines and remove leaves. And a Bakus owner-partner can control and monitor the machine from any PC, tablet or smartphone. The first batch of six Bakuses ("Baki"?) will be operating on Champagne vineyards by this summer. Pricing hasn't been finalized, but Boxho says the bots will be comparable in cost to conventional vineyard tractors. "We want a robot that is accessible to all," he said. And he intends not to stop until global domination is achieved, hoping to open up exports by 2021.
Nothing against the fine work of vintner-auteurs Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Ridley Scott and, uh, Gérard Depardieu, but the future of enophile directors is clearly female: Put Amy Poehler in the director's chair, and presto, we're getting a Napa-set wine-country movie out in May. Now comes word of She Directed, an initiative to recognize women filmmakers, co-starring actor Kate Bosworth, Chloe Wine Collection and the advocacy/equality organization Women in Film.
She-directors can submit a short film or feature excerpt by July 7, 2019, for a chance to win $10,000 and mentorship sessions with Women in Film; viewers like you, along with viewers like Bosworth and other industry pros, will then select a set of semifinalists, which will be further winnowed to a winner.
“I’m honored to raise a glass to those who are putting women at the center of the story, both in wine and in film," Chloe Collection winemaker Georgetta Dane told Unfiltered via email. Women, she noted, still only make up a small fraction of California winemakers and commercial film directors. "Our hope with the She Directed campaign is to provide more opportunities for women in film and spotlight female voices.” If that sounds like you, head over to the contest page and … action!
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