A Moment in Time With an Original Napa Valley Vintner

 

Rene di Rosa

The world is full of characters, and California certainly has more than their fair share.

I will never forget the first time I met Rene di Rosa.  To most people he won’t mean much, however, to folks in the wine industry in California he was an iconic figure. Rene passed away a few years ago at the age of 91, but left a legacy worth a google.  You see, Rene di Rosa helped establish the Carneros region of California as one of the world’s great producers of
Burgundian grapes – chardonnay and pinot noir.

It was 1999, and I was working as the Beverage Manager at the Hallmark Inn Hotel in Davis, CA, the day an elderly gentleman shuffled into the bar. He was wearing a worn Levis denim shirt – not one that you purchase worn, but one that can only be worn out from years of working, washing and wearing – you know what I mean. He also wore an agricultural cap which sat high on his head, and if I could remember what it advertised I would die a happy man.  I noticed his hands to be drawn and arthritic – they looked like a couple of old and ancient head trained zinfandel vines, which lead me to believe he did something with his hands for a living.

He sat at the bar and asked for half a glass of chardonnay which I gave him. He then asked for half a glass of merlot. I proceeded to grab another glass and to pour it, and he said to me, “no son, put it in the same glass”. After I poured the merlot into his chardonnay, he swirled it around and sipped it. After a couple of quick quaffs, he looked up at me with his smiling eyes and said “nobody makes a good rose anymore”.

I asked him what he did and he replied “I’m a farmer.”

“What do you farm” I asked? “grapes” he replied.

“Where” I asked?  “Indian place, but I can’t remember the name” he responded.

Napa? I answered “yea that’s the place!” he said.

This exchange would lead to a lengthy conversation about the man Rene di Rosa, where I sat captivated by his tales of the old days in the wine industry, and the famed Winery Lake Vineyard.

After a beautiful visit, Rene got up and began to shuffle out the door. As he was exiting I yelled to him, “Mr. di Rosa! In my next life I want to be you!”  He slowly shuffled his old body in a 180 degree turn, looked me right in the eye, and said to me “What’s wrong with this life son?”

My point.  Rene di Rosa would be quite pleased because the wine industry has been producing good rose again.  In fact, they have become quite popular, and are done in a fresh and dry style unlike the white zinfandel with which they have been associated.  Ask at your local wine store and give one a try. They make great aperitifs. I have been known to put one in a bucket of ice before I cut the grass – it makes it ripe for picking after I cut the grass! It also makes me late for dinner…..

My other point. Mr. di Rosa was right. What is wrong with this life son? The world is full of second chances. In fact, that’s what life is; one second chance after another.

-Jim Beau
Skytop Lodge Sommelier

My Favorite Wines with Jim Beau

Enjoy some wine in The Tap Room!

As the Wine Director at Skytop Lodge, and the largest buyer of fine wine in the state of Pennsylvania, we entertain thousands of guests and wine lovers from the greatest markets in the world. The question most often asked of me is: What is your favorite wine?

I only wish my answer were as simple as the question!

Just as in life, it is true in wine for me – I have no prejudice.  I love all people AND I love all wine; it’s like asking me which one of my brothers or sisters is my favorite.  Of course that could depend on what wine they are serving when they have me over for dinner. Again, I am being silly, because they always ask me to bring the wine……

Just as hours, days, seasons and weather change so does my mood for wine. The cabernet I opened last night might not suit my mood and the temperature the next night. I have been known to open 4 or 5 bottles of wine before I find the one that is “just right”.  I will confess that I drink more white in the summer and more red in the winter, however, after a day of skiing or other outdoor winter activity, a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc IS refreshing.  No one craves a glass of Chianti after a workout, but there is not a better pairing to enjoy with lasagna.  Robert Mondavi said cabernet is king and it certainly commands the world’s highest prices, but maybe you’re not planning on grilling steaks.

 

Jim Beau, Skytop Wine Director

Jim Beau, Skytop Wine Director

My point.  Think about your surroundings and what you have been doing and are about to do.  With spring finally here and the potential for nice days and increased activity – physically and socially! – why not step out on the deck and enjoy something unique and inexpensive like a California Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Blanc from the Alsace in France?  And, as always, if your company is boring you….. give them more wine!

Skytop Photo Contest Winners

A picture is worth a thousand words! This month’s Facebook Photo Contest theme was “White on White” and was judged by one of Skytop’s favorite photographers, John Wadsworth. We interviewed John in our blog for December (Click here to view last month’s blog) and in honor of that, he was this months photo judge. So, without further ado, we present our runners up and our winner!

“Thank you for submitting images to Skytop’s “White On White” Photo contest.  The theme implied snow as its primary subject.  I enjoyed the White On White images that were not snow related and encourage those photographers to re-submit in later contests.” – John Wadsworth

“White on White” Honorable Mention selected by our judge, photographer John Wadsworth. Photo taken by Beatrice Briggs. A few words from John: ” I must acknowledge this image which I am renaming: White Standard in Snow. I compliment the photographer’s interpretation of the theme. A White On White photo contest would not be successful without an entry of a white pet in snow.”

White Standard in Snow

 

“White on White” Honorable Mention selected by our judge, photographer John Wadsworth. Photo taken by Kathleen Price Hertkorn. A few words from John: “Another favorite is this photograph. The photographer accents the primary detail of snow covered tree branches through framing a full tree in the focus softened distance. Snow falls upon this pristine setting, without a trace of human presence. A beautifully composed, contemplative image. ”

Snowy Tree

 

And finally, Congratulations to Kathleen Price Hertkorn for winning January’s “White on White” photo competition! A few words from our judge, John Wadsworth: ” My favorite image was this, which I am renaming: CrossCountry. The photographer vividly captures the feeling of skiers moving slowly, staring into snow falling upon snow beneath a white clouded sky…an image of White On White Beneath White! The spacing between the skiers accentuates the snowbound experience.”

Cross Country

 

John was impressed by all of the entries and encourages everyone to participate in future contests. We would also like to thank all who participated for another month of breathtaking photo submissions. Visit our Facebook Page for February’s contest details!

Photography at Skytop Lodge

Photography is an integral part of the Skytop experience, whether you are a seasoned professional capturing Skytop’s natural surroundings, a parent snapping pictures of your little ones as they experience Skytop for the first time, or if you are learning the basics and spent time with us at one of our Photography Weekends. Everywhere you look, there is an opportunity to capture a memory on film.

 

For this month’s blog, we decided to focus on one of our favorite photographers, John Wadsworth, whose been capturing the Skytop Experience for many years. In addition to taking the time to be interviewed, John is our guest judge for January’s Facebook Photo Contest! If your interest is really sparked and you’d like to learn how to become a better photographer, consider coming to Skytop for one of our Photography Weekends on either April 26-28 or May 17-19.

 

Did you always see yourself becoming a photographer?

I never aspired to be a professional photographer, but, through a series of serendipitous experiences, became one.  Photography is the only “job” I have had.  Even today, after 37 years, photography and I share a relaxed, non-professional relationship.

 

What inspires you? What are your favorite subjects?

Being receptive to the unexpected, the unplanned nurtures a perpetual creative inspiration.  My favorite subjects are anyone and anything that surrounds me at any moment.  Life has surrounded me with a wealth of fascinating people and places.

 

 Do you have any tips for readers on how they can create art with their photographs – even when just using their smartphones?

Instagram!  I am impressed by the options available to transform even phone snapshots into art. Having never taken a photography course, I have always relied upon a personal path of trial and error…a path upon which trials and errors evolve into art.    Photography is, to me, a process of feeling, of empathetic witnessing.  The less one thinks, the more unique their perspective.

 

Campbell’s View:

Campbell's View

I had never heard of Campbell’s View when I took this photograph.  I was shooting golf related imagery and noticed this late afternoon perspective.  Skytop is rich with equally magnificent views, all of which deserve distinctive names.  I will return to photograph Campbell’s View to see how a different season creates a new Campbell’s View, as each season creates a new Skytop.

 

 

Sitting on the Lawn:

Sitting on the LawnSkytop is a legacy destination for families that cherish tradition.   Here, a grandmother and granddaughter together watch a wedding ceremony in the South Garden. The grandmother reflecting on her marriage, and her children’s marriages, her grand daughter dreaming of her wedding day.   I have enjoyed conversations with many guests who tell of having experienced Skytop as children, who return as parents with their children, who will one day be married at Skytop and birth new generations of Skytop devotees.

 

Fishing by the Lake:

Fishing by the lake

This picture is not posed, but a natural embodiment of Skytop’s singular relationship with each guest.   This gentleman was attending a family reunion and enjoying the solitude of fly fishing as other family members were taking guided nature tours, cycling on forest trails, reading in the library, ziplining, napping in a rocking chair, lawn bowling, playing golf–the options are endless, changing with each season.  This image exemplifies that every guest discovers and enjoys their unique Skytop.

 


We hope that you are inspired by John’s words and by the beauty that surrounds you everyday. Visit our Facebook Page this January and share your photos with us and you could be the lucky winner of a Skytop Gift Certificate!  If you would like to see more of John’s work, please visit www.johnwadsworth.com.

 

Many thanks to Mr. Wadsworth for taking the time to share his experience with us. Happy Holidays everyone!

Gingerbread and Holiday Convections… Cooking with Chef Christa!

Christa Kuhar Pastry Chef Skytop Lodge Pocono Mountains 3‘Tis the season for sweet things like cookies, pies, and of course, gingerbread! With that in mind, we met with Skytop Lodge’s Executive Pastry Chef, Christa Kuhar to talk about the life-sized gingerbread house she and her team are building, as well as the holiday pastries, candy, and cake that they will prepare for dessert!  If you’ve enjoyed a dessert at Skytop before then you know that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to everything sweet and delicious. She’s even let us in on a little secret and shared her Red Velvet Yule Log recipe with us!

Christa joined Skytop as the executive pastry chef shortly after earning her culinary degree in 2005 from the Culinary Institute of America in Rhinebeck, NY.  Drawn to Skytop for it’s natural beauty, Christa loves the Skytop experience because she is able to work on a wide range of projects from weddings and large-scale meetings, to buffets and sit-down dining, and of course, the gingerbread house! Since she has been at Skytop, the gingerbread tradition has continued to evolve.

If you have not yet been to Skytop during the holidays to see the gingerbread house then this is trip worth taking this year! The building process begins on the gingerbread house as early as October when the design is drawn up. After that, cardboard stencils are created and then the baking begins! It takes about 1 week to cook the gingerbread, cooking about 60 quarts of dough each day, which comes out to about 1,300 lbs of gingerbread, including 300 shingles! Four hundred pounds of icing is used to secure the structure and 300 pounds of candy that decorate the house creating a picture perfect gingerbread house. The icing Christa suggests is called “Royal Icing” which is often used on wedding cakes and consists of egg whites, crème of tartar and, of course, sugar!

Gingerbread House Holiday Family Fun Skytop Lodge Pocono MountainsEvery year, the gingerbread house has a different theme, 2010 was “Log Cabin” and 2011 was “Hansel & Gretel”. This year is a special because they are building “Santa’s North Pole Home,” complete with reindeer and a candy fence! As one can only imagine, this is a delicious looking scene and young kids are often found breaking off pieces here and there. For that reason, the pastry team checks the house every morning to fix any, ahem, “mishaps.”

The gingerbread scene is open to the public, so anyone who’d like to come and see the display is invited to stay for lunch or dinner and indulge in one of Christa’s delicious desserts! The gingerbread house is the perfect setting for a great photo, so dress the kids in holiday attire and come see our magnificent display!

We’d love to see what your Yule Log looks like so share your photos with us on our Facebook Page! We can’t wait to see what you’ve baked for the holiday season!

Plan your visit to Skytop during one of our Gingerbread Weekends!

As promised, here is one of Christa’s newest creations for this holiday season, Red Velvet Yule Log. My mouth is watering – how about you?

Chocolate Buttercream IcingSoftened Butter  1.1 lbsHigh Ratio Shortening (Veg Shortening) 12 oz.Powdered Sugar 1.5 lbs

Cocoa Powder 2.25 oz.

Salt .25 oz

Vanilla .25 oz

Steps

  1. Place sugar, cocoa and flavors into a bowl with a paddle attachment
  2. Slowly add softened butter until dissolved and continue mixing until all ingredients are incorporated
  3. Scrape the bowl, add shortening and mix on 2nd speed until well incorporated
  4. Scrape down bowl once more and mix on 3rd speed for 1-2 minutes.
Chocolate RouladeEgg Yolks   1 lb.Sugar         6oz.Vanilla extract  .5 fl. oz

Egg Whites   8 oz.

Bread Flour, sifted    4.5 oz.

Cocoa Powder, sifted  1.5 oz

Red Food Coloring( enough until the batter turns red) about 1 oz.

 

Steps

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper
  2. Whip together the egg yolks, 3 oz of the sugar, and the vanilla with the whip attachment on med. speed until thick and light in color, about 10 min.
  3. Whip the egg whites with a clean whip attachment on med. speed until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 3 oz. sugar while continuing to whip, then whip until med. peaks form
  4. Gently blend one-third of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
  5. Gradually fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder then add the food coloring.
  6. Spread the batter in the prepared sheet pan.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees until the cake springs back when touched, 7 to 10 minutes.
  8. Immediately unmold the cake onto a clean sheet pan. Cool completely.
  9. Spread icing evenly over the cake, leaving some to icing for the top and then carefully roll the cake.
  10. Place on a serving tray and frost generously, swiping to form the “bark” of the log.
  11. Decorate as desired and enjoy!

 

 

Skytop’s Harvest Lake Stroll Spotlights The World’s Best Vineyards

Jim Beau, Skytop Wine Director

Special for the Harvest Lake Stroll is an understatement.  If you are a lover of life then you owe it to yourself to participate in this spectacular event!  Events like this just don’t happen often enough, much less here in Northeast Pennsylvania at a time when the foliage is at its peak and your senses are heightened.

The mix of food, wine and fun will be at a premium.  Lovers of great wine will be able to taste wine from Shafer, Plumpjack, Duckhorn, Truchard, Trefethen, Bogle, Frogs Leap, De Loach, Justin, Ferrari-Carano, Robert Mondavi, Rodney Strong, Adelsheim, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Schild, Torres, and more!  Oenophiles will love meeting David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon; or speaking with Frederico Benegas Lynch (yes, that Lynch, of famed fifth growth Bordeaux Lynch-Bages) from Argentina. It was Frederico’s grandfather who stole malbec cuttings from France and transplanted them to Mendoza, Argentina.

It all begins with a wine dinner (limited seating so hurry!) on Saturday night with David Adelsheim showing off his current releases which will begin with a single vineyard Pinot Blanc and highlight Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir with the main course.  Sunday’s Lake Stroll will be a like a playground for your taste buds with each winery showing several varietals as well as some unique single vineyards and rare older vintages along with the best cuisine the  Mountains has to offer.  My goal in this event has been to exceed your expectations.

 If I weren’t working this event I would be attending!

Cheers,

Jim Beau
Wine Director
Skytop Lodge

To purchase tickets to the Harvest Lake Stroll, visit www.harvestlakestroll.com. To make a reservation for Saturday’s wine dinner with David Adelsheim, call 570-595-7401. We look forward to seeing at the Harvest Lake Stroll!