Sun Mountain Lodge: It’s not just a place to get away
from the hustle and bustle of everyday life
The Husband and wife team of Tyler and Nicky Krost have created a food and
wine program at the iconic lodge near Winthrop, WA, that is second to none
By Dan Radil
Over the past 20 years I’ve sat at the table for dozens of multi-course food and wine dinners. Most have been good, a few have been great, but the one I attended during a recent visit to Sun Mountain Lodge, simply put, may have been my best experience ever.
The Lodge is located about 10 miles from the town of Winthrop, WA., off State Route 20 on the eastern slopes of the North Cascade Mountains. It’s a bit isolated, yes, but that’s part of the appeal…getting away to a quiet setting, perhaps ignoring your email inbox for a day or two, enjoying some stellar meals, and taking in the remarkable views while participating in a number of seasonal activities.
WINE-RELATED EVENTS AT THE LODGE
Sun Mountain Lodge currently collaborates with wineries under the Chateau Ste. Michelle umbrella to produce what is referred to as the “Diamonds and Pearls” wine dinner series.
The dinners are masterminded by Executive Chef Tyler Krost, who came to the Lodge in November of 2017. Tyler trained at the Culinary Institute of Portland, worked for Microsoft’s catering department, and then served as “co-chef” with his wife, Nicky, for four years in the restaurant at Cave B Winery, near Quincy, WA. Nicky worked part-time at Sun Mountain Lodge before becoming Wine Steward in mid-2019 and taking charge of the property’s extensive wine cellar.
“We’re also starting a wine program with boutique wineries, particularly during March and April,” notes Nicky. The two-day, “wine weekend” will feature a Friday social that would include meeting and chatting with the winemaker(s) and a Saturday educational session (“such as the terrior of Washington State and why they chose it,” says Nicky), followed by a wine dinner.
“Also during the winter months we’re looking at starting some galas and live auctions…auctioning off art and bottles of wine and partnering with some of the great foundations here in the Methow Valley and sharing the proceeds with them,” she says.
FIVE COURSES OF PURE BLISS
Because my schedule didn’t quite coincide with one of their four-times-a-year Diamonds and Pearls wine dinners, the Lodge’s staff was kind enough to set me and my dining partners up at a chef’s table to simulate the five-course experience.
Chef Tyler made it a point to visit our table at every course and explain each dish and the preparation that went behind it. “I always think of the wine as another ingredient in the dish,” he said, and his knowledge of food and wine and showcasing them together was evident in every taste.
First Course: Corn Chowder served with a Cave B Winery 2017 Semillon – Chef Tyler hit the ground running with this marvelous opening course. The chowder’s creamy potato base perfectly complemented the richness of the oaked white wine. Fresh corn-off-the-cob added texture and crunch, as did the house-made focaccia croutons that were baked with thyme, garlic and plenty of butter. The chowder was topped with a tender, lightly smoked steelhead that had everyone swooning.
Second Course: Peach Caprese served with a Tildio Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc – Layers of Buffalo mozzarella and fresh Smallwood Farms peaches were topped with basil leaves and a balsamic reduction. The refreshing stone fruit flavors and underlying herbaceous notes from the Tildio Sauvignon Blanc were a perfect complement to the food. Tildio winery is based in Lake Chelan and the grapes from this particular wine were sourced from estate vineyards.
Third Course: Shrimp and Grits served with a Tildio Winery 2014 Reserve Tempranillo – Chef Tyler said he was excited about this pairing…and it showed. The wine displayed dark fruits with a faint spiciness, nice acidity and a velvety finish; and it worked with the food on every level. The charred, slightly smoky jumbo prawns sat atop a bed of white cheddar grits and were covered with a tomato glaze and locally-grown microgreens. If that weren’t enough, the dish also included a generous portion of smoked pork belly as a further pairing partner to the wine.
Fourth Course: Carne Asada and Frites served with a Woodward Canyon Artist Series 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – the kitchen really pulled out all the stops on this one, with a crazy-good combination that exploded with flavors and textures. Chef Tyler prepared the Kobe beef using the sous-vide cooking method, leaving it so tender you could toss your knife aside. The melt-in-your-mouth beef was arranged neatly over a stack of crunch/salty frites, then ladled with chimichurri and topped with a crumble of tangy feta sourced from nearby Sunny Pine Farm. The Cabernet’s blueberry and dark cherry fruits, along with a touch of crushed herbs and toasted oak meshed with the flavors of the food to perfection.
Fifth Course: Chocolate Torte served with a Cairdeas Winery 2014 Petite Syrah Port – When the plate was set before me I thought there was no way I’d finish this. And yet, ten minutes later, it was gone. Pastry Chef Samantha Huntsman hit it out of the park with her dense, yet creamy flourless cake, served with berry compote that covered surprise-like crispy, chocolate pearls that gave the dessert an added dimension of texture. Chelan winemaker Charlie Lybecker’s port-style wine provided amazing fig and blueberry flavors to complement this spectacular finishing dish.
ACTIVITIES FOR EVERY SEASON
Between meals at the Lodge, there are plenty of seasonal activities to help you burn off some of the amazing food that’s served there.
Springtime kicks off the hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding season, and the hiking really gets into full swing during the summer months with the area’s extensive trail system. Swimming, kayaking, paddle boating and fishing are also popular activities at nearby Patterson Lake, which is located only about a mile from the Lodge. The autumn months bring some spectacular colors that can also be viewed while hiking, biking or riding.
And winter may be the best season of all at Sun Mountain. “We have the largest cross-country skiing trail system in the United States and second in the world,” says Nicky. She notes that snowshoeing treks at sunset can be breath taking, and sledding and ice fishing are other great winter options.
Finally, for those opting to stay indoors, the Lodge offers a game room, library, and spa packages including facials, massages and renewing treatments.
A GREAT GETAWAY FOR WINEOPHILES
For wine enthusiasts traveling to Sun Mountain Lodge, a visit to award-winning Lost River Winery in Winthrop should also be on your to-do list. And the Lake Chelan area, with dozens of wineries at your disposal, is only about a 75-minute drive south of town.
But no one could blame you if you don’t make it past the amazing wine cellar and food and wine options at the Lodge. With Chef Tyler’s expertise and assistance from Nicky and his staff, the Lodge’s culinary team operates like a well-oiled machine that is practically guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Server Anthony Chedester, who provided us with first-class service during our dinner, summed up things nicely by saying, “Tyler is well-rounded, open-minded, and maintains a rock star attitude in the kitchen.”
Rock star chef, great supporting staff, outstanding food and wine…it all comes together at Sun Mountain Lodge.
The Lodge offers a variety of seasonal packages and specials available throughout the year, including sumptuous dinners on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and a New Year’s Day buffet.
Accommodations include guest rooms in the lodge itself that feature either stunning views of the North Cascade Mountains or sweeping territorial views of the Methow Valley and National Forest, as well as cabins that are nestled in a cottonwood grove just 1.2 miles below the lodge at Patterson Lake. The Patterson Lake Cabins are fully equipped with all the conveniences of home, including air conditioning, full kitchens with cooking utensils, microwave and dishwasher, gas fireplaces and large front porches overlooking the lake.
The lodge now also offers electric car charging stations for guests who drive Teslas and other electric vehicles.
Sun Mountain Lodge is located at 604 Patterson Lake Road, Winthrop, WA. 98862. Phone: (509) 996-2211 or (800) 572-0493. To make lodging and/or dining reservations at the Lodge, visit: www.sunmountainlodge.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dan Radil is a freelance wine writer and educator based in Bellingham, WA., and has been an avid follower and supporter of the Washington wine industry since the mid-1980s. He currently contributes to Wine Press Northwest and Bellingham Alive Magazine, is President of the Whatcom Beer & Wine Foundation, and produces a wine blog called: danthewineguy.com