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Colorado Fall Foliage and Wine Tour
Eighteen Ferraris crossing the Continental Divide and exploring Colorado’s fall colors is certainly a story in itself! But then you add being the guest at Colorado’s finest wineries, a spectacular five course, twin-entry meal and you end up with a remarkable weekend!
September 22 was the date for the Fall Foliage and Winery Tour. This was the concluding event for 2001 for the Ferrari Fine Dining and Racing Association (FFDRA). First, a word about FFDRA. FFDRA was first formed in Dallas by John & Linda Pembroke. Following racing events a number of Ferrari owners wanted to get together for a nice meal and a bottle of red wine. Racing stories (and lies) were exchanged and the FFDRA was born. Soon the dinners outnumbered the racing events. Now, in Colorado, FFDRA meets monthly at selected fine restaurants for an evening of camaraderie and stories of past racing and road-going Ferrari events.
The Fall Foliage and Winery Tour took place on the exact weekend when Colorado’s fall color change was at its peak. The three-day, two-night excursion took the group into Colorado’s high country. The tour group convened at 7:30 am on I-70 at Evergreen, Colorado to depart via Loveland Pass to Leadville, Colorado. Leadville hosts the National Mining Museum. Colorado’s tradition is significantly based in mining. After touring the museum, the group traversed over the 12,000 foot heights of Independence Pass, the top-center of the continental divide, arriving in Aspen for a light lunch. The Hotel Jerome handled our accommodations for the evening. After checking into the hotel, several of the group watched an international rugby tournament, while others took in the world class shopping.
Dinner that evening was at the Mother Lode Restaurant. The building was built in 1886. Original portraits of Victorian belles on the walls with warm and comfortable fireplaces evoke a feeling of yesteryear. The restaurant has operated continuously for over 40 years. The Mother Lode is named after a silver-mining term for the richest vein in a mine. Sufficient wine, along with our pan-roasted Chilean sea bass wrapped in prosciutto, was distributed to all guests to ensure the continuation of the FFDRA tradition!
Early Sunday morning the group departed for the Maroon Bells, a visual highlight on the west side of Aspen. The Maroon Bells are one of Colorado’s most photographed sights. Three mountains rise majestically from a narrow valley and reflect in a multi-acre fresh water lake. Normally, automobiles are not allowed to enter the park area. Our Trail Boss and tour leader, Kent Miller, secured close-up parking from the Park Rangers for the Ferrari entourage. That day, hundreds of photographers were set to photograph the famous Maroon Bells. The colors were extraordinary. Soon, numerous photographers were surrounding and photographing the Ferraris. One group from Japan asked who were the movie stars? It seems in Japan only movie stars drive Ferraris.
At around 11:00 the group left the park for a direct blitz to Grand Junction. Once arrived, the group parked their Ferraris for a deluxe coach ride to three wineries. First on the agenda was Plum Creek Cellars, our host for the weekend. We were greeted by Doug Phillips, owner, who explained how the Colorado wine experience got started. After tasting numerous varitels, we departed for Two Rivers Winery and Canyon Wind Cellars. At around 5:00 we were all glad we were being chauffeured back to our hotel and that our cars were safely tucked away for the night.
Sunday’s dinner was hosted by Doug and Susan Phillips, owners of Plum Creek Cellars. Our dinner started with New England lump crab cakes accompanied with mango and Jamaican jerk aioli. To our surprise our chef had prepared two main courses to be served separated by Plum Creek Riesling Sorbet. Our first treat was crusted sea bass rubbed with tandori paste, lollo rosso greens partnered with white truffle homey Dijon vinaigrette over carambola garni and grape tomatoes. Next we were treated to Applewood smoked, grilled veal chop with a rainwater Madeira veal glace. The spectacular veal was surrounded by chanterelle and lobster mushroom risotto and caper berries, sugar snaps and baby carrots. During this dining experience, Doug had hand picked ten different wines to heighten each course. His explanation of the flavors and the character of the wines added to the enjoyment of the evening. Finally, desert included pear ginger merlot ice cream in chocolate (edible) glass with white chocolate strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries and gold kiwi!
Monday morning the FFDRA departed Grand Junction splitting into two touring groups. One did a direct dash back to Denver, the other, to the Grand Mesa. The Grand Mesa, located southeast of Grand Junction, is the largest flattop mountain in North America. The scenery was breathtaking as you carved through switchbacks and overlooked hundreds of miles of bright yellows, reds and green trees and brush. For those of you that have visited the Grand Canyon, the Grand Mesa has a similar look. Deep cuts and gorges that stretch for miles. Additionally, unlike the Grand Canyon, there are over 30 fresh water lakes with elk and dear greeting you at each stop. It took our group almost four hours to cover the 135 miles, and we still didn’t see all that was offered by the Grand Mesa. Give yourself a treat and include the Grand Mesa on you next trip to Colorado.
Truly, this event was made for road-going Ferraris! The sounds of the Ferrari exhausts echoing off the steeply pitched mountain passes added to our visual pleasure. The tour covered over 650 miles ending up back in Denver late Monday evening.
John J. Pembroke
Ferrari Fine Dining and Racing Association – Colorado