Sipping with Victory Ranch Sommelier Val Fink

Whether you’re dining at the Freestone Lodge, enjoying a campfire meal at one of our yurts or taking in the sunset while riverside, a glass of vino is the ultimate pairing. Nevertheless, according to Victory Ranch’s Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Val Fink, a change in season brings an entirely new varietal to the forefront. We sat down with our acclaimed sommelier to get a taste of which wine you should be drinking right now—and later. Savor every detail and breeze through August on a crisp or buttery note.

Let’s start with an important question: Why does wine taste better when you’re traveling or on vacation?

Basically because you’re free from the everyday stress of life. Being engulfed in the soil, weather, and surroundings that have gone into making that wine. Freely enjoying without the hangover of having to go to work the next day.

Which wines are you reaching for while at the store? Does this change depending on the time of year?

It has been a hot, dry summer here on The Ranch. I’m reaching for easy drinking Beaujolais. Often referred to as a “gulping” wine, Beaujolais have wonderful old world characteristics similar to Burgundy. In a region rich in history producing Pinot Noir’s that are world renown. Beaujolais is just south of Burgundy with wines surprisingly resembling Burgundian style Pinot’s offered at price that won’t break the bank. And yes, my varietal choices change with season. Rosé in the summer, big bold Blends in the winter.

What is your favorite varietal? From which area—U.S. or worldwide—does it come from and why is it your favorite?

Depending on the season my palate changes with the weather and freshest sourced ingredients. Steak and sushi are staples in my dining experience which then, tends to lean towards Red Blends with steak and Champagne with sushi. Napa Valley Blends are not held to as many restrictions and classifications as the European wines are so, hands down, California wines are my favorite. Bubbles and sushi are a match made in heaven. And if I’m going to drink bubbles, I want Traditional French Champagne. Ruinart, Tattinger, Piper-Heidsieck to name a few are out of this world.

How does your preferred wine change with the seasons?

Typically with the temperature and in the mountains that can vary day to day. I remember this summer it was 85 degrees on June 11 and snowed on June 12. On warm days I enjoy Rosé or Champagne. On colder days a Blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.

What wine would you bring to a casual backyard barbecue? What about an elegant soirée?

Backyard BBQ-Rosé! They are trending right now and for good reason—delightful and versatile. Winemakers are using a plethora of varietals in Rosés these days. From Pinot Noirs to Syrahs and even Nebbiolos from the Italian Piedmont region. Yes, the same red grape that produces Barolo’s are now being made into Rosé. For an elegant soiree—Champagne! The previous mentioned labels are producing the world’s finest Champagnes.

If one were to splurge on a bottle at The Freestone Lodge, which one would you recommend and why?

Opus One without a doubt. This traditional Bordeaux blended wine was the brainchild of two, world-renowned winemakers-Baron Philippe de Rothschild from France and Iconic American vintner Robert Mondavi. Together they sought to “create ONE single wine dedicated to uncompromising quality.” I tried it once, 10 years ago—a 1988 vintage with my father. After decanting for an hour, I luckily didn’t fall off my chair. Incredible wine with plenty of longevity to age properly.

If we were to order any of the below dishes at the Freestone Lodge, which wine would you pair with each?

With the Steak Bavette, the Whitehall Lane Tre Leoni Red Blend. This is a special order. We are the only ones in the state to have it.

With the Cowboy Ribeye, the Johndrow Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve. All proceeds from this wine benefit the National Ability’s Center in Park City. They give wounded warriors, persons with disabilities, and other less fortunate children, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle Utah is known for.

With the Local Utah Organic Pork Chop, the FEL Pinot Noir. This is another special-ordered wine exclusive to Victory Ranch.

Everyone knows light, crisp whites pair with fish and bold, dark reds pair with meat. However, what are some ways to mix it up this season?

Essentially pairing wine with food is a matter of personal preference. If said member enjoys red wine, we wouldn’t recommend a Chardonnay just because they ordered the Utah Rainbow Trout. Rather, we would steer them toward a light Red that does not clash with the flakiness of a delicate fish such as a Pinot Noir or Rosé of Syrah. Vice versa, if you’re a White wine drinker and order a steak there are plenty of bigger Whites with more viscosity and tannins to stand up to the Cowboy Ribeye.

Does the wine industry trend like the food industry does? What are some new or up-and-coming varietals or popular regions of origin you’re noticing now?

Absolutely! Rosés and Dry Rieslings are trending, reversing the stigma that they are cloying and sweet. Some of the best Rieslings are having a resurgence from the battle-stricken regions bordering Germany and France. The second World War took its toll on this area but the local families and farmers have resiliently continued to produce some of the finest wines.

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7865 North Victory Ranch Drive Kamas, Utah 84036 435.785.5000