By Lea Tucker

Carlton McCoy, The Little Nell’s Wine Director and the 10th Master Sommelier to come through their deservedly famed wine team, takes you via snowboard on a vinous tour through Aspen Snowmass’ four unique mountains’ best spots to wine and dine.

Aspen Mountain

A personal favorite stop for Carlton on his ‘wine and dine’ tour of Aspen Mountain is what locals call the “3 to G.” Take a run from the top of Aspen Mountain down to the Ajax Express Chair, commonly called “Chair 3,” and head back up. Get off 3 and visit friendly bartender Amy G. at the Sundeck bar. Amy G. will happily pour a great Napa Cab called Swingset ($20/glass), which complements a stunning view of Highland Bowl, Hayden Peak, and the surrounding Elk Mountains. Normally a $250 bottle, Swingset Cabernet is a joint venture by two esteemed winemakers who love Aspen and cut the price to have a presence here. New this year, the Sundeck boasts a 40-bottle wine cooler which includes high-end selections from Burgundy, Italy, Spain and California.
On a sunny, bluebird day, ski down Buckhorn and wind around the road to North America — the inviting deck at Bonnie’s is in full view and just begs for a visit. Inside the cabin, queue up in the classic, old-school cafeteria line to select a bottle of Silverado Cabernet near the wine fridge at checkout. Silverado pairs perfectly with Bonnie’s signature white bean chili and the apple streusel. On a cold, snowy day, the better plan might be to hunker down inside the cozy, wood cabin and opt for a mug of homemade gluhwein, while taking in the view of Bell Mountain from the dining room.
Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, Chair 9, inside The Little Nell hotel is Aspen’s home for après ski. According to Carlton, “Whether you’re a billionaire coming in for a quick glass of GH Mumm Grand Cordon bubbles ($29/glass) or a ski bum throwing back a simple flute of Domanda Prosecco ($11/glass), Chair 9 is the place to rub elbows and unwind after a day on the slopes.”​


Who doesn’t like to pair a great wine with a great view? Undisputedly, one of the most picturesque scenes in the valley can be enjoyed atop Buttermilk at the Cliffhouse, with a highly drinkable domestic Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir in hand. Also, the Cliffhouse is one of the few places around town to get good, authentic Asian food. This lighter, slightly chilled Pinot is easy to drink over lunch and pairs well with the Asian flavors coming off the Mongolian grill. The unassuming, comfortable vibe that is the Cliffhouse makes stopping for lunch and a restorative spirit a delight.

Aspen Highlands

Whoever heard of a throbbing dance party mid-mountain on a ski slope? Ski no further, as Cloud Nine is the answer to this query. For true ‘baller status,’ try La Grande Dame ($500/bottle), the most high-end Champagne that Veuve Clicquot makes, while the least expensive, but most popular bottle sold at Cloud Nine is Veuve’s Yellow Label ($160/bottle.) For more of a fine dining than nightclub experience, sip on a high-end Burgundy like Domaine Dujac ($600/bottle) which complements Cloud Nine’s signature coq au vin.

Carlton visits the Loire Valley once a year to blend a special, old vine Sauvignon Blanc called La Carafe ($80/bottle, $20/glass.) If you’re feeling philanthropic in one of the world’s most decadent spots, you can sip without guilt as proceeds from La Carafe support local charities: Shining Stars Foundation, Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club and the Buddy Program.

If dancing on tables in ski boots while spraying Champagne is not your thing, visit the friendly Merry Go Round and sidle up to the comfy bar in the lower level. Revel at skiers coming down the bumps on Scarlet’s as you sip on a spicy, vegetable and bacon-infused vodka Bloody Mary garnished with a full salad bar, a Bulleit bourbon mule with fresh lime or a Patron margarita.


With so many great choices on one mountain, skiing, wining and dining at Snowmass is a gastronomic adventure. Someone who appreciates good wine will want to “ski the wave” across Snowmass to hit these two venues:

True wine enthusiasts beeline it straight to the formal dining room at Gwyn’s High Alpine and order a bottle of Zenato Amarone ($128/bottle), which pairs perfectly with the grilled rack of elk, wild lingonberry sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. Proprietor, Gwyn Knowlton, skins 2,500 vertical feet uphill on Snowmass to her restaurant most days to commute to work. “I skin or hike up so that I can eat or drink whatever I want,” Gwyn says with a smile, “the Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Chardonnay ($81/bottle) is wonderful with the Norwegian Salmon, fresh citrus medley, wilted power greens and tri-color fingerling potatoes.” Carlton’s pick is the Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne ($250/bottle) “a perfect lunch wine — rich, white burgundy — fresh and mineral, but still has those toasty, buttery components that people like about new world Chardonnay.”

Another favorite stop on a Snowmass ski day is to take time out and savor a long lunch at the idyllic Lynn Britt Cabin. Carlton remarks with a sinful grin, “I always end up drinking Spanish wines with master sommelier and my mentor, Jay Fletcher at Lynn Britt. And I always eat the same amazing pan roasted Colorado trout ($25), which pairs beautifully with the Beronia Grand Reserva Rioja ($85/bottle.) The Rioja is great value — and a perfect blend of Old and New World flavors. It has a distinct richness and ripeness with a bright, fresh, tart red fruit.”