A Dinner for Wine/Lovers
On the cusp of Spring, remembering a Valentine’s pairing dinner on cloud nine (really)
I'm a lucky wine gal, indeed. I spent Valentine's Day sipping Oregon wine at the Ram's Head Bar inside Timberline Lodge, watching the clouds form and dissipate like a roller coaster around the 11,245 foot high peak of Oregon's Mt. Hood. Sipping wine while watching the clouds work their magic was actually just the beginning of a day—and evening—filled with incredible views, wine, food and adventure.
I had trekked to Timberline Lodge, a ski lodge and resort that sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet at the timberline of Mt. Hood, to join in on a Valentine's Day Winemakers Dinner with Willamette Valley Vineyards. Taking place at the historic Silcox Hut, located one mile above Timberline Lodge, the night centered around two of my loves: food and wine. Executive Chef Jason Stoller Smith prepared a delectable five-course meal specifically designed to pair with selected wines from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Timberline Lodge Sommelier David Vilalli was the night’s host, and Willamette Valley Vineyards Winemaker Don Crank was the special guest.
Dining Above the Clouds
Silcox Hut is accessible in the evenings only by Snowcat, hence 24 people waiting in the lobby to board the snowy mountain climber that would take us one mile up the mountain, towards the peak. Two trips were needed to get the group up to the Hut, and my husband and I were a part of the second group, which departed the Lodge right before sunset. The views as we traveled up the snowy slope of the mountain were absolutely breathtaking: the lights at Timberline dimming below as we bumped our way up the slope, while the sun lit up the sky with bright orange and yellow hues, dipping beneath the clouds below (we were high above the cloud line).
What we reached was a piece of history. Silcox Hut sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet, and was the upper wheel to the original Magic Mile Chairlift, built in 1938—at that time, the longest chairlift in the world, and only the second passenger chairlift in existence. Built by the Works Project Administration, the structure was named after Ferdinand Silcox, chief of the Forest Service from 1933 to 1939 (when the hut was completed).
In 1962, the chairlift was relocated, and the Hut was abandoned and became ruined by vandals and stormy mountain weather. But in 1966, Portland State University’s Outdoor Program leased Silcox Hut, and the first steps in saving it were taken by students, who added new windows and repaired the fireplace hearth. Despite their efforts, they could not avoid continued vandalism, so they relinquished their lease, at which point the US Forest Service and Timberline Lodge actually discussed burning the hut down because of its condition. Thankfully, Silcox Hut wasn't burned down. And in 1985, not only was added to the National Historic Register, but a non-profit organization (Friends of Silcox Hut) was formed to save it.
Climbing guides and enthusiasts made the initial restoration proposal, which lit the way to saving the historical building. Through the 80s and early 90s, the Friends of Silcox Hut renovated and reopened the Hut to the public, with the intention of using it as an overnight hostel, restaurant and warming place for climbers. Today, Silcox Hut is rented out to groups of 24 people for winemakers dinners, weddings, anniversaries and overnight lodging.