By Kim Fuller Published in 5280 Magazine
For decades, après-ski in Vail has played only to its nostalgic roots — leaving wine lovers and food connoisseurs out in the cold.
Visitors stream off the slopes and into The Red Lion and Pepi’s Bar for nachos and draft specials, live music and libations. These are not-to-miss spectacles if you’ve never spent an afternoon within them while wearing ski boots, but one new spot in the village is already making a name for itself among both novice foodies and veteran gourmands.
Root & Flower is Vail’s new (and only) wine bar, featuring over 40 pours by the glass, as well as craft cocktails from eclectic sprits, a few select draft beers, and an appetizer menu that fulfills snack-sized appetites, or passed app-style dinners — ideal for those looking for quality over quantity.
Find the quaint space on Wall Street, just steps from the Vendetta’s backside patio — another of the village’s most bustling après stops, known for pizza by the slice and beer by the pitchers.
There is a dining disclaimer here: once you hold the delicate stem of a glass from Root & Flower’s crystal fleet, sip a rich Barolo after a creamy bite of Mimolette, guzzling a pint of Coors just won’t cut it anymore.
Open from 1 p.m. until close (no earlier that midnight) every day, the wine bar can be a post-dinner destination, too.
“We have such amazing restaurants in Vail, but there was nowhere equally nice to drink,” says Samantha Biszantz, co-owner of Root & Flower. “We wanted to create a nice place to go — before or after you have an awesome dinner.”
The kitchen and service team Biszantz and co-owner Jeremy Campbell compiled are no strangers to showing customers a fine dining experience. In fact, almost all of them are direct transplants from the now-closed, highly acclaimed Restaurant Kelly Liken.
“I think people are excited about our staff,” shares Campbell, who is one of two Advanced Sommeliers in Vail, “and the passion we show for what we do is something new and different up here. A lot of people don’t see that very often, even in cities.”
Campbell is sitting to fulfill his Master Sommelier distinction this March, so don’t be surprised if he integrates your wine pairings with his studying hours.
Tell him you like Old World reds, or are interested in something from the “bright and polished” section of the wine list, and he’ll lead you through a memorable course.
Education is a big part of Root & Flower’s approach, which is clear from their informative beverage breakdowns and thoughtful menus. The bar offers classes every month, with new themes all the time.
“My goal as a beverage manager is to buy something for everyone, so no matter who comes in the door we have something,” Campbell says, “but at the same time, it’s also my goal to try and introduce people to new things.”
Executive chef, Matt Limbaugh (who was one of Kelly Liken’s best), creates exquisite boards of cheese and charcuterie, servings of curried nuts, an heirloom bean spread, warming soups and savory paninis.
The specials Limbaugh brings through have been some the real stand-outs, like the New England style lobster roll that was the best I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve spent many summers in Maine), paired perfectly with a glass of Meurcaults by another of Root & Flower’s on-floor sommeliers, Matty Pauls.
“People think to find something cool and be blown away, they have to go to the city,” says Campbell.
“The expectations in a mountain town can be pretty low,” he adds, “and I think it’s pretty safe to say that we have exceeded those expectations, and people are already taking notice.” rootandflowervail.com – 970-763-5101
Root & Flower January Class Schedule
2 p.m. Jan. 12 — Breaking Beer: Beer 101, $40.
2 p.m. Jan. 19 — Art of Tasting: Learn how to taste wine like a professional, $45.
2 p.m. Jan. 26 — Drunken History Part 1: Taste through a small portion of the history of wine, liquor, and beer, $55.
Pricing is per person and includes gratuity, as well as light food pairings. Tax not included. RSVP is required for each class. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details