Sun Mountain Lodge may well be the Northwest's ultimate destination resort.
Situated on a 3,000-foot high mountain top, excitement builds as you drive up the steep, winding road from Patterson Lake.
It will cost you some big bucks to stay and dine there, but so will a shopping trip to Seattle or your next vacation involving air travel almost anywhere. Why go through the hassle when you can pamper yourself in rustic luxury in the beautiful Methow Valley, just a little more than 100 miles from home.
Folks at the lodge offered me a tour, dinner and all-too-short night's stay while I was working on a Foothills magazine feature on the Cascade Loop recently. Everything about the lodge is impressive, from its majestic views of the Cascades and Methow Valley to its dungeon-like rock wine cellar with 5,000 bottles. It's like finding the Kingdom of Oz in your own backyard.
Sun Mountain is one of few establishments in the nation that has won AAA's Four Diamond Award both for the lodge and for its dining room, something it's done every year since 1994. The dining room's wine list has won the Washington Wine Commission's Grand Award every year since 2006. Wine Spectator magazine in its latest issue also named Sun Mountain's wine list as one of the best in the state.
The dinner menu is offered as a three-course fixed price gourmet event. Entrees can be ordered ala carte. Fixed price meals range in cost from $40 to $60 are are worth every penny. The adjacent Wolf Creek Bar & Grill offers more casual fare.
I had the artistic and sumptuous wild mushroom strudel with Cambozola fondue and port reduction for starters. Don Elsing, Sun Mountain's wine director, said after one taste he insisted the strudel be a menu mainstay. My entree was the Twisp-raised Crown S Ranch organic free range chicken with local lavendar goat cheese, wild mushroom cavatelli and baby vegetables. It was insanely delicious.
Elsing shared a slice of the restaurant's signature beef tenderloin and it was as tender as its truffle butter topping.Warning: Don't order the decadent chocolate medley for desert if you want to sleep later that night.
For wine, we followed Proseco and a Boom-Boom Sauvignon Blanc ordered by the glass with a deliciously ripe and smoky 2006 Karma Pinot Noir, one of 300 Washington wines on the restaurant's 52-page wine list. About half of the Washington wines are from NCW wineries and are well marked as such. Elsing offers private tastings and dining in the wine cellar that was built in 1998 at a cost of more than $150,000.
Head Chef Russell Bradshaw said he uses local meats and produce whenever possible in his recipes to create decidedly Pacific Northwest cuisine often with an Asian or East Indian twist. He said he discusses each week's specials with staff to come up with creative dishes that are exciting to prepare and serve.
"This is a very exciting time to be in Washington. Washington is the new Napa," Bradshaw said about his decision to take the job and move from Florida five years ago.
Elsing said the lodge's European owners have worked hard to make Sun Mountain truly a destination resort, with miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and Nordic skiing to go with its luxury accommodations and panoramic views.
"You have to want to come here. We're not on the way to anywhere else," he said.
This is one of a series of stories Rick Steigmeyer found while traveling the Cascade Loop this summer for a story in Foothills magazine. For more information about the Loop and its many offerings, check out the website cascadeloop.com