The winemaker of Milliane, a Pinot Noir from the Burgundy Region of France, was a past president of the French Wine Makers Guild with a unique story. As a child she was not allowed in the wine caller, as it was believed the presence of a woman would destroy the wine. Obviously wine had her curiosity, and the daughters of Gabrielle Billard now produces only 400 cases of the delicate wine a year.
Many stories, such as the history of this exact bottle of wine were told over dinner with the Innkeeper of the Snowbird Lodge of Robbinsville, North Carolina. As I arrived at the lodge, a sign displayed the words, “where the mountains kiss the sky”, and stepping out of my vehicle I gasped at the breathtaking beauty of green mountain peaks appearing to be swallowed in the blue sky and gleaming rays of sunlight.
Safe and embracing all at once, and I felt the immediate need to forget all about my cell phone, my work, and my connection to the world. Wanting only to feel the moment and understand what inspires someone to live in the middle of nowhere to create a story where travelers from afar come to leave their bookmark.
Greeted by four dogs that happily smiled and wagged their tails as if you were the only person in sight, I walked up the stone steps, my hand on the railing as I gazed outward towards the clouds. Entering the library filled with over 3500 books, it felt cozy and warm. Confirming dinner reservations, the innkeeper and I ordered a cocktail, choosing whiskey of course, as this inn boasts over 114 single malts and 64 American whiskeys, the largest collection in North Carolina. The question begged, why does this small inn offer so many choices. “Everything here is meant to surprise,” Robert stated.
What I did not know was that this was the understatement of the night. Learning more about his history of purchasing the inn in 1995, and choosing to let go his New York lifestyle to be right here intrigued me. He felt something here, and that is why he chose to refurbish the rustic lodge and call it his own. The attitude of the entire staff was genuine and playful. Just like Robert, they wanted to get to know you, to talk to you. As a guest of the lodge, you became something like family, a part of all of them during your time there. They wanted to know your name, what you liked, and be of service to you. The cocktail conversation took place on the rocking chair lined front porch, and as I gently rocked in the porch swing, I smiled to myself, remembering the times I would rock back in forth in my grandpa’s tire swing that hung on to dear life in a tree.
This place had captured me in only a few moments. I wanted more. They mystery continued to unfold as we dined. Each night the menu changed with fresh ingredients and different chefs who had their hand in the kitchen. Again, I was perplexed by over 530 wines on the list, over 8,000 bottles in the cellar, and offering a new menu to guests every evening. “We want to create a memory, a moment that cannot be predictable,” Robert stated. “What we do here is unique. It is special.”
The taste of the pasta ordered melted in mouth, but to be honest I was more intrigued by the conversation. The thought of the many stories told here, created here, and reborn here. This place did have a feeling, a sense of wonder. Every dinner is a four course meal, and included as part of the all-inclusive stay booking. In fact with your all inclusive stay, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included. Dinner only reservations are available at a per person price of $42.00. Alcohol is additional.
In less than two hours from Downtown Asheville, you can be at the Snowbird Lodge to enjoy dinner and a spectacular summer sunset. The truth, everything was a surprise. The beauty, the decor, the scent of the soaps in the restrooms. I posed the question, “How do you do it? It has been twenty years. Are you happy?” Robert stated, “I love it. I speak twice a year to associations and it all comes down to this. You have to love it. You have to feel it. When that goes away, I won’t be here anymore. But today, I love everything about it.”
The Snowbird Mountain Lodge was founded in 1941, and derives its name from the American Bald Eagle which can be seen soaring with the clouds from the lodge. The bald eagle represents freedom and opportunity, both of which seem abundant in this place.
Before a few months ago, I had never heard of Snowbird Lodge. Now I want to go back to spend a day picnicking, paddle boarding, and playing in the Santeetlah Lake (private entrance located three miles from lodge). Ending my day with an amazing dinner, and of course asking for the (sinful) chocolate indulgence dessert – a chocolate martini made of vanilla vodka, Godiva chocolate (both dark and light), kahlua, chip chocolate, and chocolate syrup.