The mountains were calling, so Dave Villali answered “yes” to a buyout from Intel and the opportunity to work as a ski instructor at Mount Hood Meadows in Oregon. After four years, he joined the food and beverage department at Timberline Lodge and became wine manager in 1992.
Villali and his team have earned the lodge a reputation as one of the best places to sip and savor regional wines from Oregon and Washington. His interest started when Timberline staff went to nearby wine country to meet the winemakers, and Villali began assisting with wine orders.
The timing was ideal as Richard L. Khonstamm, president and area operator of Timberline Lodge and Ski Area from 1955 to 1992, wanted the lodge to reflect a sense of place and that place was a location “between two growing and interesting wine regions,” Villali explains. Today, wines by the glass at all Timberline Lodge dining outlets are from the Northwest and of the 800 wines offered, less than 100 are from elsewhere.
He also credits expanded involvement of staff as key to the wine program’s success. “I ended up putting the reps on a schedule so that our staff could sit down weekly and taste and talk about the wines,” he says.
Winemakers in both states have introduced varietals new to the region as temperatures have become warmer and summers longer since the late 1980s and early 1990s. “There is an explosion of varietals we weren’t seeing in the early days,” Villali notes. “Oregon and Washington are producing Italian varietals that people would have never imagined.”
Timberline Lodge has held several wine dinners for corporate groups, and they can take part in scheduled Silcox Hut Winemakers Dinners, where 24 guests are transported by snowcat for a dinner and wine-tasting experience. Wine vault tours are another option for groups of 10-12, with Villali or staff sharing the Oregon and Washington wine story and leading a tasting.
“We know about wines from Washington and Oregon and do that one thing really, really well,” he explains. “That has worked out for us.”