It was my intention to propose to my girlfriend on July 4, 2010, exactly 3 years to the minute of (3:30pm) and at the location (Hood River, OR) where we met. I chose the Columbia Gorge Hotel based on its historic significance in the location where the proposal was to take place. I did not have overtly high expectations, as the hotel had some rough patches with its reputation in the past that I was aware of from the time that I was a local. After contacting the hotel, I was put in touch with Rick Pauly, the new Director of Operations (not but two days on the job!), who orchestrated the forthcoming event. In my humble opinion, his level of service has never been matched, much less exceeded, in my whole life, and I do quite a bit of travelling. What started as a little idea, or “theme,” on my part, was developed into a MASSIVE “symphony” on his!
Our check-in began at 4:00pm with a bottle of our favorite non-vintage Champagne on ice (Pierre Peters Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand cru Cuvée de Réserve), under a set of Waterford Crystal John Rocha Black Cut Champagne Flutes. Both the wine and stemware was received and prepared by the hotel directly, and, to give you an idea of the level of detail that was followed, the champagne bucket was salted prior to its 50/50, ice/water mixture being added to lower the temperature of the melted ice, as per my request.
Then at 7:00pm it was off to dinner at Simons, the hotel's restaurant, where a custom 6 course meal was prepared by Chef Josh Deehr and designed in conjunction with myself, based on variations of meals that I have wooed my now fiancé with over the years! All wine selections were from my personal cellar and received by the hotel and handled individually based on my specific requests. The dinner was served at a private location atop the hotel on its observation deck or "lighthouse," 150 stair-steps above the kitchen! All this was choreographed to the delightful music of The Beatles (our favorite group) in the background on Rick’s personal iPhone and speakers (yes, indeed, he was unreachable to family and friends during the event)!
The menu was as follows:
Chef’s Choice Amuse Bouche
(with our favorite cocktails specially prepared)
Seared Foie Gras with Diced Pear On Toasted Brioche & Pomegranate Redux.
(with a 1988 Château Rabaud-Promis Sauternes Premier cru Bordeaux, 375ml)
Frisee Lettuce, Candied Bacon Bits, Cherry Tomato, Egg Yolk, Sea Beans & Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette.
Pittsburg Fillet of Bison, Brie & Sundried Tomato Duchess Potato, Truffled Asparagus Bouquet & Basil Infused Demi Glace.
(with a 1989 Château Latour Pauillac Grand cru Bordeaux)
Blood Orange Granita.
Apple & Pear Napoleon in Filo, With Honey Dew Coulis
(with a 2002 Earl Gabriel & Fils Metropolitain Brut Premier cru Champagne)
And then, as if in a private salute, the Columbia Gorge lit up with Independence Day fireworks at 10:00pm, just as we were finishing our vintage Champagne. Because of our height and remote location, it is fair to say that the sight was nothing less than stunning!
While much of the specifics were requested by me, the concept and encouragement toward such lavishness all came from Rick! Nearly the whole hotel was at our beck-and-call and we wanted for absolutely NOTHING! When Katie got cold, her jacket was fetched from our room and blankets and a heater were brought. Left over wines were properly stored and returned to the room meticulously. We had 4 people at our constant service and even the pictures that you see where handled by staff!
Following this event our five day stay was extended to six with little trouble despite them being booked! (They upgraded an incoming guest to accommodate my request!) Anything we needed during the stay was sent up without delay. In fact, we felt like Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino must have during their respective stays in their own day! THIS was the definition of “opulence”!
Rick offered us a personal tour of the grounds later in the week and even took further pictures of us at special landmarks around the hotel grounds! The whole experience was magnificent. Something I would not even expect from higher-class hotels! Rick then said his goodbyes upon our departure with a gift of a handmade (by him!) tea light candle holder made from part of a whiskey barrel. I really could not believe it! All the “unnecessary” details, such as this, were mind blowing!
With this new director of operations at the helm, I suspect that the Columbia Gorge Hotel will soar to new heights and perhaps recapture the glamour of its heydays from the past. I know that after this experience, I expect only GREAT things to come of it!
I highly recommend this hotel (this “experience”!), and even more so, keep an eye on this place! I suspect that it will again grace the pages of publications such as Wine Spectator and Bon Appetite! The initially silly greeting when you call them, “Create a memory at the Columbia Gorge Hotel,” is quickly confirmed as fact with their actions, and upon leaving neither of us found anything “silly” about it! It truly IS a place to “create a memory.” We certainly did!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With its historic charm and reputation for excellence the Columbia Gorge Hotel is a perfect location for your next leisure visit in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. ... more less
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