Brush Creek Ranch redefines the Wild West
By Irene Middleman Thomas
Russet, gold, sage, moss green, peach, purple and sienna, all enhanced with dramatic cloud formations and a brilliant blue sky. I’m a nearly lifelong Coloradan, and yet, my eyes welled up with awe from the magnificent, sweeping landscapes I encountered on a recent visit to Brush Creek Ranch. Situated in the North Platte River Valley, 20 miles from Saratoga, Wyoming, the scenery inspired me to paint, although I could never do it justice.
Brush Creek Ranch is one of three all-inclusive guest ranches (along with the Magee Homestead and French Creek Sportsmen’s Club). It’s tucked into over 30,000 very secluded acres, between the Sierra Madres and the gorgeous Medicine Bow National Forest. ‘The Farm’ at Brush Creek offers immersive, sublime seed-to-table dining at its Cheyenne Club, more likely to be found in New York or Paris than in rural Wyoming.
From the tantalizing single bite amuse bouche to the next course of grilled house-made halloumi cheese served with fig and port conserves, greenhouse relish and grilled sourdough, I was truly entranced by the cuisine. Seemingly a lifetime away from city life, and yet, guests have access to just about any luxury to which they are accustomed, and perhaps, even more.
Think of a wine cellar with 30,000+ bottles (one of the top ten largest in the world), providing a 72-page wine list, along with on-property features such as an award-winning distillery, creamery, bakery, a private herd of Emperors Breed Wagyu cattle and Wyoming’s largest hydroponic greenhouses with an astonishing variety of produce. The ranch includes a 600-acre private ski mountain, top-rated fly fishing on rivers, creeks and lakes, full-service spas (at Magee Homestead and French Creek) and so much more.
Brush Creek Ranch is most easily reached by private air into Saratoga Jet Center, landing guests just 13 miles away. Driving takes approximately one hour from the Laramie Regional Airport or about 3 ½ hours from Boulder.
My mornings started out with steaming lattes and an array of treats such as cinnamon rolls baked in cast iron pans, or in my case, a scrumptious Nutella and banana muffin. I sipped away while admiring horses galloping freely through the picture windows of the rustic, yet so luxurious lodge. A glossy black horse stood alone, framed by the bright yellow cottonwood trees. The meadow shone with a bit of frost, and as the sun slowly rose over, everything glowed. My enthusiastic server, Jesse, arrived with a smoothie. “Since you ordered the muffin, I thought you should also try the Nutella smoothie.” At an all-inclusive, he added, calories don’t count!
The ranch’s activity selection is vast, including the usual, such as horseback riding along with the quite unusual, such as goat yoga, mixology classes, greenhouse tours, cheesemaking and my choice, just added this year, trekking with llamas. Austin Griffith and Anthony Natale run this program and will tailor needs and wants to the client. On our trek, we walked a six-mile Encampment River trail. Austin served us a surprisingly gourmet lunch, replete with the best cowboy cookies ever, in a peaceful clearing. My llama, Jerry, had an underbite which I thought caused his rather ceaseless humming as we strode along. On the return trip, however, the hum did cease, so apparently, Jerry just wanted to go home! A honeymoon couple from Tennessee told me that the deciding factor in their choosing Brush Creek for their special trip was the Llama Trek, which they reported exceeded their expectations.
Dining and wining are stellar at Brush Creek, and for many guests, essential priorities for choosing this property over other ranches. As Head Sommelier, Judy Donahoe told me while touring the enormous wine cellar, “Wines are a passion of our owners. I love the epicurean lifestyle experience here.” Indeed, Donahoe relocated to Brush Creek from her previous position in Napa because of that passion. Here, her enthusiasm and warm, unpretentious manner made our wine and cheese tasting a delight, as well as so educational. “I like to call myself a ‘wine guide,’” she said modestly.
The in-house distillery offers free tastings of its vodka, gin, bourbon and rye and always has a few specialty projects in the works. The spirits are made with herbs and plants from the onsite hydroponic greenhouse. I was struck by the tasty gin (so good I drank it straight) that Dawson Mitchell, Director of Hospitality served us. “It’s a sipping gin, made with grapefruit and orange peel, juniper, sweet cinnamon and coriander.”
However, my go-to at the Ranch was the Brush Creek Old Fashioned, consisting of the Distillery’s Brush Creek Bourbon, vanilla Demerara and black walnut bitters. Not too sweet, just rich and flavor-popping. Almost all cocktails and beers are included in the stay, however, many wines are at an additional cost, as are some dishes, such as caviar and some of the cuts of meat.
At the fine dining Cheyenne Club, dinner is an event, not a meal. Brennan, our superb server, told me the Heirloom Tomato Brulee was her favorite, and I relished every bit of the divine creation, made with the ranch’s goat cheese espuma, crispy quinoa and basil crystals. (I must find basil crystals—an incredible product!) Not a meat eater typically, I decided that Brush Creek was the place to indulge. Triple Seared Wagyu Strip with horseradish whipped potato, mushroom bordelaise and black garlic was sublime, even for a sort-of vegetarian like me.
The more casual, yet still gourmet Pioneer Kitchen has its own array of culinary delights, such as Colorado lamb chops with herb marinade, crispy sunchoke and huckleberry jus.
Also part of the all-inclusive experience, the oh-so-western Saloon offers bourbon, rye, gin and vodka from Brush Creek Distillery, as well as additional select wine and spirits served every afternoon and evening. On warm days, guests can sit in the Adirondack chairs outside and sip away.
Brush Creek is the perfect ranch for those who want the majesty of the Western experience with all the comforts of home…and more! brushcreekranch.com