Nemacolin Blog
Nemacolin Blog
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Peak Week Is Here!

It’s peak week for us here at Nemacolin and we are already past 75% changed, with an estimated full fall color toward this weekend and next week, with the best fall colors on October 11 and 12,  just in time for the resort’s annual RocktoberFest Event!

Plan your next leaf-peeping trip this weekend into next week and take the scenic drive to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for great fall fun and 2,000 acres of beautiful autumn views. We still have sunny days and plenty of activities for the whole family, from 36-holes of golf to 40’ Canopy Tours.


The upcoming week may offer the best and last chance to capture these vibrant bursts of colors before certain species that have already changed over drop their leaves on the mountain. While peeping, drive around property and take a look at what tree species you can identify.

Oak – Red, Brown, Russet
Hickory – Golden Bronze
Aspen – Golden Yellow
Dogwood – Purplish Red
Beech – Light Tan
Sourwood – Crimson
Red Maple – Scarlet
Sugar Maple – Orange-Red
Black Maple – Yellow

Fall Foliage, General
Leaf Peeper’s Delight

October is all about color this week as the region hits about 30-50% tree foliage change, due to the chilly nights and many bright, sunny days. This is almost perfect for leaf peepers, as The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for Pennsylvania is predicting Peak Week to enter a week sooner than last year in the Laurel Highlands, from October 7 – 12, 2014. Pennsylvania’s location supports 134 species of trees and many more shrubs and vines that contribute to the display of autumn color. Almost half of those species have changed already and are creating a spectacular view at Nemacolin. Have you seen the gorgeous changes around the resort?

Ash, birch, poplar and walnut are varying shades of brilliant yellow and gold; virginia creeper, sumac, dogwood and blackgum are glowing in scarlet, maroon and brick red; while sassafras is clocking in with the brightest colors in hot orange and yellow. The higher elevation of the Laurel Highlands cause color change to happen a bit sooner than the surrounding counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania, so if you look out your window and the trees are not as bright, it’s time to take a trip down our way and get a full taste of the bright and beautiful colors Nemacolin is showcasing.

The best time to experience fall foliage is by getting outside as often as you can, as even a day or two can spark new color in each tree. Check in next week, as Peak Week reveals itself for leaf peepers in the Laurel Highlands! And don’t forget to sit back, relax and enjoy the view…

Fall Foliage, General
Leaf-Peeping on The First Day of Fall

Change is in the air! It certainly is the beginning of fall here at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a time in the Laurel Highlands where you can view some of the most beautiful scenery in Western Pennsylvania. Our team was hard at work this morning, building our pumpkin and squash display in front of the Lodge.

You may have already noticed a few changing colors earlier in the month due to a spell of cold nights and hot days. As our days get shorter and cold nights get longer, the temperature and waning sunlight stimulates the change, and eventually prompts the “fall” of the leaf.  But not to worry, Pennsylvania has the longest and most unique fall foliage season than any other state, and only about 10% of the trees have changed in the Laurel Highlands Region.

Our best autumn colors will be showcased over the peak week of October 7 – 12, during our fall festival, RocktoberFest, on Saturday, October 11. The leaves are already popping color, so you won’t want to miss the beautiful views on the back side of the Sundial Lodge, listening to live music and sipping on craft beer.

Nemacolin will certainly bring some beautiful sights in the upcoming weeks, whether you want to golf, hike, horseback ride or just sit on a Lodge balcony. Where are your favorite spots to leaf-peep at Nemacolin? 

Gourmet, Meet Our...
Meet our... Director of Fine Dining, Wine and Spirits

Meet Our... Director of Fine Dining, Wine and Spirits - Holly Smith

Tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, in a very small town, which is more of an exit number off of I70 than a known destination (my Jer-z friends know what I mean).  In high school, I loved anything to do with sports from watching it, to writing about it in the school newspaper, to playing for my school, town or church.  It was either baseball in the field with my Dad and brother or soccer in our neighborhood, where I was the only girl who played!  Yes, I will admit since there are yearbooks floating around, I was the captain of the cheerleading team and cheered from 4th grade until I graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic High School.  After high school, I attended Villanova University where I thought I wanted to teach elementary children but fell madly in love with the culinary world from working in restaurants such as Passerelle and The Rador Hotel.  I surrounded myself with friends who were either restaurant managers, servers, chef-to-be and all major foodies-in-the-making.  We lived for days off to plan 8-course dinners complete with wine pairings or travel to NYC after we saved up for weeks to have lunch (we couldn’t afford dinner) at some chic brasserie! 

When did you decide to make a career out of wine? 
The wine world sort of found me.  I was struggling out of college to pay my student loans so I worked at various restaurants on the Main Line in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  My love for the entire culinary world emerged when I worked for Chef Georges Perrier owner & chef of the famed Le Bec Fin.  I was given the opportunity to open Le Mas Perrier as a floor Captain where in the pre-opening stage we logged hundreds of hours reviewing French cuisine, cooking terminology, steps-of-service and of course, wine and spirits.  I couldn’t wait to get home after 8-10 hours of classroom to study and look up all of my questions in my “Food and Wine Lover’s Companion.” Let’s just say this was before the “Just Google It” days!  I knew I was on to something here but I didn’t know what it was?  I would wake up at night frantically scribbling down AOC’s, phonetic pronunciation of French words and listing mother sauces before they would leave my head! This is where I knew I had to go to the wine since it wasn’t coming to me. So, I packed up everything and moved to California! I had an unbelievable opportunity to work for one of the greatest hotel management companies in the word, The Ritz-Carlton. In my stay with the company, I worked at the Marina del Rey and Laguna Niguel locations in Southern California. Here in beautiful Dana Point, I opened ENO the Ritz’s first wine, cheese and chocolate tasting room complete with my own glass cellar in the middle of the room and a cheese cave! This was heaven for wine, chocolate and cheese loving guests.

How do you decide which wines to serve in each restaurant?
Each outlet has a wine list that matches either the caliber of the restaurant, the specific cuisine and/or the price-point of the outlet.  For example, Autumn’s wine list caters to pairing crisp white wines with the fresh oysters and seafood while the big jammy Cabernets and Aussie Shiraz’s make the steak at Aqueous even juicier!  And of course, Lautrec boasts the 1500 label wine list concentrating on French, Italian, North American, and South American wines as well as interesting labels from Morocco, Slovenia and Lebanon. 

Holly in front of huge Slovenian aging barrels at Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona in Montalcino, Italy.
How often is the wine list changed?

 Favorite bottle of wine?
The wine list changes on a weekly basis with the new additions, vintage changes and deletions from the last bottle of that label that sold in the cellar.  This week I am really having fun placing pre-orders for still and sparkling Rosés for the upcoming Spring releases.  We will have some fresh Rosés from the best regions: Provence, Tavel, Spain, Italy and Oregon. 

I don’t have a favorite bottle of wine but I do wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question.  My favorite varietal or grape really depends on what time of year it is, what I am eating and of course, if I am paying!  In the summer, there is nothing better than sipping on an Italian Falanghina while enjoying fresh clams and mussels at the shore or warming up with a Cote-Rotie in the winter with a venison stew.  But, if I had to choose only one wine to drink for the rest of my life, I would turn to a perfectly chilled bottle of Contratto “For England” Rosé.  This is a perfectly mastered Italian sparkling wine that is exquisitely balanced and pairs with my Camembert cheese and is complex enough to enjoy with my New York Strip, off of the grill.  Perfection in a glass, in my opinion. 

What do you drink when you are not drinking wine?
If I am not drinking wine, I am trying to find a dry apple cider to enjoy in the summertime that lacks that typical sweetness of a cider and is also gluten-free.   Few of my favorites are Samuel Smith’s Organic, Crispin’ Honey Crisp and Stella Artois Cidre.  I am really looking forward to enjoy these with some BBQ this summer!

For wine “newbies” what advice would you give?
Let's start with the scenario that you are just getting into wine and perhaps are just a beer drinker. I would compare your favorite beer choices with a complimenting wine. For example, if you enjoy fruitier flavors such as malt or sweeter beers I would suggest a Riesling or sparkling dry moscato.  If you like a hoppy beer, start somewhere in the middle with a Chardonnay or red blend and if you are all the way to dark beers that are heavily malted, go for the gold and open a big Shiraz from Australia or a Malbec from Argentina!

If you really want to find out what varietal or style of wine you enjoy and save some money... research. Spend an afternoon at a local winery with the option of tasting through their varietals before purchasing a bottle.  Most local wineries have an area to picnic so be sure to pack a basket of artisan cheeses, cured meats and a fresh crusty baguette!

Lastly, splurge on a tasting menu with wines at a restaurant where the knowledgeable Sommelier will not only describe the wine in detail but also why it pairs with certain components in the cuisine.  This is where one has to keep an open mind about wine and trust the Sommelier. Don’t tell the Sommelier to only pair white wines or wines from North America… venture out of your comfort zone and you will be amazed what new grapes you will discover!

Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing?

I have so many do I have to choose just one?  Well, if I have to it would be potato chips and Champagne.  Yes, simple kettle-cooked, lightly salted and peppered homemade potato chips and a glass of bubbly.  Champagne with the minerality, acidity and slight sweetness is perfect with that fatty, salty golden waffle!

Is there a cool wine gadget we should all own?
There is a really neat device out there called the Coravin Wine System that allows you to enjoy a glass of wine without ever pulling out the cork.  This was created by a gentleman named Greg Lambrecht who also designed surgical needles for spinal taps.  Coravin has a similar thin hollow needle that is inserted into the cork while Argon pressurizes the bottle and wine flows through the needle into your glass.  Oxygen never touches the wine inside of the bottle after the needle is removed, the cork reseals itself and you can enjoy that second, third and fourth glass of wine days, weeks or months later.  We will not only be featuring this device in Aqueous this Summer with rare vintage wines, but also selling it in the Heritage Shoppes for our enophiles that can’t go home without one!

What is your favorite candy bar?
Milka with Hazelnuts.  The ones available in the US don’t taste the same as the ones purchased in Europe so I tend to have to travel to a European country once a year to get my fix.

When you are not working at Nemacolin what are some of your favorite hobbies?

If I am not hiking with Ellie my 3-year old German Sheppard Lab mix, then I am swimming with her.  Snow or shine we are hiking it up in Ohiopyle on one of the many trails.  This past winter, Ellie and I maybe missed 7 or so days due to horrible weather conditions but we will make them up this summer!

What made you want to join the Nemacolin team?
I moved back to Pennsylvania to be closer to my family in 2010 from California and I am happy to say that when people ask me, why would you ever leave California?   My answer always remains, it wasn’t home, and Pennsylvania is.  Nemacolin has become family to me and our guests recognize that everyday. One of the constant comments I hear and read from our guests, is that everyone is so genuine or we loving coming back to see this server, butler or bartender. We celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and marriages with guests that we have known for years. It is not why I joined the Nemacolin team, but that’s why I stay.

You have been at Nemacolin for a few weeks now.  Any “WOW” moment?
If you have been to Nemacolin and enjoy a cocktail or two or three, you have run into Dayna our mixologist.  Not only will you remember her but she will remember you and your drink preference.  Dayna has gone out of her way in the dead of winter to find a rare fruit from Asia for one of our guests. She noticed our guest’s arrival in the reservation system and was on mission to have this drink waiting in the Lobby Bar when he and his family checked-in. However, in the bitter, freezing temperatures of February in the Pennsylvania Laurel Highland Mountains where do you find this exotic fruit for this ultra-special tropical martini?  After several calls to specialty stores and a trip or two to local grocery stores, she found the fruit not fresh but imported with its own delicious syrups even more perfect for creating a simple syrup.  If that isn’t an employee trying to make memorable experiences for someone, I don’t know what is!

Field Club, Meet Our...
Meet Our... Fly Fishing Guide

Meet Our... Fly Fishing Guide - Mike Steiner

Tell us a little about yourself?
I am originally from Sharon, Pennsylvania, but I have been living in Uniontown, Pennsylvania for the last 6 ½ years with my awesome and beautiful wife, Melodi.  I, obviously, love everything about the sport of Fly Fishing.  I also enjoy anything sports related, especially Pitt Football and Basketball and the Cincinnati Bengals (I love them almost as much as Fly Fishing).  Outside of that I tend to stay pretty low key…  

When did you start fishing and who introduced you to the sport/hobby?

I started fishing at a very early age (maybe 5ish), and if you asked my grandfather (Big Wump) he would say he introduced me to fishing.  When actually it was my father who had me out with a Snoopy fishing rod catching fish as far back as I can remember.  Fly Fishing came along later, my teenage years.  I actually was self-taught in the beginning, and over time I have learned a ton from many different fly anglers.

What are the benefits to fishing? What would you tell a first-timer to the sport?

The benefits of Fly Fishing are almost too many to share.  I would say the biggest benefit is just getting outside and enjoying nature.  It is a great way to relax and unwind and forget about the office or anything else that may be bothering you.  My advice to a first-timer would be, don’t put too much emphasis on catching the fish.  Enjoy the whole experience. Take in the surroundings and enjoy the process leading up to catching the fish.  Fly Fishing is something you will never master, you learn something new every time you are on the water.

What do you enjoy about guiding?

Everything!!!  The biggest reward I get is working with a client who wants to catch a specific fish.  I love when it all comes together.  It is so rewarding to watch someone make a great cast, get an awesome drift and then connect with the fish.  That sequence of events is what makes Fly Fishing so unique.

Favorite Fly?
Whatever is working that particular day. If the fish are eating it, then it’s my favorite… (My least favorite is the Green Weenie, because our Activities Director Matt Grobe likes it).

What is your favorite Fly Fishing trip?

I love any type of Saltwater Fly Fishing. It’s a nice change of pace from trout fishing, but it’s still tough to beat a day on the Youghiogheny River.  Our river is such an awesome fishery, and can reward you with a fish of a lifetime on any given day.

To date, what is your proudest accomplishment?

Being a Fly Fishing Guide...  I am blessed to be able to make a living doing something I truly love.  I wake up in the morning excited for what each day will bring.  I literally get to stand in a river and experience the sport of Fly Fishing with someone different almost every day.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

What is your favorite candy bar?

Twix (you get two of them).
What made you want to join the Nemacolin team?
I actually was attending an Orvis Guide Rendezvous (in Millbrook, New York) and met a few guides from Nemacolin.  We got to talking one evening about our places of employment, they told me a little about Nemacolin, and eventually we exchanged contact information.   About a year later I was interviewing for a guide position.  That was my first real look at the Resort. I was sold the minute we pulled up to the Chateau Lafayette.  At that moment I realized the potential for the Fly Fishing program.  Not only was the fishing great in the area, Nemacolin has so much to offer to get people to the Resort.

You have been at Nemacolin for a few years now.  Any “WOW” moment?
There are always “WOW” moments at Nemacolin, especially on the water.  Anytime you get someone tight with a fish you see it in their eyes.  It’s the same for me also; I get more excited than the angler when he/she hooks the fish!  So, yeah I would say plenty of “WOW” moments (because we catch a lot of fish)…  

Interested in booking a guided trip with Mike at the Nemacolin Woodlands Field Club? For more information or to schedule a fly fishing trip, please contact the Nemacolin Woodlands Field Club at 724.329.6770.

Associates of the Month, General
Thank You, Associates!

It is that time... when we come together as a Resort and thank our Associates for their hard work and dedication.  At Nemacolin Woodlands Resort we pride ourselves in delivering the very best in customer service.  While not every position at Nemacolin is considered a front-of-the-line position, meaning that an associate interacts face-to-face with our guests, it is still our philosophy that every associate's #1 job is our guests.  No matter the weight of their interactions, an associate's work each and every day does have an impact on the guest's experience. Please join us in congratulating our Associates of the Month and take a moment to learn more on why they were recognized.

Amber Kassouf - Retail
"Amber has taken on more responsibilities regarding our resort inventory and our receiving areas. She has implemented new procedures on transferring product and processing of damages that have been really effective"

Jamon Lehman - Woodlands Spa, Salon
"Jamon is a very hard worker and is always up for whatever challenge is thrown his way. He owns every moment and creates lasting memories for his guests."

Josh Gray - Food & Beverage, Autumn Culinary
"Josh has stepped up and knocked it out of the park the past three months.  We were down a team member and Josh has done a tremendous job from working extra days and hours."

Kanya Knox - Banquets
"Kanya goes above and beyond what she is expected to do.  She always is ready to jump in and assist whatever department needs help, while also managing one of the biggest departments on property."

The Holidays are Upon Us at Nemacolin

As you drive through the entryway and on to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort property, you can begin to see signs of the holiday season.  In fact, our Engineering team has been hard at work outlining the main drive with our Christmas lights display.

The holiday prep work is not limited to just outside.  Our crew is hard at work decorating for the holiday season, and you can see them scattered about the property, turning Nemacolin into a winter wonderland. Inside the Chateau Lafayette, a tall tree already stands in the lobby, beautifully decorated.

The Chateau Lobby will soon be full of decorations, including our famous annual gingerbread house display. Yum! This year’s theme, a large sized train, should be baked, iced and ready to view (no eating!) by Tuesday, November 26th - just in time for Thanksgiving.

Walk through the hotel and into the Lodge and you can see the beginnings of the grand décor that will soon encompass the hallways and lobbies.

You can even catch a few more trees popping up throughout the way. Some will have a theme within their ornaments and garland. This tree stands with a particular, hand painted character:

Located in the Library, a Santa Mr. Hardy wishes you Happy Holidays!

We have approximately 20 trees that will be located around the resort, including a Poinsettia Tree, the flowers of which we grow here in our greenhouse. We have other themed trees as well, including our Animal Tree, representing the wildlife that lives on Nemacolin's property.

The holiday cheer is beginning to show here at Nemacolin, and we officially kick-off the celebration with our Annual Light Up Night on Friday, November 30th, where you can view all the décor in grand fashion as we mark the season with hot chocolate, carols, and of course, the lighting of our tree in front of our Lodge.

We don’t stop there. Learn more about all of the events we have planned this holiday season:

Click Here to view the Thanksgiving Weekend events listing.
Click Here to view the Christmas Week events listing.
Click Here to view the New Year’s Eve parties and events.

We hope that you can visit Nemacolin Woodlands Resort with family and friends at this time of year to enjoy all we have to offer, from the lighting to the dining. We look forward to having you.