Tucked into the trees of Priddis, a hamlet 40-ish minutes from downtown Calgary, lies a sophisticated little hotel that is verrry boutique — just 13 suites.The top photo was of Emerald Manor, a guest house built to accompany this private residence, Sapphire Hall. Before the two buildings (which lie within 25 kms of 4 golf courses) became the Azuridge Hotel three years ago, they were the private getaway of DIRTT rebel entrepreneur Mogens Smed.At 13,000 square feet, Sapphire Hall was primed to become a hotel. My room was on the top left, one of the few suites available in the main house. The name of Sapphire Hall is courtesy of the current geologist owners, who took their christening inspiration from precious gemstones.There are subtle flourishes of extravagance every step of the way. Why offer a plastic card when a room key can exude luxury car? (Back when luxury cars had keys, that is).That key led to a room that shared no walls with other guests. With the hotel’s signature drink, Dangerous Diamond (a sparkling concoction of prosecco and elder flower liqueur, blue curaçao and caviar), to help with the journey along a view-strewn hallway.If you didn’t guess from the key chain, my destination was the Pearl Room. With complimentary pearl to take home. Naturally erratic, it reminded me of the pearls I found in Sayulita.King size bed? Check. Frette sheets? Enthusiastic check!The evening I was there was so warm I had to close the curtains against the sun. Lounging poolside would have been perfect — if there was a pool. However, Azuridge has other options in the relaxation department.Eating is one of the main activities on offer. The Opal Dining Room has a lovely layout…… but I was lured out to the patio for the incredible west-facing vista, just in time for a Rocky Foothills sunset. A helpful server somehow achieved the perfect balance with the umbrella, adjusting against eye glare while allowing for a perfect sightline to the horizon, for the ball of fire’s evening bow. Meanwhile, the salad was lovely. And I was impressed by the lion head on the white ceramic soufflé bowl. Because I am impressed by things like that. Here’s another shot for the foodies: gelato served in an ice-block holder. With edible pansies. Merely a palate cleanser between courses.Afterwards, I returned to my room to find all my makeup arranged ever so thoughtfully. Why don’t all hotels do this? Azuridge, though, is a standout in the service department. Home to the only guilded butler in North America, the hotel strives to raise pampering to the penultimate. The gold box is my go-to for Aerin’s easy-packing eye palette, btw.Besides romantic getaways, Azuridge specializes in group retreats, conferences and weddings.Should you feel the urge to explore Azuridge’s 13 acres, you’ll probably run into this guy, who has spawned his own urban myth (although urban is not the right word for this part of the world). Steven Spielberg is a regular guest due to a show jumping daughter who competes regularly at Spruce Meadows. Rumor has it that Mr. Spielberg gave it to the hotel. However, I must burst that prehistoric bubble. T-Rex was already on the property when the geologists acquired it. And what a property it is! Aaah, Azuridge.
There’s a new champagne on the liquid landscape…… and a new way to drink it: in a Chardonnay glass. With garnish. Over ice. RICH by Veuve Clicquot was designed to be mingled with other ingredients. Mixology, move over. This is Cliquology.
Coming to just one store near you (Zyn gets the exclusive listing in Calgary), Veuve Clicquot’s new champagne isn’t easy to find. And after taking two years of research before jumping on the mixology trend, Veuve likes it that way. The local launch party for Rich wasn’t even in Calgary — it was held at Azuridge, Priddis’ hidden hotel jewel.On my way in, I bumped into Clarence McLeod, the only guilded butler in North America. Besides being the Queen’s man on the ground in Canada, he is also the general manager of Azuridge. The hotel’s Opal Dining Room will be the only restaurant in Southern Alberta pouring Rich.Only five Canadian cities are enjoying the honor of a formal introduction to the French sparkling wine with the Anglo name, and local media had to work for their knowledge of the best way to serve the new bubbles. The women were up for the task of slicing infusers like cucumbers and bell peppers, but please note the blank looks on Ryan Massel and Vincent Law. I get it. Is there a bartender in the house?Anyway, back to the cocktails. Apparently I over-peppered, but it didn’t matter. Rich is sweeter than Veuve’s staple champagne, allowing it to work nicely with various vegetables and melting ice. Un peu trop doux for me (I prefer vodka with my cucumbers) but fans of pinot gris will love it. An infusion of grapefruit and tea leaves was my favorite, but risky. The potential for tea leaves in my teeth was too great. Also, while I support the specially designed glasses – they hold more champagne than your average flute – sipping while restraining an ice avalanche takes skill that might not be in abundance after a few glasses.Once the champagne kicked in, so did the photo-ops. Drew Tollerud of IBM demonstrates just what would inspire a mad genius to make a mad dash: beaucoup de Champagne and snappy orange accoutrements.Those accessories included Veuve swag in the form of these silver shades, all the better to discern the dazzling view from Azuridge. A votre sante, RICH!