A reporter’s notebook from the 2011 Colorado Mountain Winefest
Reporter’s only slightly wine-stained Notebook from the 20th Colorado Mountain Winefest:
Oh, my. So many wines to taste and stories to tell.
The crowd was late-arriving Saturday for the opening bell of the 20th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest but don’t dare call it a fashion statement. Unless your fashion tastes include gum boots and Gore-Tex jackets.
The morning rain doused but didn’t deter the riders on the Tour of the Vineyards and certainly made many people hesitate before committing to the Festival in the Park. “We got rain early and then it really dumped in the middle but the end of the ride was beautiful,” said one rider, her hair wet but her smile bright as the sun came through the clouds.
No official attendance tally yet from Winefest officials but one unofficial observer (me) said it appeared overall numbers were a bit down from last year when 6,800 people came through the gates. The morning attendance (under still-threatening skies) seemed were a bit lighter than in past years but when the sun came out in the afternoon, the crowds came with it.
You couldn’t tell anything was amiss from looking around the chatty-happy VIP tent, where nearly every seat was occupied and it was evident many wine enthusiasts figured once again the $190 VIP tix were the best buy of the Winefest. The VIP tent, with its special wines and a menu to die for, certainly was the place to be and be seen and showed once more that the conveniences of the special area are something people want and are willing to pay for.
In addition to some special wines (the wineries were invited in later to pour some favorites as part of the 20th anniversary celebration), VIPers enjoyed a terrific brunch/lunch thanks to some innovative thinking and menu design from the culinary arts staff and hard-working students at Western Colorado Community College. Thanks and a tip of the chef’s toque to Dan Kirby, head of the school’s culinary arts program, and executive chefs Wayne Smith and Jon St. Peter of WCCC.
And speaking of paying for it, those $190 tickets make a difference when figuring the bottom line for the Winefest. Winefest director Sarah Catlin mentioned that even though ticket sales dropped in 2010 compared to 2009, overall revenue was up. Expect similar news this year, since more than 300 of the VIP tickets were sold, the most ever, Catlin reported.
The big story, of course, was winemaker Tyrel Lawson of Kahil Winery (no Web site), whose 2009 Malbec won double gold, the Best Red Wine and ultimately Best of Show in the Best of Fest competition. It’s hard not to be impressed by Lawson, a personable sort who also is winemaker for Two Rivers Winery and Chateau and for Colterris on East Orchard Mesa.
“I knew it was a good wine but you never expect anything like this,” said Tyrel early Saturday, a few minutes before the crowds broached his tent. His logo is of an elegant fishing fly known as the Cahill. Lawson changed the spelling a bit, adding a “K” to honor his wife of six months, Katherine. The rich Bordeaux-style wine is bold and dark, with hints of black cherries, berries and fig.
The same wine won double gold at the 2010 Winefest, indicative of how one more year in the bottle really added to this wine. What’s next for the 25-year old vigneron?
“I think I’d like to do it in all French oak,” said Lawson, flinching a little just thinking of the cost. Let’s see. Lawson made 411 cases of his 2009 Malbec, and there’s about 24.6 cases in a barrel, so he would need 17 barrels for one vintage of Malbec. And a new French oak barrel costs around $1,000. My head hurts doing the math.