Another round of notes from Colorado Mountain Winefest
Still more Reporter’s Notebook from the 20th Colorado Mountain Winefest:
There was quite a bit of applause but not much surprise when Tyrel Lawson of Kahil Winery of Grand Junction won Best of Show with his 2009 Mesa County Malbec last week at the 20th anniversary Colorado Mountain Winefest .Tyrel, justly popular among the local wine scene for his polite and friendly demeanor, hard-work ethic and home-grown talent, earned a double gold at the 2010 Winefest with the same wine, so the biggest news was how an extra year of aging amped up this wine with added depth and structure.
But every vintage is followed by another and no one expects Tyrel to rest too long on this wine. He also makes a mean white: his 2010 Snipes Mountain Pinot Gris earned a gold medal this year, and now we’re all waiting to see what the talented 25-year old will produce next.
The rage about hybrids – Hybrid grape varietals, the non-vinifera kind, are ho-hum in the Northeast and Midwest but something of a odd duck to most Colorado wine drinkers. But hybrids – and we’re not talking Prius here – were the talk of Winefest whenever state viticulturist Horst Caspari or sommelier and wine instructor Max Ariza hove into view.
Caspari, particularly, was taking the message to the masses in the early hours of the Festival in the Park. Clutching a wine bottle with the label carefully hidden, he was urging everyone he encountered to sample his mystery wine and try to guess its composition.
Full-bodied and rich with black fruit, spice and plum flavors, obviously a blend of some sort but the exact varietals were hard to nail. Merlot and Syrah? Cabernet Sauvignon plus the first two? Tempranillo and Syrah? No, no and close but no, laughed Caspari, finally showing his hand. Tempranillo, Syrah and Noiret, the latter a hybrid grape developed by Cornell University and released in 2006.
Caspari has been urging Colorado winemakers and grape growers to adopt cold-resistant hybrids and made this Noiret blend to show how a hybrid that on its own is, well, undrinkable comes to mind, can change completely when blended with the right grapes.
Meanwhile, Ariza, a popular culinary arts instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, was preaching the hybrid gospel during a well-received seminar on lesser-known grapes. He put several wines in front of the attendees and was delighted to find most of them receptive to wines made from other-than-vinifera grapes.
Ariza loves to argue with winemakers that their main reason for not using hybrids is because the grapes are hard to sell to customers expecting the more-familiar European grapes.
“That may be true, but it’s all about education,” Ariza emphasized. “If you make a good wine and can get (the customer) to try it, they’ll like it. If it says ‘Colorado red wine,’ they won’t care that it’s a blend.” A fine example of that was the Baco Noir wine produced by winemaker Guy Drew of Cortez. The grapes were dry-farmed in the desolate pinyon/juniper mesa/canyon country of Yellow Jacket Canyon in southwest Colorado. The wine was similar to a Grenache, with berry, plum and hints of leather.
Surprise, it’s Lavendar! – The most-unexpected wine of the fest came from the talented Glenn Foster of Talon Wines, who produced a lavendar wine under his St. Kathryn’s Cellars label in Palisade. “You got to try this,” urged Foster, saying it took him six months of tinkering with the blends to get the flavors he wanted.
The rosé-based pale-magenta wine has a hint of lavendar on the nose and a similar pleasant blush of lavendar on the palate. Foster was careful in his application, making sure the lavendar was noticeable but not overwhelming. As one taster mentioned, “It’s really good if you’re a honey bee looking for a buzz.”
And the VIP tent, now in its third year and definitely one of the more-popular venues of the daylong Festival in the Park, was buzzing, too, thanks the lineup of wines and the matching menu conceived by Dan Kirby, Executive Chefs Wayne Smith and John St. Peter and the culinary arts students from Western Colorado Community College.
The lineup of 40 top Winefest wines included Alfred Eames’ 2009 Pinot Noir, Balestreri’s 2010 Sangiovese, Boulder Creek’s 2010 Chardonnay and Colterris 2010 Cabernet Franc. We told he’s talented and hard-working: Tyrel Lawson of Kahil Winery also makes wines for Colterris and Two Rivers Winery and Chateau.