DENVER – The DrinkLocalWine 2012 conference wrapped up today but it didn’t go without leaving many things to ponder about small wine markets and how they succeed.
Friday night’s opening dinner with the Guv was more than simply a photo op (for Hickenlooper and the DLW folks), as noted by state ag commish John Salazar, who was standing in the back when he quietly reminded a few of us how much Hickenlooper supports the ag businesses in Colorado.
“He’s got this feet in both worlds,” said Salazar, referring to Hickenlooper’s political demands and his respect for the citizens living on and working the land.
Saturday morning was filled with seminars, and they all offered great insights from very different perspectives. Evan Faber of Salt Bistro in Boulder is relentless in his support of Colorado wines and local foods, and this weekend DLW attendees saw a similar spirit revealed in Chef Jensen Cummings of Row 14 Bistro and Wine Bar in Denver. The two chefs shared a panel, along with René Chazottes of the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, Cal., on why local food and wine don’t like each other.
But you’d never know such thing was possible listening to Faber and Jensen, who spent most of their allotted 50 minutes arguing that local foods and wines both benefit from the growing locavore eat/drink local drive.
“It’s an exciting time to be drinking local,” said Faber, who along with Salt Chef Kevin Kidd headlined the 2011 Colorado Mountain Winefest. “People have a new sense of excitement and adventure when they go out to eat.”
And Jensen followed that with “people are getting more and more adventurous” when they go out to eat.
Curiously, or maybe not when you think about it, Jensen said in his hometown it’s easier to get tourists to try Colorado wines than it is to get residents to try their home-grown wines. Again, it’s that sense of adventure shown by tourists and missing in locals “just going out to eat, nothing special.”
One cure? “We have to get the wine in their mouths, get them to know it and believe in it,” Jensen offered.
And Chazottes reminded those listening who sell wine for a living, either in store or restaurant, that guests may come in expecting to find Colorado wines tasting just like their favorite (California, Oregon,. French, New Zealand, etc) wine. Make sure they know that the same varietals may and probably do taste different from different terroirs.
“Don’t confuse, don’t disappoint the consumer,” Chazottes said with his heavy French accent reflecting his old-world sense of respect for food prepared with care and grace. “Don’t drive a consumer willing to try something new back to something familiar.”
Which reminds me of a comment by Master Sommelier Sally Mohr about how there are way too many terroirs in Colorado to come up with a typical Colorado wine. More on that next time.
In a day or so I’ll be heading to the Front Range for the DrinkLocalWine 2012 conference Saturday in Denver, and as part of the festivities I’ll be taking three bottles of wine from western Colorado.
As I noted recently in this space, the DrinkLocalWine.com movement was initiated by wine blogger Jeff Siegel (The Wine Curmudgeon) and Washington Post wine writer Dave McIntyre, both of whom want to see more attention paid to U.S. wines not coming from California, Washington or Oregon.
Since the conference attracts bloggers from around the country, there will be a lot curiosity about Colorado wines, and I’m sure there will be many Colorado wines standing around, trying to get our attention.
The hosts asked a number of us to bring some local wines to share and since this isn’t my first rodeo I know three bottles of wine won’t go very far when you hang around with people who drink wine for a living.
The great news, however, is that with everyone else also bringing three bottles to share, a lot of really great local wines, from Colorado and elsewhere, will be uncorked and passed around, each one trying to win the Miss Congeniality award.
Deciding which three wines to take was the hardest part. I previously decided on three pre-requisites: the wines had to be made with Colorado-grown grapes; they should be varietals that have shown they do well in Colorado; and (hopefully) they came from different parts of the Western Slope. I shopped at Fisher’s Liquor Barn because of its wide selection of Colorado wines and stumbled almost immediately after discovering many local wines I haven’t yet tasted, an oversight I hope to correct eventually.
Second, my plan was take one wine from the Grand Valley, one from the North Fork Valley and one from the Four Corners. However, the Four Corners wine I was seeking, Guy Drew Vineyards’ red blend Metate, was gone, a blank space deep as my arm (I know because I stuck my arm back there, hoping a bottle was stuck way in the back) staring at me from the shelf. Instead, I chose a Reeder Mesa 2008 Grand Valley Cabernet Franc ($18.99), reasoning the Doug Vogel’s vineyards near Whitewater were sufficiently far (like 9 miles) to qualify as non-Grand Valley.
The North Fork selection was a bit easier: Alfred Eames Cellars 2008 Colorado Syrah. I talked recently with Alfred Eames winemaker Eames Peterson who confided his opinion that the 2008 syrah was the best he’s ever made. Color me sold.
The Grand Valley selection was the most difficult. The area has such a great range of excellent wines, from a lot of talented winemakers, that I wanted to lug a dozen bottles up to the checkout. I already had two reds and was looking for a distinctive white wine, something a bit different than the corral of chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and rieslings lining Fisher’s shelves. I hemmed and hawed, went back and forth, picking up bottles and setting them down again, for so long one of the customers asked me if I worked there.
Finally getting the hint, I decided on Whitewater Hill’s 2009 Grand Valley Gewurtztraminer, a grape that does surprisingly well in the hot climes of the Grand Valley.
You can participate in the conference (9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Metro State College, tickets start at $35) without bringing your own wine. Check it out here. You also can follow the festivities on Facebook, Twitter and countless wine blogs, including this one.
With all the excitement revolving around the DrinkLocalWine 2012 conference April 28 in Denver, it should be noted that while Denver and the Front Range has some wonderful wineries, the real heart of Colorado wine country is found on the west side of the Continental Divide.
Colorado has two American Viticultural Areas: The Grand Valley, the first and which initially included a handful of wineries within the irrigated lands of the Colorado River (once named the Grand River) valley between Palisade and Grand Junction. Today, the AVA has grown to 24 wineries and many more vineyards in the triangle of Palisade, Whitewater and Grand Junction.
The second (but certainly not secondary) AVA is the West Elk AVA, its 10 wineries scattered along the fruit- and farm-rich valley of the North Fork of the Gunnison River between Hotchkiss and Paonia. The North Fork area also has eight more talented winemakers practicing their craft outside the designated AVA and there are five more wineries in the distant Four Corners area, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico come together.
While much of DLW 2012 will confined to the Denver-area, a handful of writers and bloggers will get first-hand experience of Colorado’s Western Slope wineries during pre-conference and post-conference trips to the Grand Valley and West Elks areas.
Thanks to assistance from the Delta County Tourism Board, the Grand Junction VCB, Colorado Tourism Office, local wineries and even the Governor’s office, a handful of bloggers will get to experience the West Elk AVA wine country in its spring glory. Trips include tours of wineries in the West Elk AVA between Delta and Paonia, including Leroux Creek Vineyards, Alfred Eames Cellars, Stone Cottage Cellars and Jack Rabbit Hill Winery, where owner/winemaker Lance Egan makes organic and biodynamic wines.
Meet the winemakers, tour the vineyards, discuss the challenges of making a world-class wine more than a mile above sea level. The evening will be spent with dinner (and Colorado wine) at the historic and luxurious Smith Fork Ranch, formerly a working cattle ranch and now a luxurious guest ranch virtually at the foot of imposing Needle Rock, a few miles outside of Crawford. Hosts Marley and Linda Hodges this year are marking their 10th anniversary offering first-rate family and couple experiences at their elegant yet low-key ranch.
The next morning, on thie back to Denver, bloggers will see wineries in for the Grand Valley, including Carlson Vineyards and Canyon Wind Cellars. They, and anyone interested in the history of Colorado’s wine industry, would do well to read the extensive and well-researched article here, thanks to Jacob Harkins of Localwino.com.
In addition to the DrinkLocalWine conference we discussed in a previous entry, here are a few events coming soon to a winery (and elk ranch) near you:
Grand Valley Winemaker’s Dinner – April 27, 6 p.m., the Chateau at Two Rivers Winery
The Grand Valley Winery Association is hosting this event as a benefit for Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado.
Tickets are $87.50 per person. For information and reservations call 255-1471 or online at www.tworiverswinery.com.
Barrel into Spring 2012 – April 28, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; April 29 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; May 19-20, same hours.
Presented by the eight member wineries of the Grand Valley Winery Association, this event has become extremely popular and usually sells out in advance.
Join Canyon Wind Cellars, Carlson Vineyards, DeBeque Canyon, Garfield Estates, Grand River, Graystone, Plum Creek Cellars, and Two Rivers Winery for a taste of what’s new, what’s hot and some old favorites.
Ticket are $70 if purchased two weeks or more before the selected event; $75 after.
Information: Two Rivers Winery and Chateau, 2087 Broadway, 970-255-1471; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wine, Buffalo and Chocolate Mother’s Day Trail – May 12, 1-5 p.m.
Bring Mom along for a free tour of vineyards, wineries and a buffalo and elk ranch on Rogers Mesa between Delta and Hotchkiss.
Stops include Leroux Creek Vineyards and Spa, 12388 3100 Road; Liliputian Winery, 31424 Colorado Highway 92; and the High Wire Ranch, 27497 Buffalo Rd.
Information and directions at 970-872-3019.
A nation (or at least enough people to populate a small country) of wine writers descends on Denver April 27-29 to get a grape’s eye view of the state’s wine industry during the fourth annual DrinkLocalWine conference.
What they’ll find, particularly those who think the wine-making earth ends somewhere east of San Luis Obispo, is the water here is safe and so is the wine.
The DrinkLocalWine movement was initiated by wine blogger Jeff Siegel (The Wine Curmudgeon) and Washington Post wine writer Dave McIntyre, both of whom want to see more attention paid to U.S. wines not coming from California, Washington or Oregon. Not that there is anything wrong (mostly) with wines from those states but, gee, enough is enough already. With wineries now found in every state, one has to think there are drinkable wines coming from states not attached to the Left Coast.
McIntyre, in the column link above, gives a boost to my hometown Grand Junction, calling it “the home of Colorado’s emerging wine industry.” The valley around here grows most of the wine grapes produced in the state, with the remainder coming from the nearby North Fork Valley and the Four Corners area in southwest Colorado.
According to some people in the Colorado wine industry, there initially was some thought given to having the conference in Grand Junction but the logistics came out in Denver’s favor. Which is too bad, since the oldest wineries and vineyards and best views are over here.
As someone who unapologetically spends an inordinate amount of time leaning against counters in tasting rooms around this state, I assume the three prior conferences (Texas 2009, Virginia 2010, Missouri 2011) surprised many people who rarely venture outside their comfort zone of wines. And that comfort zone includes sticking with local wines you know. You drink Plum Creek, Whitewater Hill and Carlson’s but have you tried Balistreri, Guy Drew or Boulder Creek? The latter three will take you from one of the oldest wineries on the Front Range to the high mesas along McElmo Canyon in the Four Corners back to one of the modern wineries (and frequent medal winner) east of the Continental Divide.
The DrinkLocalWine 2012 conference promises to be a social media bacchanalia, with such highlights as the Nomacorc-Colorado Twitter Taste-off on April 28. The taste-off poses two dozen of the state’s “best” wineries (I have no idea who has the task of deciding which of the state’s 100 wineries rank as the 24 best) go head-to-head in a live tweet fest. According to the DLW press release, the previous conferences have generated more than 10 million tweets, which is a boatload of opinions at 140 characters per. Conference organizers are shooting for 8 million tweets at the Denver conference. Keep those fingers flyin’.
You can follow the Nomacorrc-Colorado Twitter Taste-off on Twitter from 2-5 p.m., April 28. Use the hashtags #drinklocal, #colwine and #Nomacorc.
Other public events include seminars on the difficulties (or opportunities) of high-altitude wine-making, the challenges of pairing local wines with local foods and an overview of the general perception of Colorado andother regional wines.
Another fave event is the traditional request that invited attendees bring three favorite regional wines to share. With writers/bloggers expected from across the nation, you may bottles of familiar grapes such as pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay standing neck to neck with hybrid varietals you never heard of, such as Kay Gray, Frontenac and Chardonel. Some you may like, some may not suit your palate, but that’s the beauty of the DrinkLocalWine movement: You get the chance to try something new, or a new take on an old favorite.
There’s also the Colorado Blind Challenge, pairing California and Colorado wine in a blind tasting. The idea sounds interesting but why? Colorado wine isn’t California wine (isn’t that the point of this entire DWL movement?). I leave the answers to you.
The DLW 2012 is presented by the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and sponsored by the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology and by Nomacorc, maker of alternative wine closures. Tickets are $65 with all events are at Metro State College. Information here.
Like most of you, I spent the weekend spring cleaning, but this time it was in my basement, picking out a few wines to fit the changeable weather that goes from spring back to winter and then to spring, often in the span of a day. There’s always a surprise or two lurking in the disarray of bottles on the shelves serving as my wine cellar,and this time was no different.
These are some mini-reviews from my days of catching up with wines deserving of attention:
Sequoia Grove 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Dark black and red fruits on the nose with a bit of spice, tobacco and medium oak; round, soft tannins, smooth finish, 14.2 percent abv. Opened Wednesday and finished it Saturday with no loss of expression or depth. I’m sort of leery when it comes to California cabs because of that general trend toward over-ripe, high-alcohol wines, but winemaker Mike Trujillo (a Colorado native, I’m pleased to note) has produced a well-balanced and lovely example of Rutherford cabernet, and at $30 it’s a real value if you still can find it.
Mandolin 2009 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon – Don’t be put off by the $12-$14 price tag, this Central Coast cabernet is the real thing. Too often less-expensive reds (and this goes for all varietals trying to beat a price point) taste like bulk-wine flabby fruit bombs, but Mandolin somehow has created a silky wine with notes of blackberry, currants, earth and spice, with decent tannins and manageable alcohol (14.5 percent). A great everyday cabernet and did I mention it’s only $12?
Frank Family Vineyards 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet – Dark cherries, currants, blackberries, plums against a background of structured tannins and moderate 14.5 percent alcohol. During my last visit to this historic winery along the Silverado Trail on Napa’s east side, I recall being told about the winemaker’s love of new oak. There’s some of that new oak brashness here but it’s balanced by layers of ripe fruit and a hint of spice. Someone has to pay for all those new barrels – $40.
Robert Mondavi 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay – Starts a bit creamy with honeyed layers of melon, pear and green apple against a backdrop of oak and vanilla. Enough mineral tones and acidity to carry its weight though a long lunch or romantic dinner. In this era of everyone trying to outdo each other with unoaked chardonnay, this is a pleasant reminder that California still makes wines to please the oak/vanilla/tropical fruit palate. $15-$20.
Since I haven’t lately been to New Zealand, I was pleased to find in this morning’s e-mailbox the latest news about the 2012 harvest, which is going on now.
This particular news bit came from Constellation New Zealand and so is slanted (not derogatory, simply how it is when it’s a single-source news release) toward that company’s holdings, which may or may not reflect everything happening on that Southern Hemisphere island nation.
However, given the news originates with renowned winemaker Darryl Woolley, one of the pioneers of NZ sauvignon blanc, you can pretty much count on it being as accurate as you will find.
Woolley, who is senior vice-president for winemaking for the New Zealand Constellation group, said this growing season has been cooler than normal. “From bud break to the eve of harvest, we’ve had a cool season,” writes Woolley. “In some winegrowing regions, this would be cause for alarm, but this is New Zealand—a fairly cold and windy part of the world. New Zealand vintners understand what has to be done in these cool years. We’ve designed our wineries for this type of weather pattern, and we’re fortunate that in Marlborough flavors develop reliably.”
If I can find out how they have redesigned their wineries, I’ll let you know.
Woolley expects the cool weather will produce wines of the type for which Marlborough received its initial renown – lots of acidity with flavors of passion fruit, cut grass and grapefruit. That’s a bit different from several previous vintages, Woolley writes, when warmer temperatures produced riper fruit, resulting in “less lean” wines with bigger flavors and more alcohol.
These edgier, more acidic wines of 2012 will be pleasing wine lovers such as Alder, who writes in a recent entry on his Vinography blog, “For me, acidity (and perhaps more specifically, the perception of acidity — since they are a little different) is a crucial component that can make or break a wine. I love wines that have higher levels of acidity.”
He’s touting the importance of balance, of course, but all too often acidity (or the perception of, as Alder noted) is lacking, making a wine feel flabby and unappealing. But getting back to the New Zealand report ….
Woolley also noted the early season cool temperatures cut grape production by about 5 percent, noticeable if you’re the winemaker and worrisome if you’re a stockholder but still plenty of grapes (at about 5 tons per acre) to meet demands. Constellation New Zealand produces wines under the Nobilo, Kim Crawford, Drylands Marlborough and Monkey Bay labels.
Here is what having someone of Woolley’s experience (an Australia native, started making wines in 1972 and in New Zealand in 1980) means when it comes to understanding weather patterns and how they affect wines. He sees this year’s weather with a long-term view, as being a “return to a cooler weather pattern (which) is part of a typical, 13-year, southern oscillation cycle that starts with sea temperature fluctuations in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.”
He calls it a “predictable agricultural cycle we’ve seen time and again.” The cycle is turning, and Woolley expects the future to bring more cool-weather growing seasons, which should result in wines with higher acidity and crisper notes. Which should please all lovers of Marlborough wines.