Tapping a few barrels on a rainy spring weekend
A decidedly chilly weekend saw the first installment of the two-part 2014 Barrel into Spring wine tasting, which wrapped up Sunday with one more weekend set for May 17-18.
This is the season opener for the eight wineries belonging to the Grand Valley Winery Association, a vestige from the time when this valley had only eight wineries (it’s double that number, now).
More than 275 wine enthusiasts were out Saturday in spite of the occasional rain in the east part of the valley, and I know that because Steve Smith of Grande River Vineyards bothered to count.
“I like to say we get between 250 and 275 people on the first day,” said Smith, late Saturday afternoon. “I just looked at the numbers and we’ve had 281 today.”
It probably was closer to 290 by the time the event was done at 4 p.m.
Tickets are limited to 400 each weekend and as usual this event sold out in February, with a waiting list for the second weekend.
“We were pretty swamped (Saturday morning) but today it’s still pretty quiet,” said Sue Phillips, owner of Plum Creek Cellars, in the firsthour or so of Sunday’s open house. “But Sunday always starts slow.”
The wine event is developing a foodie side to match the interesting wines each winemaker decides to highlight.
There’s a sense each year the wineries are taking their food pairings up a notch, and this weekend was particularly good.
Chef Jill Peters (daughter of Naomi and Steve Smith at Grande River) has been preparing food pairings for Grande River for 11 years and this year, among her selections, she went with a Thai-inspired watermelon-miso soup to pair with the viognier the winery was pouring.
She matched the winery’s 2011 Malbec with a smoked duck breast Banh Mi sandwich and the 2009 late-harvest Viognier with a lemongrass galangal (a type of Thai ginger) soup.
Over at Plum Creek, Sue Phillips did all the cooking.
“I just grabbed a recipe out of the Julie Childs cookbook,” she said with laugh. “Then, I made ‘Whatever Sue likes.'”
Apparently Sue Phillips like such things as sun-dried tomato tapenade on ciabatta wedge (paired with Plum Creek’s 2011 Merlot); pistachio paté (2012 Chardonnay); and Duck a L’Orange on a buttermilk polenta pancake (2011 Cabernet Franc).
“We come back here every year, just for the lamb,” said a woman heading off to the tasting table with a plate in one hand and wine glass in the other.
Gaulerzi, who’s had her restaurant in downtown Grand Junction for 16 years, just smiled and pulled her coat collar a little higher to ward off the unseasonably chill wind.
“What are the other wineries doing?” she asked a visitor. “I never get to the other wineries because I’m here all the time.”
I’ll cover some of the notable wines in the next post.