PAONIA – Midsummer finds us committed to the U-pick hustle, darting around the North Fork Valley and the Grand Valley seeking tree-fresh cherries, apricots and peaches available seemingly everywhere.
The early peaches (some Paul Friday varieties, if I remember correctly) are at farm stands across the area, tempting the palate as if to say,”You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” with new varieties appearing almost weekly, each one more juicy and luscious than the last.
It’s also time for the eighth annual West Elks Wine Trail, this year on Aug. 5-7, sponsored by nine wineries in the North Fork Valley and named for the West Elks AVA, one of Colorado’s two specially designated wine-grape growing regions.
Special winemakers’ dinners, premium wine tastings and full-on open houses at the wineries make this weekend one of the more-anticipated of the summer. Each participating winery is featuring special food and wine pairings, with a focus on local foods and wines.
Several of the wineries also are hosting their ever-popular winemaker dinners, most of which fill early so reservations are a necessity. Call the wineries for reservations and more information, because what you see here is the only information supplied by the wineries. Prices, when given, are per person. All phone area codes are 970.
Aug. 6 –Alfred Eames Cellars, Uruguayan Dinner, 6 p.m. $75, 527-3269 or 527-6290; Azura Cellars & Gallery “Tapas at Twilight”, 7 p.m.; free R/C yacht racing starting at 10 a.m., 527-4251; Stone Cottage Cellars Winemaker’s Dinner at the Cellar featuring a Fattoria Italiana, 7 p.m. 527-3444, $80; Delicious Orchards BBQ from noon – 6 p.m. with live music from 4-7 p.m., no reservations needed, 527-1110. Black Bridge Winery Barrel Tasting at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., repeats on Aug. 7, 527-6838.
The wineries in the North Fork Valley celebrating the West Elks Wine Trail include those listed above as well as Terror Creek Winery, the state’s highest vineyards (at 6,400 feet elevation) as well as one of Colorado’s first wineries, 527-3484; and 5680′ Vineyards, (no website), 314-1253. The photo above was taken at Terror Creek Winery.
The heat is on, and chilled wines seem to be in order.
From icy rosé slushies to chilled medium-body reds, there’s no reason not to keep your insides cool while the outside steams.
Trends come and go (that’s why they’re called “trends”, right?) and this year one of the passing fancies is serving rosé slushies, aka “slushees.”
That’s right, the crushed ice delight which normally is the purview of blueberry and banana this summer has been taken over by the summery notes of watermelon, strawberry and raspberry in rosés.
Recipes are simple (ice, wine, some fruit juice or sorbet, a blender and garnish) and readily available online. A couple of caveats, however: The ice will dilute the alcohol and the flavors (need I remind you of this?) so steer away from the lighter, Provence-style rosés and look to something with a bit more color and hence more body.
Most rosés are made by straining off the juice of red wine grapes before too much contact with the skins. I say that because I’ve had rosés made by combining red and white wines, such as those made by Two Rivers Winery combining Riesling and Merlot.
Some rosés to experiment with include those made from Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault (Tavel from the Cotes du Rhone), Mourvédré (think Bandol) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Locally, Plum Creek Winery‘s Palisade Rosé (a blend, of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot) and Whitewater Hill Vineyard’s Melange (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling) come to mind.
However, if you really want to try a wine slushy, don’t limit yourself to rosés. You could use a fruit wine to bump up the flavors. Plus, your favorite local winery surely makes a medium-body red you can use in these summery “slurprises.”
A sweeter wine (a Moscato or dessert wine) could provide the sticky goodness normally associated with slushies, albeit with a slightly alcohol kick.
Or, you can do it without ice. A lightly chilled red wine is a great accompaniment to that summer barbecue and may surprise you how well the flavors hold up.
I recently tried two of my favorite Italian reds, lightly chilled, with a Fourth of July get-together.
My guests were surprised to see red wines being served in mid-summer and even more surprised and pleased to see how well the wines paired with the variety of grilled meats and vegetables.
Slightly chilled is the key (maybe 20 minutes in the refrigerator) because red wines served too cold lose their aromas and flavors while emphasizing the tannins and acidity.
A slight chill brings out the fruit aromas and flavors, a fact noted by writer Dave McIntyre.
“Think of how fragrant your garden is at dusk as the day’s heat fades into night,” he wrote.
West Elks Wine Trail returns – This is a highlight of the summer and this year’s edition, the eighth annual, happens Aug. 5-7, right when North Fork Valley vineyards will be at their height of green-fuse glory.
The weekend is filled with touring, wine tasting and winemakers’ dinners (which fill quickly, very quickly).
Information at www.westelksava.com.