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Vines on a mountain: Elevation as terroir in Colorado winemaking

August 29, 2015 Leave a comment
The concept of terroir , says winemaker Warren Winiarski, includes all things not man-made. In Colorado, that includes growing grapes at high elevation. These Gewurtztraminer vines, thriving at 6,200 feet elevation near Paonia, Co., are among the highest vineyards in North America.

The concept of terroir, says winemaker Warren Winiarski, includes all things not man-made. In Colorado, that includes growing grapes at high elevation. These Gewurtztraminer vines, thriving at 6,200 feet elevation near Paonia, Co., are among the highest vineyards in North America.

The question of whether Colorado wines reflect a unique terroir has no easy answer.

Supporters of “terroir” – the concept that the place a wine comes from is reflected in its taste and determines its quality – claim they can identify a wine’s distinct origins simply by blind-sampling the wine.

Do Colorado wines reflect their provenance and is it enough to be unique?

For some ideas and possible answers I turned to Warren Winiarski, the winemaker who produced the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine that won the 1976 Judgment of Paris and made America a wine-drinking country. Before that, however, Winiarski in 1968 helped Denver dentist Gerald Ivancie set up Colorado’s first modern commercial winery.

During a mid-May tasting of Colorado wines at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Winiarski said how impressed he was with some of the samples. Read more…