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One last wrap on the Colorado Urban Winefest

DENVER – Gee, I survived almost too-much-fun Friday night at Row 14, waded through the 1,500 or so wine enthusiasts that kindly showed up for the third annual Colorado Urban Winefest on Saturday (where I paired a grilled PBJ with smoked bacon on whole wheat with a Boulder Creek 2010 Cabernet Franc) and then took a serious stumble Monday when I screwed up misstated the facts in my column for my real job at the The Daily Sentinel.

Arrgghh, as pirates would say.

I got confused, or distracted, or just simply wasn’t being mindful. Fortunately, you don’t have to see the crash, although there are a few readers in Grand Junction and elsewhere who this morning are mightily surprised to find out several winemakers have moved to new digs, courtesy of my writing.

So, ugh, let’s move on, shall we?

Overall, Colorado Urban Winefest continues to improve with age, not unlike the Colorado wine industry itself. Final attendance numbers for Saturday’s third annual Colorado Urban Winefest presented by Westminster Total Beverage came out Monday and indicated around 1,500 wine enthusiasts  showed up Saturday at Infinity Park in Glendale.

When I spied  Kyle Schlachter of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board schlepping a bit of lunch through Saturday’s crowd, he mentioned strong last-minute tickets sales and healthy walk-up traffic as contributing to the pleasant turn-out.

“I’m really happy with the turnout ,” said Cassidee Schull, director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology and it seems everyone else was, also.  It’s also likely the temperate weather (unlike 2012 when the thermometer was topping out at around 102) – Saturday’s mix of sun and clouds with a cool breeze along with the extensive acres of grass fields – kept fest-goers and winery representatives comfortable all afternoon.

“Yeah, this is a great place,” agreed Mike Thompson of Boulder Creek Winery, one of the 36 wineries present. “I really like the layout here.”

Among the selections Thompson was pouring was the Boulder Creek 2011 Colorado Dry Rosé, which Friday was one of the dry rosés competing for the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition.

Many people familiar with rosé automatically drift away from what they think will be something sweet but a recent trend among Colorado winemakers (Canyon Wind Cellars and Garfield Estates also offer dry rosés) to produce a dry rosé with great fruit has revived interest in the wine.

“It takes a little education, and you have to get them to taste it, but once you do, it’s really popular,” Thompson said. The winemaker is his wife, Jackie Thompson, whose wines always show well in competitions.

The competition must have been close, but the 47-Ten 2012 Grand Valley Rosé from Canyon Wind Cellars was named Best Rosé at the Governor’s Cup. Jay and Jennifer Christianson of Canyon Wind Cellars also won a Double Gold for their 2010 Grand Valley Petit Verdot.

Michelle Cleveland of Creekside Cellars also produces a delightful dry rosé but it’s light-gold in color, similar to a pinot grigio. I wasn’t able to talk with her during Saturday’s crush of people but will get back to you on that item.

As we mentioned Sunday, Michelle was the winner of the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition with her 2010 Grand Valley Cabernet Franc, which I diligently paired with that grilled PB&J with smoked bacon on whole-grain wheat. Highly recommended.

Around 225 wines were judged by the tasting panel of experts including restaurateurs, sommeliers, writers and chefs, most of whom seemed quite pleased with their task.

“They showed tremendous excitement over all the Bordeaux red grapes produced in Colorado, including merlot,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the CWIDB. No, I don’t know why he singled out merlot, but you can ask him.

One of the judges, wine blogger Jeff Siegel (“The Wine Curmudgeon”), noted the competition “was easily the best showing from Colorado in the decade or so I have judged its wines.”

I appreciate Jeff’s remarks, since he’s attended several Drink Local Wine conferences and has a good idea of how the “other 47” are doing in their wine production.

I just hope he doesn’t read my newspaper version of this column. Arrgghh.

Creekside Cellars continues the reign of Colorado cab franc

It’s Sunday, 95 degrees, and I’m recuperating from Colorado Wine Week.

I missed a Colorado Wine Week post or two Friday and Saturday but really, I honestly have a good excuse.

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Winemaker Michelle Cleveland still shows her surprise and pleasure after her Creekside Cellars 2010 Colorado Cabernet Franc was named winner of the Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup competition. The wine won Double Gold for Best of Show and Best Bordeaux varietal.

Friday night’s Day 6 Wine Week Challenge was the Governor’s Cup Awards presentation, and I opened (or had opened for me, which is even better), scads of tasty Colorado wines, including the Best of Show and Double Gold Cabernet Franc from Creekside Cellars.

Saturday, well, Saturday was the Colorado Urban Winefest (lots of nice remarks coming from that event) plus I woke up hungover out of sorts and needed some time to gather my thoughts, which mostly were “Where am I?” and “How did that happen?”

But important things first, right?

Congratulations and a well-deserved high three (it’s a long story but how many fingers does Pluto have?) to Michelle Cleveland, talented winemaker and all-around great person for Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, for winning the 2013 Governor’s Cup Best of Show and Double Gold for her 2010 Cabernet Franc.

Dark, luscious, lots of fruit and a judicious 24 months in Appalachian oak (she said it’s the same species of oak tree used to make French oak barrels) to balance.

Too bad there’s not any left.

Funny story: Michelle said she made 44 cases (that’s about 100 gallons or so) of the wine, which grew in the 10-acre Creekside vineyards in the Grand Valley, (Hey, almost all – 87 percent – of Colorado grapes grow in the Grand Valley) but had only 1 (one, uno, half of two) case left by the weekend.

“I didn’t know how fast it would sell,” she said, but at least she had enough to share with the light intimate crowd at the Governor’s Cup Awards at Metro State University.

Michelle really likes Colorado cabernet franc (the bottle’s label reads simply “Franc,” and underneath says “Colorado’s Cabernet”) and she and Kyle Schlachter of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board have this plan to promote cab franc as Colorado’s best red grape.

I’m all for it after tasting some of the excellent cab francs being produced by various Colorado winemakers. Curiously, the other double-gold medal Bordeaux-red winner this year also was a 2010 Cabernet Franc by Jackie Thompson of Bookcliffs Vineyards, and the 2012 Gov’s Cup winner was yet another cabernet franc, this one by the enigmatic Matt Cookson of the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.

“We’ve been making cabernet franc since we opened (2000),” said Michelle, who said she began as a beermaker before making the switch to fermenting grapes.

As for the oak, well, “We like oak,” she said with a sly smile. “But it has to balance with the fruit and the 2010 vintage was huge fruit. The only problem is cab franc needs a long growing season but we haven’t had any problems.”

And for those who are aware of this year’s tribulations in the vineyards (sounds like something Danielle Steel might write, eh?), everyone I’ve talked with are saying (fingers crossed behind their back) their cab franc is one of the few vines to be healthy after the January freeze and the April frost.

And remember 2010 was a light vintage, too, but Michelle had no problem wringing a Best of Show from the grapes.

The rest of the Governor’s Cup winners are here, and among the top award-winners were Glenn Foster (Talon Wines); Jackie Thompson (Bookcliff Vineyards); Jay and Jennifer Christianson (Canyon Wind Cellars); and Matt Cookson (The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey).

There were 225 wines submitted for the competition but Governor John Hickenlooper, who is a great supporter of Colorado wine, wasn’t able to make his usual appearance.

After the awards, I headed over to Row 14, one of the Denver restaurants hosting the Sips & Snacks, pairing a glass of Colorado wine with a larger-than-an-appetizer but smaller-than-your-appetite plate.

Row 14 was pouring the 2011 Two Rivers Winery Syrah and paired it with carnitas tacos. Good food, great wine, nice people, lots of fun. Lots.

Colorado Wine Week Challenge Day 2

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the 2011 “No Oak” Chardonnay from Whitewater Hill Vineyards on Orchard Mesa.

It’s Day 2 of Colorado Wine Week and my personal Colorado Wine Week Challenge, where your task – such as it is – is to open and share a Colorado wine every day during this special week.
My selection today is the 2011 Chardonnay ‘No Oak’ ($14) from winemaker/owner Nancy Janes at Whitewater Hill Vineyards on Orchard Mesa.
Like many of us who enjoy chardonnay, Nancy quit drinking chardonnay for a couple of years after she was put off by the over-oaked wines that swept to popularity a few years ago.
“I like a little oak but that was too much for me,” she said, and the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd agreed.

She finally gave in, but instead of drinking one of the all-oak, no fruit wines, she decided to make a “no oak” because she wanted something to drink that reflected the heritage of the chardonnay grape.
This wine is a pure reflection of the Chardonnay grape, with a bright, minerally nose and no malolactic fermentation to disguise the grape.
The wine recently received an 87 from the Beverage Tasting Institute.

She also makes a lightly oaked chardonnay for those who just have to have a little oak.

Nancy will be  among the winemakers in Denver this weekend for the Governor’s Cup Awards presentation Friday at Metro State University and the Colorado Urban Winefest presented by Westminster Total Beverage at Infinity Park in Glendale.

Colorado Wine Week Challenge, Day 1

This is the first day of Colorado Wine Week 2013, a weeklong (or did you know that?) celebration of this state’s vibrant wine industry and the best opportunity you may have to sample Colorado wines.

And great food.

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Two first-day selections for Colorado Wine Week Challenge 2013.

And Colorado wines and great food, together.

While the week is sort of, kind of, a statewide thing, its really designed as a Front Range get-together, which for those of you who don’t live in Colorado (that’s fine, don’t move here) means everything east of the Continental Divide.

Which really means the event is aimed the 8 jillion or so people in the urban strip from Fort Collins (north) to Colorado Springs (mid-state).

My blogging and Colorado wine colleague Jacob Harkins of Godot Communications and Local Winos Media has been doing the heavy lifting, which means trying to herd cats with press releases, emails, etc and etc.

You can get all the information you need here, but in short, the week culminates in the third annual Colorado Urban Winefest (presented by Westminster Total Beverage, I have to add), which this year roosts at Infinity Park in Glendale, an innr-suburb of Denver, which obviously is THE place to be Saturday. Around 46 wineries, including many you need to know, pouring their hearts out to please your palate.

That is, if you like Colorado wine, are curious about Colorado wine or know someone who is either or both.

As for me, here’s my contribution – A Colorado Wine Week Challenge: Open and share a Colorado wine every day this week.

Yeah, I know it’s already Sunday but give it a try.

Tell you what. I’ve already opened two local wines, so you can use one for your starter (there’s a glass or two left in the bottle). The rest of the week is up to you.

My first-day choices are the 2012 Pinot Gris from Stone Cottage Cellars ($22) and the 2006 Pinot Noir ($26, if available) from Terror Creek Winery. Both are West Elks AVA wineries and situated near each other (like 500 feet apart) just west of Paonia, high above the valley of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

And when I say high, I mean that Joan Mathewson of Terror Creek is making her elegant and thoughtful wines at 6,417 feet, making hers the highest winery in the north hemisphere.

And Stone Cottage Cellars Pinot Gris has a body and heft, hints of melon, fig and almonds, that recalls how well-made pinot gris tasted before the demands of the market onslaught ruined it, just as the same overweening push for profits ruined merlot. Thank you, Brent and Karen Helleckson of Stone Cottage Cellars.

That’s the end of the Sunday sermon.

Take the week to explore some of the restaurants and bars offering food and Colorado wine pairings, menus available here.

Keep me posted on what you’re drinking, and tomorrow I’ll share the Day 2 selections for the Colorado Wine Week Challenge.

Let’s see, where is that corkscrew??????

Global wine shortage? Some analysts see less wine, higher prices

March 27, 2012 1 comment

Wine consumers could be paying higher prices as the world-wide glut of wine and wine grapes shows signs of ending.

Reports from several major wine-trade websites are saying a series of low harvests worldwide along with a global rise in wine consumption point toward the possibility of a global wine shortage, something unthinkable a few years ago when the world seemed awash in wine.

Shanken News Daily reported California has suffered two consecutive small harvests, which means wine makers are competing for less fruit, which in turn drives up grape prices and bulk wine prices. “If you’re buying wine on the bulk market, or you’re a négociant, your costs are going to go up,” said Adam Lee of Siduri and Novy Family wines, in an interview from the Shanken report.

Similar shortages are reported elsewhere, according to TheDrinksBusiness.com. France’s Languedoc saw grape prices rise to a 10-year high and Spain’s Rioja saw its 2011 yields drop more than 20 percent, resulting in “a serious depletion of stocks matched by price rises.”

The DrinksBusiness website recently said the California wine industry “is entering an extended period of structural supply shortage.” In that same story, Matt Turrentine, of Turrentine Wine Brokerage in Novato, Calif., said California vineyard plantings have not been keeping pace with growing demand, resulting in a doubling of bulk prices in the past 12 months. Wines and Vines reported a similar story.

This report is contradicts the state of California’s grape supply in 2010, when grape growers were knee-deep in grapes and no one to buy them. Back then, according to Wines & Vines, , grape growers were bemoaning the shortage of buyers in a time of plenty.

“What happened to the grape and wine buyers?” asked Nat DioBuduo of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno. “I don’t know where you guys disappeared to. We want you guys back.”

The recent challenge has been compounded by the global recession, during which wine producers sold off existing inventories rather than invest in new plantings or increased production.

A similar move happened here in Colorado after freezes in December 2010 and spring 2011, wiped out the grape crop and forced winemakers to use existing inventory to keep their shelves full. Many winemakers saw their grape supplies curtailed or shut off as there simply weren’t enough Colorado grapes to go around, forcing some producers to go elsewhere for grapes.

Colorado hasn’t the luxury of many new areas suitable for grapes, so winemakers depending on home-grown grapes must wait for vineyards to recover before production can rise to meet demand.

Nationally, it took wine prices a couple of vintages to catch up with the recession, as wine drinkers moved away from wines costing $20 and up and turned to less-expensive brands. Restaurants and stores were unable to move premium-priced wines, and winemakers, their cellars filling up with the unsold higher-priced wines, turned instead to marketing less-expensive bottlings built around the more-affordable bulk wines.

There was plenty to choose from since the ocean of wine included some very good juice, not just from California, but from around the world. And consumers soon got accustomed to driving the prices down and being able to find much better wines in the $10–$15 range.

However, according to Shanken Daily News, with the recession softening, Americans are starting to reach for more expensive wines, which catches wineries unable to meet demands. And the small harvests means there aren’t enough grapes to allow production to ramp up enough to satisfy that demand, the Shanken report says.

Worldwide, wine demand is seen as a bull market. According to VinExpo, the international wine marketing group, the Asian wine market is expected to grow by 5 percent in the next four years, compared to a 1 percent global average. That growth is led by China’s rapidly growing economy. That immense country of more than 1.3 billion people is expected to see a 54 percent increase (to just more than 1 billion bottles annually) in wine consumption in that time.

All this means wine producers may have to deal with seeing consumers with money to spend but without the product to spend it on.