Tag Archives: Colorado wine

Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau

Colorado Governor’s Cup 2015

Colorado Governor's CupMidway through yet another enthusiastic debate during the sweepstakes round of this year’s Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition, I asked Doug Caskey, who runs the event, “When’s the last time you heard people get this worked up about regional wine?” Doug laughed, and said he wasn’t sure he had ever heard this many people get this excited about this many wines at a regional wine competition.

Which says pretty much everything you need to know about this year’s Governor’s Cup, which annually picks the best wines in Colorado. It’s not so much the quality of the wines, which are much better than they were when I first judged in the state a decade ago. It’s that the judges, most of whom don’t specialize in regional wine but work for restaurants, retailers, and distributors, have a completely different opinion than was common then. They don’t dismiss the wines out of hand, and they understand that Colorado wine isn’t supposed to takes like wine from Napa or Sonoma.

How else to explain Warren Winiarski, one of the greatest winemakers in Napa history, giving double gold medals to several Colorado wines?

The results haven’t been released yet, so I can’t name names (but will post them when they are). But I was especially impressed by:

? Two less-oaked chardonnays, which were crisp, fresh, and fruity. One of the judges went so far as to say one tasted more like Chablis, one of France’s great chardonnay regions, than the Colorado chardonnay he was used to.

? Two syrahs, cause of tremendous arguing about which was the best wine of the competition. Both were delicious, and what made them even more appealing is that they were completely different in style — one more Old World, with that almost bacon fat aroma, and one more New World, with lots of berry fruit.

? An absolutely gorgeous viognier, a grape I don’t usually associate with Colorado, that was on par with the best in Texas and Virginia, and much better than almost every California viognier I’ve ever tasted.

In this, Doug, who heads the Colorado Wine Board; his colleague, Kyle Schlachter; and state enologist Steve Menke have done yeoman work with the state’s wineries. This is always one of my favorite events to judge, and not just because they pay me $200. It’s a pleasure to judge an event where the winemakers want to get better, and where they have.


12 wines for International Tempranillo Day

Tempranillo dayThese 12 wines show tempranillo in many of its 21st century styles. There’s classic tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain; post-modern Spanish tempranillo; regional tempranillo from Texas and Colorado; a highly-regarded Oregon label; and even one from Argentina.

Tempranillo for years languished in wine’s outer orbit, though that banishment had little to do with quality. Rijoa’s wines are some of the best in the world. Rather, tempranillo wasn’t cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or pinot noir, and those are the reds that got most of the attention. Wine geeks knew about it, but the grape deserves a wider audience than that.

Enter the Internet, which has allowed tempranillo and its advocates to sidestep the Winestream Media, as with today’s fourth annual International Tempranillo Day. Also important: The discovery that tempranillo does well outside of Spain, something that no one understood before and that has revolutionized Texas wine. I’ve even had tempranillo from Idaho, about as different a region from Rioja as imaginable. No castles, for one thing.

Why is tempranillo worth drinking? First, the Spanish versions are among the best values in the world. Second, it’s a food-friendly wine that doesn’t insult the wine drinker; in fact, most tempranillo needs food, be it red meat or roast chicken. Third, it’s not the usual red wine, and anyone who wants to enjoy wine should be eager to try something that isn’t the usual.

After the jump, the wines: Continue reading

Warren Winarski

Warren Winiarski returns to Colorado

Warren Winiarski

Yes, Warren Winiarski made wine in Colorado, and here is the label to prove it.

How incredible would it have been to talk writing with Ernest Hemingway? Or, for a painter, discuss technique with Michelangelo? Or, for a baseball player, pitching with Sandy Koufax?

I had a similar experience in Colorado this spring, when I spent a couple of days talking and judging wine with Warren Winiarski, one of the handful of people who helped transform the California wine business from its regional roots. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, California was not all that much different from what Virginia or Texas is today. Along the way, he produced the winning red at the 1976 Judgment of Paris, where California wine bested the French in a blind tasting that changed the way the world saw California wine.

That visit is the subject of a story I wrote for the on-line wine magazine Palate Press. Among the highlights:

? Winiarski made wine in Colorado for Ivancie Cellars in the late 1960s, shortly before starting Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Ivancie, founded to bring the idea of wine to the middle of the country, was 40 years ahead of its time. Says Winiarski — and echoing how many regional winemakers over the years?: “We underestimated how difficult making wine in Colorado was going to be. The wine was good, but the idea just never caught fire. ?

? The winemakers who attended a seminar with Winiarski (and where I was lucky enough to sit on the panel with him) were almost wide-eyed listening to him dissect their wines. Most importantly, he was polite, enthusiastic, and constructive in his comments, something that doesn’t happen enough often in a business that can get very snarky (and especially when the subject is regional wine).

? How can you argue with this winemaking philosophy? “Are you making a dancing slipper or a boot? What’s in your head? How do you follow through on what’s in your head? What do you want the grapes to become

Seminar photo courtesy of Michelle Cleveland, using a Creative Commons license; Ivancie label courtesy of Colorado Wine Press, using a Creative Commons license.


Colorado Governor’s Cup 2014

Colorado Governor's Cup 2014Ten years ago, when I first tasted Colorado wine, I spent much of my time being polite. As in, “This is nice. Thank you for letting me taste it.”

Those days are long gone, as was amply demonstrated last weekend during judging for the fifth annual Colorado Governor’s Cup. The red wines were exceptionally strong, and though the whites weren’t as good, they were technically sound and professionally made. In the regional wine business, that’s an accomplishment.

The best reds were cabernet franc and petit verdot, two Bordeaux grapes that do well in Colorado and that the state’s winemakers have taken to with enthusiasm (and especially cab franc). My panel gave a gold and double gold to cab francs, and a gold to a petit verdot. And the best wine of the competition was a petit verdot, from Canyon Wind Cellars. The results are here.

The wines were varietally correct, but also distinctive and reflected Colorado’s terroir — not a lot of fruit, more dry than a California wine, yet complex and very long. This is not an easy style of wine to make, but the state’s winemakers have made great progress figuring out how to work with their terroir over the past decade.

Finally, a few words about my pal Doug Caskey, who oversees the Colorado Wine Board and has run the competition since it started. One reason I enjoy judging this event so much is that Doug brings together judges who understand that Colorado wine isn’t French wine or California wine and isn’t supposed to taste like it came from those places. Sadly, too many judges downgrade wines that are “different,” which has nothing to do with quality, but with a preconceived notion about what wine is supposed to taste like that borders on snobbery and elitism.

The two people on my panel, Tynan Szvetecz and Sarah Moore, were terrific in this respect, and it was a pleasure to judge with them. I’m always lucky to work with people who put up with my idiosyncrasies, and they were no exception.

2013 Colorado Governor’s Cup/AWS Competition

This year has been nothing short of a revelation for regional wine. First, there was the stunning quality of wines from the other 47 states in The Dallas Morning News and TexSom competition. Then, there was Maryland ?s winning effort at this year ?s Drink Local Wine conference.

Last weekend, there was Colorado ?s exceptional performance at the annual Governor ?s Cup. I tasted 100 wines, and almost none of them, to paraphrase one of the judges, was a drain dumper. It was easily the best showing from Colorado in the decade or so I have judged its wines.

The official results won ?t be released for a month or so, so I don ?t know the names of the winning wines (though I will update later). But there were still many highlights, which come after the jump:

Continue reading

The 2016 presidential election

From a wine perspective, of course ? and regional wine at that. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon? Certainly not politics.

The Democratic candidate? Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who has been a tremendous advocate for Colorado wine. He came to the DrinkLocalWine media dinner in April, where he said all the right things and seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing. (There is even a picture of the governor and I floating around the Internet, which I have not yet been able to find. My Mom is not happy about this, so if anyone knows what happened to the picture, please let me know).

The Republican candidate? Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, whose efforts to help his state ?s wine business shame almost every other governor in the country (including and especially Texas ? Rick Perry). Maureen McDonnell, the state ?s first lady, has been an especially avid proponent ? even visiting Virginia wineries.

Mother’s Day wine 2012

Mother's Day wine

Doesn't Mom deserve wine for Mother's Day?

Buy Mom wine for Mother's Day. She'll appreciate it. Right, Mom? Or, failing that, buy her wine for Mother's Day brunch. Whatever you do, though, keep our wine gift-giving guidelines in mind — "Don't buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like."

These suggestions should get you started:

? Bonterra Viognier 2010 ($14, sample): Easily the best California viognier I've had in years (yes, damning with faint praise, but praise nonetheless), with crisp, clean apricot fruit. A little oily, which was interesting, and a decent finish. If it was cheaper, it's probably in the $10 Hall of Fame.

? Local wine: We tasted wines from a dozen or so states at our recent DrinkLocalWine conference, and there is plenty of quality and value out there. If you're in Colorado, try the Guy Drew riesling 2010 ($16, sample), with lemongrass, a lot of acid, and a fair amount of residual sugar that is barely noticeable because of all the acid. Excellent example of terroir and high altitude grapes. Not in Colorado? Ask for a recommendation for your Other 47 state in the comments or send me an email.

? Toad Hollow Risque NV ($16, sample): Sparkling wine that takes sparkling wine to a place it doesn't often go. Sweet? Yes, but not just to be sweet, but as a style. And there are plenty of bubbles to balance the sweetness. It was a favorite of the late Todd Williams, who ran Toad Hollow and always told a good story about this wine.

More about Mother's Day wine:
? Mother's Day wine 2011
? Mother's Day wine 2010
? Wine of the week: Luc Pirlet Pinot Noir 2009
Wine review: Cline Cellars Cool Climate Syrah 2010

Cartoon courtesy Gerald_G via OpenClipArt, using a Creative Commons license