A look at Colorado wine, part II


This is the second of two parts looking at Colorado wine. Friday offered an overview, and today looks at some of the state’s wines.

How do Colorado’s wines compare to the state’s incomparable scenery? I’ve tasted them twice — once on a wine trip through the state, and again last fall. The verdict? It depends.


In many parts of the state, Colorado ?s winemakers face the same problems that everyone from everywhere that isn ?t California or the Pacific Northwest faces. Retail prices are higher than they should be, since the state ?s wineries are too small to enjoy economies of scale. This means there aren ?t many decent $10 wines, or much $10 wine at all. 

Distribution is limited, not only because most wineries don ?t make much wine (one of the biggest, Plum Creek, makes 14,000 cases a year, about what a decent-sized California winery will do in a month), but because most national distributors aren ?t interested in carrying Colorado wine. (In fact, if anyone outside the state wants to buy these wines, they’ll probably need to order from the winery.) 

In addition, the industry is too young to expect too much (though this is something many Coloradoans don’t understand). It took California 40 years from the end of Prohibition to emerge as one of the best wine growing regions in the world, and Colorado ?s most important efforts are only 10 years old. It takes at least that much time to just understand weather patterns, let alone figure out how what grapes to grow to fit the weather. Growers have had some success with riesling, which likes cold weather, but are still experimenting with other varietals. 

Many wines, though, do display considerable progress: 

? Canyon Wind Cellars has hired consultant Robert Pepi, whose family has made wine in Napa Valley since the 1960s, it shows. The reds, and especially the $25 cabernet sauvignon, are well-made and price competitive. The biggest surprise was the $15 pinot grigio, full of citrus and mineral flavors, a wine that does the entire state proud. 

? Guy Drew Vineyards produces an $18 syrah similar to some made in Washington state, a nice wine if a trifle pricey. 

? Drew’s neighbor down the road, an ex-British commando named John Sutcliffe at Sutcliffe Vineyards turns out a $20 riesling that is crisp and food-friendly — again well-made and again a bit pricey. 

? Palisade ?s Plum Creek does a respectable $10 sauvignon blanc that is more than adequate for that Tuesday night takeout dinner.

? Leroux Creek Vineyards, where Yvon Gros works with hybrids like chambourcin and cayuga. The Wine Curmudgeon, who has a deep and abiding fondness for hybrids, was very impressed.