A look at Colorado wine, part I

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This is the first of two parts looking at Colorado wine. Today is  an overview, and Monday is a look some of the wines.

Guy Drew, who owns the self-named winery outside of Cortez in southwestern Colorado, insists the high desert in that part of the state will eventually produce world-class wines. And he isn ?t alone in that optimism, either. Talk to growers and winemakers throughout Colorado, from Grand Junction in the west to the Front Range in the east, and you ?ll hear the same thing. Colorado is a wine phenomenon waiting to happen.

Says Horst Caspari, the state viticulturist: ?One day, we ?ll be so popular, you ?ll see Hollywood celebrities buying land here and opening wineries. ?

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Wine of the week: Chateau LesTuileries Rouge 2005

image Most wine drinkers see Bordeaux as a great black hole made up of wine speak, unimaginably high prices, and an incredibly complex system of chateaux and classifications.

Which makes this wine (about $15) all the more welcome. It's a merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend in the classic Bordeaux style, but without any of the pretensions noted above. Classic means it's not a fruit forward popsicle, full of blueberry and cola, like most inexpensive Californa merlots. Rather, it has less fruit, more earthiness, and tastes more interesting. I stumbled on this when I was looking for a red Bordeaux to use for my Cordon Bleu class tastings, and it more than filled the bill.

Serve it with most beef (hamburgers on the grill wouldn't be bad at all) and even some meatier vegetable dishes.

Oregon wine update

image And it’s mostly good news, if my experience yesterday at a 20-winery tasting in Dallas is any indication. Oregon is best known for its world-class pinot noir and chardonnay, and there was plenty of that on hand. But the state’s producers are working with a variety of other other cool climate grapes, including and especially German varietals.

That said, the 2006 harvest had its problems. I tasted a surprising number of flabby and uninteresting wines, including too many that were overly alcoholic. That almost never happens in Oregon. I was told that this development has more to do with the difficulties in 2006 (not enough sun, too cool) than with any style shift. I hope so. Oregon is famous for its accessible, fruit-driven wines, which are a welcome relief to so much that comes out of California.

Here are some of the highlights from the tasting:

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Tuesday tidbits 24

? Now that’s a bribe:  Tip o’ the wine glass to Dave McIntyre, who passed this along. Wine magnate Bernard Magrez has outraged a group of journalists by offering each of them a Cartier wristwatch worth more than $2,600. The writers attended a wine lunch and got a bag when they left that had a press kit and a box with the watch, which most did not open until they had left the restaurant. Decanter, which ran the story, reports that that the majority of watches have been returned.

? Wine writers hall of fame: Silly, I know, but there it is — the first inductees will be honored June 16. (No word on whether they will receive pricey Cartier watches.) The group includes Italian specialist Burton Anderson; Hugh Johnson of World Atlas of Wine fame; Edward McCarthy, the co-author of many of the Wine for Dummies books; the Robert Parker; Frank Prial of the New York Times; the Jancis Robinson; and Kevin Zraly, whose Windows on the World is probably the best introductory book about wine. Posthumous inductees are pioneer wine writers Alexis Lichine and Frank Schoonmaker.

? Rolling Stones get into the wine business: Specifically, the band has has signed a licensing agreement with a Canadian icewine producer. The product, to be called Sympathy for the Devil, will retail for about C$125 (which is about US$125). The winery plans to do a red and white with the band, as well.

Wine review: House Wine 2005

image Or yet another reason why the Wine Curmudgeon likes Washington state wine.

This is a well-made, unpretentious red blend (cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with syrah, malbec and cabernet franc for good measure) that is everything so many Napa and Sonoma wines aren’t. It’s easy to drink, yet also food friendly.

It’s a touch pricey at $13, but considering how many decent red blends cost half as much more, that’s not a huge problem. Plus, one has to appreciate the humor in both the wine’s name and and the winery — the Magnificent Wine Co.

Serve this at room temperature with hard cheeses (or even cheese puffs). I made chicken in red wine with it, and then served the wine with dinner.

Where does flavored vodka fit into the mix?

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t do a lot of spirits writing, and when I do, it’s mostly whisky (or whiskey, depending on your point of view).

Which made this story, which I wrote for the Fort Worth newspaper, so fascinating. Flavored vodkas, which barely existed a decade ago, are huge, hundreds of million dollar labels. Flavored vodkas may have accounted for $1 out of every $6 spent on spirits in the U.S. in 2006.

Why the growth? Spirits companies want a slice of the key 21- to 35-year-old female demographic, and that group loves flavored vodka. After all, you can’t make a Dutch Chocolate martini with bourbon, but you can with chocolate flavored vodka.

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