Talk Colorado Wine & Colorado's Wine Country: March 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Colorado Wine Country Video

The Grand Junction Visitors and Convention Bureau recently produced a great video about Colorado's Wine Country for YouTube. The video features many familiar local faces, including Bob Witham, owner of Two Rivers Winery, and Naomi Smith, owner of Grande River Vineyards. Check it out:

To see more of the GJVCB's videos about the Grand Valley, simply click here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So What Makes a Wine 'Colorado Grown' ?

Appellations define where a wine is made. In the case of true Colorado estate-bottled wines, this would derive from either the Grand Valley or West Elks American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to convey quality for U.S. wines.

But what about further seals of excellence for quality, in-state wine? Not all of Colorado's best wineries are located near Palisade or Paonia. As long as the wineries use grapes from these areas or from a handful of smaller vineyards along the Front Range, they can bottle their vintages using the "Colorado Grown" label.

One wine expert recently explained how this process is defined.

Under the headline, "'Colorado Grown' Appeals to Consumers Seeking Local Wines," Practical Winery & Vineyard Reporter Don Neel writes:

"Colorado wine consumers can obtain 100 percent Colorado Grown wines. In the infancy of the Colorado wine industry in 1990, drafters of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Act coined the phrase “Colorado Grown,” and included language in the statute that only wine containing 100 percent Colorado fruit could use the phrase on wine labels."

"Two influential drafters of the Act were Steve Smith (who founded Grande River Vineyards in 1987), and Doug Phillips (of Plum Creek Cellars, founded in 1984). The phrase and its use have since become part of the Colorado Liquor Code."

“Some people were happy with the federal 75 percent requirement for the Colorado appellation,” Smith recalls."

“But Doug and I wanted something designating 100 percent, that could be pro-actively promoted.”

To view the full story, go the Colorado Wine Industry & Development Board's press page and download a .PDF file, or simply click here to learn more about Colorado Grown Grapes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Celebrating Colorado's Craft Distillers, Part II

Micro-distilleries are a popular new component of Colorado's wine and spirits scene. Whiskey, bourbon, grappa and gin are a few of the quality liquors being produced in limited batches across the state.

(One a side note: the Wine Country Inn proudly serves Palisade's Peach Street Distillers as top shelf liquors during its receptions and events).

One reporter recently took a stab at describing several of Colorado's craft distillers.

Under the subhead, "Peachy Place: Colorado’s First Legal Bourbon," Colorado Springs Independent Reporter Matthew Schniper writes:

"Location, location, location."

"It can make or break a business. It can do lovely things to a drink."

"Consider how the wine world embraces terroir (how a product's unique locale plays into its flavor), and it's a no-brainer why Peach Street Distillers set up shop in fruit-abundant Palisade."

"I go pick what I want," says head distiller Davy Lindig. "[A product] is always better when you can get it from the source."

"Not only does Peach Street use post-mashed sticks, skins and stems from nearby Debeque Canyon Winery to make Grappa, but it uses fresh fruit for a line of Eaux-de-Vie (fruit brandies); local juniper berries, herbs and spices for its gin; and not-too-distant Olathe sweet corn for its vodka and bourbon."

"Yes, Peach Street holds the honor of marketing the first legal bourbon ever made in Colorado. And no, bourbon doesn't have to be from Kentucky."

"To clear up the myth, Lindig says a bourbon must be made in the U.S. out of at least 51 percent corn and age for no less than two years in a brand-new charred-oak barrel. That's basically it."

"People haven't done it before, speculates Lindig, because distillers must endure the expensive start-up and barrel-aging interlude; Peach Street's initial release this past fall yielded a fairly small 200 bottles (available only in the tasting room, at present)."

"To get Peach Street off the ground in November 2005, co-founder Rory Donovan — who partnered with Bill Graham and David Thibodeau of Durango's Ska Brewing Co. — self-distributed statewide."

"I put some miles on the truck," he says. "I was handling 300 accounts from Fort Collins to Telluride."

"But he finally caught the attention of Republic National, a major distributor. Soon, he expects to release 150 six-pack cases of bourbon every four to six months for distribution."

"Peach Street bourbon recently won a gold medal and 90-point rating from the Beverage Tasting Institute, a respected, 28-year-old review organization."

"We're only 3½ with a 2½-year-old whiskey that's getting rated the same scores as 100-year-old distilleries and their 7- and 8-year-old whiskeys," says Donovan. "It tells me, just like with craft brew, when you put some time and effort and slow things down and do it yourself, you can make a hell of a product."

"Everything but Peach Street's bourbon ($58, 750 ml) is available in local liquor stores. Other prices for 750 ml bottles range from $28 to $32."

This is part two of a two part series on Colorado's craft distiller scene. You can read the rest of the article aboutColorado's other craft distillers here.

So, would you drink some of Colorado's distilled spirits?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Celebrating Colorado's Craft Distillers, Part I

Boy, Coloradans sure know how to get plastered in style! In a pure celebration of all things related to the fermentation of grape and grain, Colorado boasts over 70 wineries and over a hundred brewpubs. Denver is home to Modern Drunkard Magazine and is sometimes labeled the "Napa Valley of Microbreweries."

But what about Colorado's dozen or so craft distillers? This cottage industry is producing limited batches of the hard stuff, and people are flocking to buy it. The Colorado Springs Independent recently highlighted this niche market, including Palisade's very own Peach Street Distillers.

Under the headline, "High Spirits: Colorado's Breweries Aside, Our Dozen Craft Distillers Shall Not Be Ignored," Independent Reporter Matthew Schniper writes:

"Bottle for bottle in Colorado last year, Denver-distilled Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey outsold every other top-shelf whiskey "by a wide margin," according to co-founder Jess Graber."

"I don't have actual sales receipts," he says, "but the liquor stores tell us, 'You sell way more than anyone else.'"

"The small distillery laid its first barrel to mature just five years ago, and still puts out just three barrels per week — which represents about five minutes of production for the mass-producing distilleries. So if Graber's decidedly unscientific analysis is true, Stranahan's sales success could be considered amazing."

"And totally appropriate."

"Anything that's hand-crafted will taste better, period," says Bill Owens, of the Hayward, Calif.-based American Distilling Institute."

"Owens, a former brewer who's been tracking spirit trends for six years now, says the number of current operations, currently around 150, is growing by roughly 20 per year. Colorado distilleries account for a dozen, falling behind only California, Michigan and Oregon nationally, and accounting for about as many craft operations, Owens says, as can be found in all of Europe."

"[The Europeans] scratch their heads and can't figure out why anyone would even bother," says Owens. "They don't understand the American Dream."

"Talk to any small distiller, one producing a few thousand cases versus millions, and you'll find that relentless pursuit of the dream is indeed what it takes to carve a niche alongside the distributors of mass-quantity, mainstream spirits. Because the "barrier to entry" is so high — paying for bottling, licensing and distributorship on top of significant investment capital, with an expected two- to three-year negative cash flow — Owens estimates that distilleries will never surge quite like microbreweries have."

"The ones that are here, though, like Stranahan's, are doing just fine."

This is part one of a two part series. You can check out some of Colorado's other craft distillers here.

So what are some of your favorite top shelf liquors? Have you ever tried any from Colorado?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Wedding Promotion for the Wine Country Inn

The wedding niche of the blogosphere continues to circulate an article written by PerfectOurdoorWeddings last year, a piece that featured the Wine Country Inn. This time, the story was picked up by

Under the headline, "Five Breathtaking Destinations for your Vineyard Wedding," an admin at WeddingNightRomance wrote:

"Many brides search for the ultimate outdoor wedding location to capture the romance of their special day. If you are looking for a wedding spot that’s out of the ordinary, a vineyard may be the perfect destination, adding a touch of sophistication and elegance to your outdoor wedding. Perfect Outdoor Weddings chose the top five vineyards where you can treat yourselves to beauty, serenity, enjoyable group activities, and fine wines, while celebrating the most wonderful day of your lives."

You can read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Our Very First Wine Country Inn YouTube Video

Check it out. We have created our very first YouTube video, featuring our Jazz 777 night. Our full Wine Country Inn profile will be ready in a couple of days.

So, give us your feedback and tell us, what do you think?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Colorado 2008: Great Year For Local Wines

Poor Denver is losing one of its hometown papers, the Rocky Mountain News. But the nearly 150 year old newspaper did not leave without reporting quality wine news to the end. The News recently wrote about how 2008 should be a great vintage for Colorado wine, with the right conditions coming together for an excellent grape harvest.

Under the headline, "Colo. Vineyards Uncork a Good Year: Mild Weather, Slow Ripening Cited For Quality Grape Harvest," Rocky Mountain News Roger Fillion wrote:

"Colorado winemakers are toasting the quality of the state's latest grape harvest."

"They predict last fall's harvest will produce some of Colorado's better, if not best, wines in recent years. And there should be plenty of bottles to go around."

"Colorado wine-grape growers appear to have picked a record amount of grapes from their vines during the 2008 harvest."

"In particular, vineyard operators in the Grand Valley near Grand Junction reported high yields. Frost, by contrast, inflicted some damage in the smaller growing region around Paonia."

"The state's overall harvest could total nearly three times the tonnage recorded in the 2007 harvest. Cold weather slashed the grape tonnage that year."

"Mild weather and a slow ripening contributed to the quality of the latest grape harvest, winemakers said."

"We're definitely pleased with the grapes this year," said Jackie Thompson, winemaker at Boulder Creek Winery. "The flavors are pretty intense."

"She said the winery's merlot and syrah wines - now in barrels - "are going to be the best we've ever made."

"A survey of some of Colorado's 75 wineries elicited more praise. Winemakers said Riesling and cabernet franc also showed good quality."

"It was a long, not terribly hot season. We got great ripeness," said Nancy Janes, winemaker at Whitewater Hill Vineyards and Winery in Grand Junction.

"The merlot looks absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful flavor and color. Very rich fruit."

"The state's first full-time consulting winemaker, or enologist, was upbeat, too - but not as effusive as some of the winemakers."

"It was a good vintage. But it wasn't spectacular," said Stephen Menke, who also teaches enology at Colorado State University."

"Basically, the flavor profiles seem pretty good. This will be one of the better vintages."

"The last notable vintages were in 2005 and 2006."

"Colorado joins other states where early signs suggest that the 2008 vintage was a good one."

"According to Wine Enthusiast magazine, favorable weather produced "excellent" to "outstanding" grape harvests last fall in such key wine-producing states as California, Washington and Oregon."

"Bill Musgnung, a winemaker who relocated to Paonia from Oregon to produce wine, said Colorado benefited from "ideal growing conditions." He also said grape growers here "now understand that by keeping the vine fruit yields lower this makes for better wines."

"The result: "The fruit is fantastic and the wines should be some of the best ever made in Colorado," said Musgnung, who buys grapes to produce wine at his winery, Bethlehem Wine Cellars."

"Musgnung has sampled numerous wines from other wineries. "Thus far the fermenting Rieslings that I've tasted are absolutely fantastic and the reds are shining."

"He singled out wines from Cortez, Palisade, Hotchkiss and Paonia."

"In addition to good quality grapes, the 2008 harvest also represents a bumper crop for Colorado vineyards."

"It's a new state record. No doubt about it," said Horst Caspari, Colorado's state viticulturist.

"I think we might be getting close to 2,000 tons. Maybe 1,800 to 2,000 tons."

"That would be a dramatic turnaround from the 2007 harvest. Unusually cold weather in late 2006 and the spring of 2007 wreaked havoc on Colorado vineyards, especially in Delta County."

"The resulting grape yield totaled just 700 tons, down from 1,515 in 2006."

"It's our biggest and one of the better quality harvests we've had," said John Garlich, owner of BookCliff Vineyards. The winery owns and manages 33 acres of vineyard in Palisade.

"Garlich said BookCliff may produce its first "reserve" merlot since 2005. The wine is aged in new oak barrels."

"While the quality of the grapes is said to be good around the state, not all vineyard operators reported big harvests."

"Eames Peterson, owner of Alfred Eames Cellars in Paonia, said a spring frost destroyed 80 percent of the pinot noir grapes he has planted on three acres."

"We had good quality grapes but a lot of frost damage," said Peterson, who also is the winery's winemaker. "That was not true of all the vineyards up here."

"He noted the area - which sits about 1,000 feet in elevation above the Grand Valley - contains numerous microclimates because of the nearby West Elk mountains."

"No Sour Grapes Here"

"Why is Colorado's 2008 wine grape harvest considered a particularly good one? Experts weigh in:"

* "It was a long, not terribly hot season. We got great ripeness. The flavor and the color are all really good." Nancy Janes, Whitewater Hill Vineyards and Winery winemaker

* "Riesling turned out well. It has more of a European-type flavor. It tastes more off- dry because the acids are high." John Garlich, BookCliff Vineyards owner

*"The grapes have very good flavor. The sugar, acid and pH were in good balance." Doug Vogel, Reeder Mesa Vineyards winemaker"
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