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No Colorado wines? Try another excuse

I’m inserting this post from my other wine blog in recognition of Regional Wine Week, which for some of you ends Sunday, Oct. 15 but really never ends for those of us who post regularly about local wines.

A few selected excuses for not carrying/serving Colorado wines in your restaurant or liquor store.

Excuse No. 71: “I used to live in Carmel and I got spoiled drinking California wines.”

Excuse No. 35: “I had a Colorado wine four or five years ago and wasn’t impressed.”

Excuse No. 64: “They don’t taste like wines from California.”

Excuse No. 11: “They’re too hard to sell: Our customers don’t know anything about them.”

Yeah, yeah. I heard these excuses within the last two weeks during some travels around western Colorado. Being the nosy sort, and since I get paid for it, I make it a point to look at wine displays and check out wine menus wherever I go, and I’m certainly not opposed to asking restaurant staff and liquor store clerks about their sales and stocking of Colorado wines.

It rarely surprises me to find a lack of Colorado wines, given how small most of the state’s wineries are, how difficult distribution can be and how stores and restaurants depend on a reliable supply of wines to sell their customers. But in some cases, having no or only a tiny collection of Colorado wines makes no sense.

When a friend and I recently enjoyed dinner in Palisade, we found the meal delightful but were disappointed to find the wine menu listed only six Colorado wines among the 24 offered. We were told by the server that most customers didn’t understand Colorado wine and rarely ordered them.

With only six local wines (four whites and two reds) on the menu and little encouragement from the staff, we can understand why few people order a locally made wine. Sadly, this came from a restaurant in the heart of Colorado wine country, less than 10 minutes from several of the best wineries and a restaurant regularly patronized by the winemakers and owners of the wineries.

Of the two Colorado reds on the menu, we selected a Plum Creek Cellars 2008 Palisade Red ($24), a delicious blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese.

During another dinner, this at the Twisted Fork bistro in Gunnison where the wine list was right out of a distributor’s sales book, restaurant owner Jay Harris said he tried a Colorado wine “four or five years ago” and wasn’t impressed. “They didn’t taste like a California wine,” he said.

But to his credit, Harris did say he had recently dropped his national distributor (“They forgot to deliver my order, again,” he told me) and instead was hooking up with a Denver-based distributor. While that alone may not improve his selection of wines, particularly Colorado wines, he did say would be open to carrying a Colorado wine, if he could get a salesman to visit and he found a wine he liked. “But my other distributor doesn’t carry those wines,” he said, hoping to find a winery or two that made house calls.

And finally, during a stop at Acme Liquors in Crested Butte, I spotted a small display of Colorado wines but the clerk at the checkout said he knew nothing about them.

“We just started carrying those and I haven’t tried any,” he said, hardly a way to increase his sales. His excuse was No. 71 (see above).

So Colorado wines don’t taste like California wines. Nor should they, given the differences in soil, climate, growing seasons and that elusive quality known as terroir. They also don’t taste like New Zealand wines or French wines or even New York or Virginia or Argentina wines. That’s what makes them so special.

And you’ll find something special about all those other wines, too, which is why they are popular and why they sell in stores and restaurants. But if a popular restaurant in Boulder can devote half its wine list to Colorado wines, it seems restaurants on Colorado’s Western Slope, which produces 85 percent of the state’s wine grapes, might want to give the local wineries a try as well.

Unless, of course, you’re “spoiled,” for which I would suggest a little vacuum packing and storage in a cool, dry place.

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