Archive for July, 2012

Concert to help fund fruit, wine research

Another lesson in be careful what you ask for came Saturday. An innocuous phone call to fruit grower Neil Guard on East Orchard Mesa turned into a wide-ranging and thoughtful lesson in peach and grape management, politics, research funding and several other topics, including using a safety pin as a low-tech but effective cleaning tool for drip-irrigation nozzles.

“Hey, Neil, whatcha doin’?”

Fruit grower Neil Guard of East Orchard Mesa checks on some of the ready-to-pick Red Haven peaches in his orchard. In addition to 6 acres of peaches, Guard also grows nine acres of wine grapes, including both red and white wine varietals.

“Fixing sprinkler heads in the vineyards, come on out and enjoy the fun,” came Guard’s answer against the background scream of his recorded hawk calls, designed to keep marauding starlings from eating his peach and grape crops. In addition to his nine acres of grapes, Guard raises peaches on six acres of trees, all of which are heavily burdened as picking time nears.

“It’s crazy,” said Guard, pictured at right, as we walked down one row where ready-to-pick Red Haven peaches bent the branches like a thousand Japanese lanterns. “I’ve got a fantastic crop and just down the road they were hit hard by the April freeze.”

Such are the challenges of raising fruit in the Grand Valley, where spring frosts (damaging frosts this year hit in late April and early May) only compound the injuries from severe winters and blistering summers. It’s part of the terroir, that combination of environment and sense of place, that makes Colorado fruit stand out from that grown elsewhere.

While weather extremes save Colorado from the host of bugs and disease plaguing other fruit and wine-making areas, sub-zero cold and plus-100 temperatures bring their own challenges. Because fruit growing is a year-round contest, it requires year-round answers. Growers across Colorado often turn for answers to the knowledgeable but understaffed and underfunded crew at the Colorado State University Orchard Mesa Research Center.

Some larger programs in other fruit-growing areas, such as the University of California – Davis, offer answers but these typically are for California-centric problems, which may or may not apply to Colorado.

The local research station, which isn’t local at all but answers to wine-makers and fruit growers from Cortez to Sterling, is funded largely by CSU, and you know how tight school budgets are today.

To augment the state funding, some of the money that ensures there will be peaches, apples and wine grapes to enjoy comes from the fruit-growers themselves through the Western Colorado Horticultural Society.

Finally, here’s where you come in. The Hort Society and Grande River Vineyards are hosting a benefit concert Saturday at Grande River Vineyards by the Beatles tribute band “Imagine.” It’s part of the winery’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” series of concerts and the second year of benefit concerts (last year, Marcia Ball played the only night it rained all August) to raise money for the Hort Society and the Orchard Mesa Research Center.

“Things are changing all the time and we need research all the time,” said Guard, showing where various bugs, birds and blight have damaged fruit, making it commercially useless. He said one growing concern (though not yet confirmed in Colorado) is the brown mormorated stinkbug, a hardy and voracious Chinese invader you probably haven’t heard of before but for which there currently is no control.

First confirmed sighting in the the U.S. was in Pennsylvania in 2000. Researchers say the stinkbug attacks fruit trees and vegetable crops, including just about everything you have in your garden. A researcher from Rutgers University’s Pest Management program says the brown mormorated (marbled) stinkbug threatens to “throw growers out of business.”

Your dollar can fund research to keep Colorado in fruit and you in wine. Concert tickets, available at Grande River Vineyards and Fisher’s Liquor Barn, are $20 advance, $25 at the gate. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., music starts at 7:30.

Also, a locavore barbeque featuring locally grown ingredients will be available separately for $12 (dessert – Palisade peach cobbler and lavender ice cream – $3 extra). Buy a ticket, eat a peach, save a fruit grower.

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Back to work – And what great work to have


Late July finds me wayward in my regular weekly wine reviews. After a couple of weeks away from the computer, it’s time to catch up.

Estancia Pinnacles Ranch Monterrey County 2010 Chardonnay – (sample) Grown in the cool climate and sandy soils of Monterrey County gives this luscious, mouth-filling Chardonnay a ripe, creamy intensity with bright notes of tropical fruit, lemon and vanilla and a lingering finish. The oak is noticeable but additive, not overwhelming. $15.

Round Pond Estate 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – (sample). I’m about to capitulate and admit the Rutherford AVA of the  mid-Napa Valley (just north of Oakville) is my favorite winemaking region in northern California. Much of that  favoritism can be blamed on the shipment of Round Pond Estate wines I recently received.


Round Pond Estate 2009 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

The Round Pond Estate 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is a classic of this wonderful summer varietal: non-oaked, crisp acidity, flavors of citrus, floral and (I live in Colorado’s peach country) white peaches with a hint of apricots. 100 percent stainless steel, with a stone-minerality finish. Don’t serve it too cold; the wine develops multiple layers of flavors as it warms a bit. Winemaker Brian Brown said: “My goal with this wine is to transfer the fruit from the vineyard directly into the wine glass. Essence of white peaches in a glass.” $20-$24.

Round Hill Estate 2009 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s not that I have a bias against most California cabs, it’s just, well, maybe I do. Often too oaky, too jammy, too much in-your-face (for that I’ll watch Fox News). But the well-composed Round Pond 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon had me thinking of Spain, not northern California. Hints of Spanish lavendar, leather and dark chocolate open to stone graphite and dark fruits, and memories of rainy days in Rioja. $50

Round Hill Estates 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Call this the little brother to the pricier and more-complex Estate cab reviewed above. The Napa Valley version, based on Round Hill estate fruit and augmented by grapes sourced from trusted growers around the valley, is aged in second-year oak to allow the dark fruit flavors to shine through. Well-balanced, very drinkable now (I did, and it is), this is one little brother you’ll want to adopt. $30.

Nobilo Icon 2010 Marlborough Pinot Noir – This award-winning winery on the north end of New Zealand’s South Island was founded in 1934 by Croatian immigrant Nikola Nobilo, the scion of a family with 300 years of winemaking experience.

Grapes are sourced from vineyards across the Marlborough region, which is renowned for its cool-climate varietals, notably pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. The Nobilo Icon 2010 Marlborough Pinot Noir offers a classic profile of pinot noir, with textures of dark berries, chocolate and mocha adrift in silky tannins and lifted by a hint of smoky peat. It was perfect served slightly chilled with a barbecue of planked salmon and fresh sweet corn. It was equally delightful by itself. $22.

Nobilo Icon 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – (sample). These two Nobilo Icon wines were my first encounter with this 78-year old winery and they made me wonder which turnip truck I’ve been riding in. To say I was delighted and amazed isn’t enough; the wines were the standouts of the week and had my guests wondering aloud why I suspiciously was scrimping (I mean, serving) one bottle of each.

The Nobilo Icon 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc offered notes of crisp tropical fruit (pineapple, guava) and grapefuit. Complex and rich with hints of stony minerality and a bit of the sea. Again, avoid serving this sauvignon blanc too cold, as it develops richness and character with slight chilling. $22.

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Summer entertaining calls for the lift of a good rosé

Αfter last month’s initial blast of 100-degree days, the summer has settled into a routine of hot days and sultry warm evenings, perfect for entertaining outside.


Summer calls for entertaining with rosés, which come in a wide range of hues with flavors dominated by strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and watermelon.

However, summer entertaining can pose a challenge for wine drinkers finding themselves choosing between heavy-bodied reds and over-simplified white wines.

Oddly, many wine drinkers have a pre-conceived bias against rosés, even when it’s someone who hasn’t tasted one since the Beatles were together.

“I think the last one I had was in a funny-shaped bottle way back in college,” said a guest recently, her hands outlining the unforgettable shape of Lancer’s Rosé, which did double duty as a wine-bottle slash candleholder for many a college student when Nixon still was president.

Sadly, it’s easy to dismiss pink wine. Say “rosé” and most Americans think of something cheap, the sweet “blush” wines such as Lancer’s or Sutter Home’s white Zinfandel.

But there are many reasons to enjoy rosés, as fellow wine writer Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon, noted recently in his annual rosé review.

“I especially pondered that question (of why American’s don’t do much rosé) preparing for this post, the blog’s fifth annual rose extravaganza,” Siegel wrote. “And I can’t come up with a good reason. Rose is cheap. It’s better made than ever before. It’s food friendly. You can put an ice cube in it. What more do you need from a wine?”

A bit of pink-wine history is supplied by David White, founder and editor of the daily wine blog
In a recent column, White explained that way back in 1975, Sutter Home winemaker Bob Trinchero had some of his white Zinfandel get “stuck” during fermentation, meaning the yeast died before all the sugar had converted into alcohol. Rather than add more yeast, Trinchero let the wine sit for two weeks, White said.

When Trinchero revisited the wine, he knew this wine would be a hit and that’s how what we now know as Sutter Home’s white Zinfandel was born. As White and others have seen, the white Zin bandwagon would fill quickly.

But popularity does not mean great wine. White Zinfandels and similar “blush” wines usually are too sweet, more like strawberry Kool-Aid with an alcohol kick. True rosés, particularly those from France and Spain, are bone dry, multi-layered and refreshing. And those layers of complexity make the wines as food friendly as any wines.

There are several ways to make a rosé wine, but the two most common are leaving grape skins in the fermenting juice just long enough to add some color (remember all grapes give white juice) and the process called bleeding (“saigneé”), where the light-colored wine is siphoned off the freshly crushed grapes.

The main flavors are strawberry, cranberry, watermelon and raspberry although you might find a kiss of red flowers, some spice and even a hint of minerality.

And don’t take “pink wine” literally because not al of them are pink. Rose´s can vary from a light salmon to a medium red or dark rose (as in flower). And most alcohol levels can/should be 13 percent or less, which means a glass or two is refreshing rather than stupefying and puts you asleep by the pool.

Americans slowly are coming around to rosés, in part, I think, because Americans are traveling to countries where good rosés are common.

Some recents tastings:
Chateau Pesquie “Les Terrasses” 2010 — $13, well-balanced, dry, medium-bodied with raspberry and red cherry flavors.
Plum Creek Palisade Rosé 2009 — $9, semi-sweet, notes of ripe strawberries, watermelon and red cherry.
Canyon Wind 47-Ten Rosé 2011 — $14, dry, medium-bodied, notes of strawberry, cranberry and pineapple, at 14.6 percent alcohol the hottest of the tasting.
Chateau Sainte Eulalie Minervois 2011 — $15, dry, made in the saigneé method, hints of strawberries, raspberries and spice, 13.5 percent alcohol.

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