Archive for June, 2016

Beating nature-deficit disorder one wine bottle at a time


The Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area is one of three NCAs in western Colorado offering world-class outdoor experiences. Colorado Canyons Association is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization aimed at fostering good stewardship of the NCAs.

Yo, bro: Pass the Desert Rat Red.

A unique partnership between Colorado Canyons Association and Carlson Vineyards, forged through a spirited commitment of giving back to the community as well as finding needed resources to get young people into the backcountry, may provide the perfect pairing for your next canyon-inspired meal.

Sunday afternoon found Garret Portra, owner and winemaker at Carlson Vineyards, and a group of CCA staff and board members sampling wines, all in the name of conservation and defeating nature-deficit disorder.

Sunday’s working group, which included CCA executive director Joe Neuhof and assistant director Kate Graham, spent a few hours in the cool environs of the Carlson winery tasting various blends and rejecting them in turn until, as a little blonde girl once said, it was “just right.”

I know, tough work but someone has to do it, right?

Neuhof said the idea was born during a series of “Crazy about Canyons” fund-raising events sponsored by the CCA and held at Carlson Vineyards (the last one was June 11th).

“Garret and I would talk after the dinners and we both were looking for something to bring our efforts together,” Neuhof said. “This seemed like a natural.”

Once on the market, $1 from every bottle purchased will go the Colorado Canyon’s youth programs, Neuhof said.

“This might seem strange to some people but I think it’s a good fit for us and Carlson’s,” he said. “Our goal in 2017 is to get 3,500 kids into the backcountry and this will help that happen.”

The final decision is a blend of 72-percent Lemberger, also known as Blaufrankisch, the spicy red grape that adds a bit of ripe cherry fruit, acidity and medium tannins, and 28-percent Cabernet Franc, the savory Bordeaux blend grape that does well in the high desert climes of the Grand Valley.

The wine, which is yet to be bottled and named (don’t expect “Desert Rat Red”), will spend some time in French oak barrels and may be available late this fall, Portra said.

Neuhof said the front label will feature a photo, as of this writing undetermined, from the local canyon country.

Portra said the idea for the label came from Dave Phinney of Orin Swift winery in Napa Valley.

Phinney is known for his creative labeling and Portra saw the opportunity to do something eye-catching as well as provocative.

“We wanted something different,” he said. “Not only to stand out on the shelf but to let people know we support the CCA’s efforts. Cailin (his wife) and I are always looking for ways to give back to the community for our good fortune.”

As for Portra, this wine is his first opportunity to make his mark on the familiar and popular line-up of Carlson Vineyards wines.

“I’m really excited about this,” said the eternally upbeat Portra. “I didn’t think it would come this soon, but it’s my chance to put my stamp on Carlson wines.”


So many good things: North Fork wines, Colorado Mountain Winefest tickets on sale

NF Uncorked 2015

Some of the happy celebrants at Black Bridge Winery in Paonia during the 2015 North Fork Uncorked.This year’s event takes place June 18-19. Photo courtesy Jim Brett.

Tickets now are on sale for the 25th edition of the Colorado Mountain Winefest, once again presented by Alpine Bank.

This year’s four-day Winefest (Thursday, Sept. 15 through Sunday, Sept. 18) includes special wine-and-food pairings at participating local restaurants; four different Colorado Wine Country bus tours; and the 25th Colorado Mountain Winefest Festival in the Park on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Tickets to all events are limited and last year was the first time all tickets for all events were sold. Many people, eager to attend the popular Festival in the Park and accustomed to purchasing a ticket at the gate on the day of the event, were turned away.

Tickets for the Festival in the Park are $50 general admission, $190 for VIP and $25 for the non-drinker. These tickets are limited and likely will sell out. Fewer than 100 of the VIP tickets were remaining as of Friday.

More information, tickets and a complete list of events are available at and by calling 464-0111.

North Fork Uncorked June 18-19 – Join winemakers in Hotchkiss and Paonia celebrating Father’s Day weekend in style with their annual North Fork Uncorked, featuring wine and food pairings, winemakers dinners and special offers at participating wineries, open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Winemakers dinners, Saturday, June 18 – Lee and Kathy Bradley, Black Bridge Winery, dinner by the river. Tickets are $55. Reservations: 970-270-7733 or 527-6838.

Brent and Karen Helleckson, Stone Cottage Cellars, four course, locally grown. Tickets $65. Information and reservations: 970-527-3444.

Sunday, June 19 ­– Alfred Eames Cellars, Sunday Brunch, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. For menu and information on this and weekly brunches, call Pam Petersen at 970-527-6290.

More information on these and other North Fork Uncorked offers and activities is available at and at 527-3444.


This post was updated on June 9 to correct the dates for the 2016 Colorado Mountain Winefest (Sept. 15-18) and Pam Petersen’s phone number (527-6290).


Francesco Drusian: Preserving the heritage of Prosecco DOCG

Prosecco DOCG hills

The steep hills of the unique Valdobbiadene-Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG rise abruptly from the Venetian plain. The border separating the DOCG from Prosecco DOC lies at the base the hills. Story and photos by Dave Buchanan

BIGOLINO di Valdobbiadene (TV) – Standing amidst rows of spring-fresh vines climbing the razorback hills rising steeply to of the pre-Alps of northeast Italy, Francesco Drusian smiles at the thought of this region becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“We did everything we could to preserve our heritage,” Drusian says, reaching out to a light-green shoot just opening to the April sun. “Now, it’s up to others to decide if we did enough.”

It’s only a few days past VinItaly and I’ve called on Francesco Drusian in hopes of learning more about Prosecco and Drusian’s place in the narrative of Italy’s popular yet oft-underappreciated sparkling wine.

I’ll post more about our discussions in the future.

Few people would argue Francesco Drusian has done as much as anyone to preserve his heritage and that of Prosecco.

Drusian Brut

Born in the hills of Valdobbiadene-Conegliano and 100-percent Glera grapes. Photo courtesy Drusian FaceBook

According to Francesco, he’s the fourth generation of his family (the fifth, his daughter Marika, already is producing Prosecco DOCG under her own label) to make wine from these geometrically perfect vineyards overlooking the village of Bigolino, which itself lies on the north bank of the Fiume Piave near where the river cuts through the famed Valdobbiadene hills.

The winery began in the mid-19th Century with grandfather Giuseppe Drusian and then his son Rino making still wines. Francesco took over in 1984 and today the name Drusian connotes Prosecco Superiore DOCG, one of the best versions of the iconic Italian sparkling wine now soaring on a crest of popularity.

Francesco introduced sparkling wine to his winery in 1986, shortly after the autoclave afforded a way to control the secondary fermentation that gives Prosecco its sparkle and shortly before the world’s love affair with everything Italian became the tsunami we see today.

The advantages of the pressurized autoclave – including preserving bubbles and fresh flavors and reducing the labor and cost involved with metodo classico – suddenly made it possible for lovers of sparkling wine worldwide to enjoy a wine that is light, refreshing, food-friendly and surprisingly affordable.

“Prosecco DOC is the ultimate simple but sophisticated wine which personifies the unique Italian lifestyle” says the Prosecco DOC Consorzio website.

However, the international rush to adopt elements of the “Italian lifestyle” had its expected result: a flood of Prosecco, much of it poorly made and of dubious background (google “Paris Hilton prosecco”), hitting the market.

Even the very existence of a Prosecco DOC gives voice to the expansion, some say uncontrolled, of Prosecco as an industrial product.

By the mid-2000s, Prosecco, as with many other great things, had to be saved from its own success. Read more…