Archive for the ‘Grande River Vineyards’ Category

Colorado Mountain Winefest 2017: It’s hard not to smile when you’re the best wine festival in the U.S.

September 22, 2017 Comments off
Jacob Winefest

Jacob Helleckson of Stone Cottage Cellars in Paonia works through a tangle of arms as thirsty Festival in the Park goers pack into the Stone Cottage booth Saturday during the Colorado Mountain Winefest. More than 50 wineries were pouring their latest offerings. Story and photos by Dave Buchanan.

A full two hours before the gates opened to Saturday’s Festival in the Park, an exclamation point to the 26th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank, the line of ticketholders curled back beyond the sign warning would-be attendees no more tickets were available.

Stalking past the boldly lettered “Sold Out” sign, the line twisted around the corner of Pendleton Avenue and up toward William Court.

There, a traffic control sign proclaimed “Residence only”, a mixed signal only a recovering editor might notice but easily understood nonetheless.

Such a turnout has become the new norm for a wine festival recently ranked the best in the U.S. by USAToday’s 10Best list.

“I’m amazed,” said an obviously pleased Cassidee Shull, executive director of Winefest and the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology, on seeing the exuberant line of festival goers. “This is the third year we’ve sold out. Maybe we’re not a secret anymore.”
And she laughed.

Saturday, a lot of people were laughing. And pushing up to the 50-plus wineries, reaching for free wine, and stomping grapes, and enjoying the music and seminars and VIP tent and Colorado sunshine. Oh, did I mention reaching for free wine?

Glug, glug, went the bottles. Slurp, slurp went the crowds.

Winefest2017 crowd pouring

Everywhere you went during Saturday’s Colorado Mountain Winefest were winemakers pleasing thirsty wine lovers.

Admittedly, Saturday morning at the Festival in the Park is not the best time to interview winemakers, who spend most of the day with their heads down, trying to stay one bottle ahead of the hordes of wine lovers.

But even with this year’s festival blessed by clear skies, perfect temperatures and a crowd whose only two rules seemed to be No. 1 – Have fun, and No. 2 – see No. 1, something was missing.

Oh, yes. Somewhere, not too far away, was a summer’s worth of grapes screaming to be picked.

“Man, we’re right in the middle of harvest,” Garrett Portra of Carlson Vineyards said during a brief pause in the day’s nonstop bottom’s up. “We’ve already crushed 70 tons, including most of our Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Riesling and all of our Lemberger. And we should have another 50-56 tons yet to come in.”

Portra said harvest is running “at least two weeks early,” a sentiment shared by most winemakers.

“We’ve already picked 150 tons and should be getting another 250,” said Bruce Talbott, the area’s largest grape grower. “We’re right in the middle of harvest. I’ve got crews all over the valley picking grapes. Give us another three weeks and we’ll have it done.”

Last week’s short rain delay might have been a blessing for some winemakers. The wet ground prevented crews from getting into the field and opened a day for the winemakers to attend Winefest.

“There really wasn’t enough rain to make a big difference, maybe the next morning it might have been an issue, but with Winefest we didn’t have anyone to pick anyway,” said Nancy Janes of Whitewater Hill Vineyards and Winery on 32 Road. “It’s about 2-3 weeks ahead, but the grapes are looking really good, the quality is fabulous and we have beautiful consistency.”

Her report illustrates how weather differently affects the east and west ends of Orchard Mesa. While Janes said she didn’t see much hail at 32 Road, Palisade, roughly at 38 Road and pinched by the steep slopes of Mount Garfield and Grand Mesa, can see more violent weather.

Wayne's ice carving

Chef Wayne Smith, head instructor for the culinary program at Western Colorado Community College, carved this ice wine-luge from two 100-blocks of ice during Saturday’s Festival in the Park.

And so it was that Naomi Smith of Grande River Vineyards in Palisade said the hail came fast enough some people pulled under shelters to protect themselves and their cars.

“We haven’t been out in the fields yet to see if there was any damage,” she said. “But everything has come on fast so we’ve been back-to-back picking and pressing. There was a lot of rain but so you can’t pick right now anyway because the grapes fill with water and aren’t good for winemaking.

“But it’s OK because we’re way ahead of schedule and besides, today’s Winefest.”

Over at the ice-carving exhibit, Chef Wayne Smith of Western Colorado Community College and Travion Shinault, a student in the WCCC culinary program, were wrestling two 100-pound blocks of ice into position.

Smith’s plan was to create an icy wine luge, complete with pouring spout and a frozen likeness of Mount Garfield. He picked up a small electric chain saw and grinned at Shinault.

“Bet you never thought you’d be using one of these in culinary school, did you?” he asked the burly Shinault.

“Man, this is all new to me,” said Shinault. And he laughed.



Dancing to the the U-pick hustle in the West Elks AVA

July 2016 West Elks AVA TC

The West Elks AVA rivals anything elsewhere in the wine world.The North Fork Valley and its nine wineries roll out the red carpet during the West Elks Wine Trail, Aug. 5-7.

PAONIA – Midsummer finds us committed to the U-pick hustle, darting around the North Fork Valley and the Grand Valley seeking tree-fresh cherries, apricots and peaches available seemingly everywhere.

The early peaches (some Paul Friday varieties, if I remember correctly) are at farm stands across the area, tempting the palate as if to say,”You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” with new varieties appearing almost weekly, each one more juicy and luscious than the last.

It’s also time for the eighth annual West  Elks Wine Trail, this year on Aug. 5-7, sponsored by nine wineries in the North Fork Valley and named for the West Elks AVA, one of Colorado’s two specially designated wine-grape growing regions.

Special winemakers’ dinners, premium wine tastings and full-on open houses at the wineries make this weekend one of the more-anticipated of the summer. Each participating winery is featuring special food and wine pairings, with a focus on local foods and wines.

Several of the wineries also are hosting their ever-popular winemaker dinners, most of which fill early so reservations are a necessity. Call the wineries for reservations and more information, because what you see here is the only information supplied by the wineries. Prices, when given, are per person. All phone area codes are 970.

Aug. 5Leroux Creek Inn, 6:30 p.m., 872-4746; Mesa Wind Farms & Winery‘s Dine in the Orchard, 6:30 p.m., $95, 250-4788.

Aug. 6Alfred Eames Cellars, Uruguayan Dinner, 6 p.m. $75, 527-3269 or 527-6290; Azura Cellars & Gallery “Tapas at Twilight”, 7 p.m.; free R/C yacht racing starting at 10 a.m.,  527-4251; Stone Cottage Cellars Winemaker’s Dinner at the Cellar featuring a Fattoria Italiana, 7 p.m. 527-3444, $80; Delicious Orchards BBQ from noon – 6 p.m. with live music from 4-7 p.m., no reservations needed,  527-1110. Black Bridge Winery Barrel Tasting at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., repeats on Aug. 7, 527-6838.

The wineries in the North Fork Valley celebrating the West Elks Wine Trail include those listed above as well as Terror Creek Winery, the state’s highest vineyards (at 6,400 feet elevation) as well as one of Colorado’s first wineries, 527-3484; and 5680′ Vineyards, (no website),  314-1253. The photo above was taken at Terror Creek Winery.


Dreading tax season? It never ends for winemakers

March 11, 2016 Leave a comment
072314 FD wine yeast art

Wines being aged in barrels or bottles are counted as produced wine but aren’t taxed until the wine is moved out of bond.

Readers of a certain age will recall a 1960s TV series called “The Untouchables” featuring Robert Stack as Elliot Ness, a Prohibition agent in Chicago in the late 1920s.

Ness, under the aegis of the then-Bureau of Prohibition, was credited with breaking mobster Al Capone’s hold on Chicago by destroying Capone’s extensive bootlegging network.

Photos of Ness and his hand-picked team smashing huge vats and beer tanks and pouring illicit booze out into the streets helped viewers forget Ness was not simply an axe-wielding, anti-alcohol Carry Nation but a federal tax agent, making a case against Capone for tax evasion.

Ness and Capone are gone but the feds, through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), still keep a sharp eye on who pays their excise taxes.

Wines are taxed at state and federal levels at varying rates according to the wines’ alcohol-by-volume content (it’s similar for beer and spirits). The higher ABV, the higher tax per gallon. The rates goes from $1.07 a gallon (21 cents per .750 ml bottle) for wine with up to 14 percent ABV up to $3.15/gallon for wine with 21-24 percent ABV.

Wineries can either pay the taxes as they come due (see below) or post a bond, an insurance policy of sorts, against the tax bill.

Bonds are fairly cheap, as low as $100-$200 for the smallest wineries.


Excise taxes are due on wines when they become available for public consumption or purchase.

“The concept of a bond was the feds having some assurance you will pay your excise taxes,” said Bob Witham of Two Rivers Winery and Chateau on the Redlands.

Once a wine is “produced”, meaning fermentation is done, it is subject to excise tax. A winery doesn’t have to pay the tax until the wine is ready to be sold or consumed. By storing (aging) the wine in bottle or barrel in specially designated bonded areas, the winery can delay paying these taxes.

Once the wine moves out of the bonded area, which may be somewhere in the winery or an offsite storage unit, the excise taxes are due. Read more…

Vines on a mountain: Elevation as terroir in Colorado winemaking

August 29, 2015 Leave a comment
The concept of terroir , says winemaker Warren Winiarski, includes all things not man-made. In Colorado, that includes growing grapes at high elevation. These Gewurtztraminer vines, thriving at 6,200 feet elevation near Paonia, Co., are among the highest vineyards in North America.

The concept of terroir, says winemaker Warren Winiarski, includes all things not man-made. In Colorado, that includes growing grapes at high elevation. These Gewurtztraminer vines, thriving at 6,200 feet elevation near Paonia, Co., are among the highest vineyards in North America.

The question of whether Colorado wines reflect a unique terroir has no easy answer.

Supporters of “terroir” – the concept that the place a wine comes from is reflected in its taste and determines its quality – claim they can identify a wine’s distinct origins simply by blind-sampling the wine.

Do Colorado wines reflect their provenance and is it enough to be unique?

For some ideas and possible answers I turned to Warren Winiarski, the winemaker who produced the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine that won the 1976 Judgment of Paris and made America a wine-drinking country. Before that, however, Winiarski in 1968 helped Denver dentist Gerald Ivancie set up Colorado’s first modern commercial winery.

During a mid-May tasting of Colorado wines at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Winiarski said how impressed he was with some of the samples. Read more…