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Waiting out the storm: surviving a wine crisis in North Texas

September 1, 2017 Comments off
Mad max

Laura Giles (@lgiles) posted this Friday on her Twitter account with the cutline “Rare image of the last known fuel shipment for North Texas.” 

A blog post Friday from my friend Susannah Gold got me thinking about the Texas wine industry post-Hurricane Harvey and while Texans have plenty to worry about, a call to blogger and author Jeff Siegel in Dallas found him stewing a bit over the situation.

“We’re close to having a wine crisis here,” lamented Siegel, a regular at the Colorado Governor’s Cup Wine Competition and one of the founders of the popular Drink Local Wine movement.

A crisis created not by a hurricane-induced wine shortage but by a citywide bout of gas-buying panic, creating immense lines and unnecessarily depleting some gas stations.

“It was plain old pure panic,” said Siegel, noting his problems are minuscule compared to the challenge facing thousand of his fellow Texans. “It was 1973 all over again.”

That was the year when an oil embargo from OPEC pushed the price of crude from around $3 per barrel to nearly $12 (today it’s around $47) and touched off panic buying and hoarding at gas stations all across the U.S.

In his attempt to fill the nearly empty tank of his compact car, Siegel found long lines tying up gas stations and reports surfaced of people pumping gas into 50-gallon barrels and every container they could find, hoping to stave off, well, what? Despite the damage done by Harvey in and around Houston, Dallas is 250 miles from the center of action and while some supplies have been curtailed, officials said the area has plenty of gas.

“Long lines at North Texas gas pumps fueled panic and crippled regular supplies at gas stations, causing temporary disruptions,” said local officials. It continued, “Outages and low supplies are expected to vary throughout the state.”txsmall_

But what about the Texas wine industry, the fourth-largest in the country? It turns out the great majority of Texas wine country is far away from Houston and missed the big hit, said Mark Hyman of Llano Estacado Winery near Lubbock in the High Plains area of west Texas.

Llano Estacado produces 162,000 cases per year (Colorado produces about 150,00 total) and its grapes come from the High Plains and the vineyards “in far, far West Texas,” Hyman said.

Hyman said some vineyards in the Texas Hill Country region around San Antonio felt the effects of Harvey but most of the wine crop already was in.

“We got some rain (before Harvey hit land) but it dried out in time for harvest,” Hyman said. “The whites are pretty much done and the reds are just coming out. We’ll be finished by the end of September (or early) October.”

As for Siegel, whose blog focuses on affordable wines, he’ll be OK. Among the wines he still has on hand are a Cantina Vignaioli Barbera d’Alba 2014 ($15) and a Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Rosato ($10), which he highly recommends for being “cheap and tasty.”

That we should all have such a crisis.

Colorado Mtn. Winefest uncorked as best wine festival in U.S.

August 19, 2017 Comments off

As if you really needed another reason to visit Colorado Mountain Winefest….

Thanks to the many fans who voted for Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank, the annual celebration of Colorado wine and food, has been named the Best Wine Festival in the U.S. by USA Today.

Winefest came out on top of the other finalists in the USA Today’s 10Best website, which enlisted a panel of wine and travel experts to nominate 20 of the best festivals “celebrating wine, wine culture and wine tourism across the country’s top wine-making regions.”

“Thank you to all who voted, and for those who continue to make Colorado Mountain Winefest everything it has grown into for over 25 years.” said Cassidee Shull, Executive Director for Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE) and Colorado Mountain Winefest.

The 2017 Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank runs Sept. 14-17 at Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

You can see the entire press release, and updated information about Winefest events and tickets, here.

 

Make it official: Colo. Mtn. Winefest is the best in the USA

August 11, 2017 Comments off
Winefest t-shirts crop

A smile says it all. Join your fellow Cellar Dwellers at the 2017 Colorado Mountain Winefest’s Festival in the Park on Sept. 16 at Palisade’s Riverband Park. Tickets are limited. Story/photo by Dave Buchanan 

It’s hard to argue with success. In its 25 years, Colorado Mountain Winefest has grown from four wineries to more than 50, from fewer than a thousand guests to more than 6,000 and from a small-town fall gathering to this state’s largest and probably most-eagerly awaited showcase for all facets of the state’s wine industry.

But we already knew that, didn’t we? Now we know we haven’t been alone all those years, talking up Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank to anyone who would listen (and maybe a few who wouldn’t).

Our locavore festival of wine, food, music and general good times (this year Sept. 14-17) has been named one of the 20 best winefests in the country by USA Today and is in the running for the title of Best Winefest in the U.S.

Well, boy howdy….

Competition is stiff. Other nominees include Big Sur, Napa, Charleston, Chicago, even the Aspen Food & Wine Classic is there, and right alongside is our own Palisade, Colorado.

The contest is by popular vote and truly every vote, your vote, counts. It’s your opportunity to share the love with the wine-loving world and vote for Colorado Mountain Winefest by clicking the link here. But please do it soon, the voting ends Monday (that’s this Monday, Aug. 14), which is like really soon….

Also, don’t forget to purchase your tickets to Colorado Mountain Winefest events on the Winefest website. Winefest has sold out the past several years, some of this year’s individual events already are maxed out and it’s likely the ever-popular Festival in the Park also will sell out again this year. As Winefest executive director Cassidee Shull loves to say, “We would not be where we are today without your support.”

 

Categories: Uncategorized

West Elks AVA celebrates the summer with wine trail Aug. 4-6

August 1, 2017 Comments off

This weekend (Aug. 4-6) marks the ninth annual mid-summer West Elks Wine Trail, celebrating the wineries, cideries and meaderies of the West Elks AVA and the North Fork Valley.

Featured venues include Alfred Eames Cellars, Azura Winery and Gallery, Black Bridge Winery, Delicious Orchards (Big B’s), Leroux Creek Vineyards, Mesa Winds Farm and Winery, Stone Cottage Cellars, Terror Creek Winery and 5680’ (winery contacts here).

Visitors begin their tour by obtaining a West Elks Wine Trail map from any of the West Elk wineries in the Paonia/Hotchkiss area. Each winery will feature food and wine pairings, with a focus on local foods.
The winemakers have selected two favorite foods to complement their wines and will give you the recipes just for stopping by. The nine wine tasting rooms will offer a wide variety of activities from vineyard tours, art displays, barrel tastings, winemakers’ dinners, food pairings, mountain views and more.
Complimentary wine glasses will be given to those who travel along the wine trail and collect recipes from at least five wineries.

Winemaker Dinner Update (as of Tuesday, Aug. 1): Leroux Creek has a few seat open for its French Affair winemaker’s dinner on Friday, August 4, at 6:30pm. Reservations: 970-872-4746.
Alfred Eames Cellars has limited seats (as of Aug. 1) for its Multicultural All American Culinary Experience dinner on Aug. 4. Details: 970-527-629.
Black Bridge will have Wood-Oven Pizza and Barrel Tastings on Saturday, August 5.
Big B’s at Delicious Orchards will be having a BBQ on Saturday, August 5, 12-8pm. Plus they will have live music by Zolopht, a progressive, reggae-rock band. Just drop in – no reservations will be taken.
Azura Cellars and Stone Cottage Cellars dinners are sold out.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Drive for show, putt for dough: Making the 19th hole a bit more refined

July 24, 2017 Comments off

The following is a free-lance wine article I did recently for Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine, an upscale (and quite affordable) guide to just about everything you wanted to know about Colorado golf and now have the money to afford.

It’s fun to tackle new challenges, this one particularly so since I’m not always at this level of wine buying and I tried to include something for everyone’s price range. Enjoy!!

——–

Maybe you’re self-secure enough to think it’s no one’s business how much you paid for the new Lexus or custom-made putter or even those golf shoes that had your wife asking if they were Manolo Blahniks.

So you certainly don’t worry about making a bidding war out of a wine list.

We all know there are ways to impress friends without breaking the bank, which leaves more in your wallet for that new driver you’ve been eyeing.

A few suggestions for wines whose value far exceeds their price. And sh-h-h-h, we’re not telling anyone how smart you are. Let them figure it out.

REDS:

Barón de Magaña 2010 Navarra  $24 – Round, generous and delightfully textured, this Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend (touched up with Tempranillo and Syrah) expresses a Bordeaux-like personality.

Tommasi Ripasso 2013 DOC Valpolicella Classico Superiore $25 – Full-bodied and spicy, with deep plum-like fruit flavors, thanks to the Ripasso style of winemaking.

Beaulieu Vineyard 2014 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon $45 – Tons of structure along with blackberry, caramel and earthy mint end in a juicy, tannin-supported finish.

Animo 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $85 – Bright, full-bodied, with subtle oak, and touches of minerality and plums and blackberries.

Beaux Frères Ribbon Ridge 2014 Pinot Noir $90 – Oregon does Pinot right. This softly oaked offering has lovely spice and tastes of fresh Oregon plum, currants and violets.

Added at editor’s request:

Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon $160 – Ripe, dark fruits (think blackberry, boysenberry) melded with cassis and plum notes. A touch of Cabernet Franc makes this sexy and rich.

Far Niente Oakville 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $150 – Spice, dark berries and mushrooms start the journey with dark plum, licorice and sweet tannins to finish.

WHITES:

Wente Vineyards Eric’s Small Lot 2014 Chardonnay $28 – This bright, unoaked Chardonnay done in the Old World style has hints of lemon zest and Mandarin orange and finishes with green apple and pear.

Domaine Gueguen 2015 Chablis $18-$30 – Stylish and crisp, full of stonefruit and hints of lime, with a linear acidity that holds it all together.

Rock Angel 2066 Cote de Provence Rosé $26 – Somewhat new to the American market, lit by red currants, cranberries and an herbal character that adds enough grip to pair with many foods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

In a land of fire and smoke, fine wines are born

July 18, 2017 Comments off
etnarossol

The lava flows of Mt. Etna are the background for the rich microclimates in Sicily’s vineyards. Photo courtesy Hotel La Perla 

Fire and lava normally aren’t considered attributes for producing elegant wines.

But for Chiara Vigo, who makes unadorned natural wines on her family’s estate, Fattorie Romeo del Castello, in the shadow of Sicily’s Mt. Etna, having an active volcano in her backyard is a way of life.

“For us, it’s a part of our life, something we see every day,” said Chiara during a brief conversation last spring at Vini Veri, a three-day gathering of natural wine makers in Cerea, Italy.

In 1981, when Chiara still was a young girl, well before she went off to earn a Ph.D in art and before she became a wine maker, Etna erupted, spewing ash and smoke and sending rivers of lava down its side.

One lava flow, which Chiara described as tall as a house, approached the estate, which grew grapes, olives and hazelnuts on roughly 60 hectares (about 145 acres) on Etna’s north side.

Chiara Vigo, Gianluca Torrisi

Chiara Vigo and Gianluca Torrisi show the 2013 Vigo during Vini Veri this spring in Cerea, Italy. Photo by Dave Buchanan

“We thought we would have to leave and lose everything, but when the lava arrived at the part of the old vineyard, it changed direction,” recalled Chiara in a story she’s told countless times.

Instead of engulfing the vineyard, the river of molten rock turned to the east, toward the Alcantra River.

“So now we have a vineyard with a big flow of lava rock inside the vineyard,” she said.

The 1981 eruption wasn’t Etna’s largest or even its most-recent but it does emphasize a certain aspect of danger not usually associated with winemaking, where the prevalent major threats are pests, bad weather and changing markets.

“You see the signs (of the volcano) everywhere,” said Vigo. “But it’s the lava rocks that give us such rich soil and make our wines special.”

That 1981 eruption left her family with 24 hectares (about 57 acres) of Nerello Mascalese vines, some just now starting to produce but also about 14 hectors of 70-100-year old vines in vineyards that reach close to 4,000 feet elevation. Here, under the Romeo del Castello label, she creates what might be called super-organic wines, going beyond the European organic certification and just short of biodynamic: without pesticides or added chemicals and using natural yeasts.

“We try to use the methods of the past traditions of Etna,” she said in the hubbub of La Fabbrica, the vast building in which Vini Veri 2017 was held. “We plant beans in the vineyards to feed the vines.”

This nonintrusive way of adding nitrogen and building the soil now is used by many producers of natural and organic wines.

“And it means instead of using herbicides, we cut the grass” between the rows, she said.

Grapes are hand-harvested and fermented using natural yeasts in open wooden vats.

The wines are aged in oak casks for about 14 months before being bottled without fining or filtration.

“We use only a little sulphur and only when we bottle,” she explained.

She makes two wines, both DOC Etna Rosso: the Vigo made only during the best vintages and the Allegracore, fermented in stainless steel instead of oak.

lava rocks on Vigo

The 1981 eruption of Mt. Etna left this wall of lave bordering the vineyards of Fattorie Romeo del Castello. Photo –  Louie Dressner Selections.

Sicily has more than 2,500 years of winemaking history (Nerello Mascalese has been grown on the Etna slopes for at least 200 years) but production was decimated when phylloxera arrived in the 1930s. While the island once had a reputation as a major producer of bulk wines, over the last 20 years its winemaking has become as complex as anywhere in the world.

Extended harvests (starting in August in the south to extending to mid-November on Etna’s slopes), rich soils and the new fervor of enlightened producers bring an exciting air to this island’s wine futures. In his book “Brunello to Zibibbo,” author Nicholas Belfrage, a British Master of Wine, argued that Sicily has the potential to be “California, Australia, Chile, southern France, Jerez and middle Italy all rolled into one.”

But as someone who lives everyday with the threat of an active volcano looming over her shoulder, Chiara Vigo shrugged at that proclamation.

“It’s true the wines of Etna have changed a great deal in the last 10 or 15 years,” she said. “I make our wines to reconnect with our ancestors and I can’t imagine doing it any way else.”

She pause while opening her 2013 Vigo. “It’s just another way to think, and to see agriculture and to see the earth. It’s our future.”

 

Her wines are imported by Louie Dressner Selections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wineries shine like gold during Governor’s Cup competition

July 12, 2017 Comments off
2017 Colo Gov's cup judges

Judges at the 2017 Colorado Governor’s Cup Wine Competition swirled, sniffed and sipped through 346 wines during the two-day event. Among the judges pictured are, from left, Jenni Baldwin-Eaton (plaid shirt), Warren Winiarski and Wayne Belding, closest to camera.  Story/photo by Dave Buchanan

The 2017 Colorado Governor’s Cup Wine Competition came and went over the weekend and of the 12 wines selected for the Governor’s Case were two white wines (including a sparkling Albariño), seven red wines, one fruit wine, one cider and a mead.

The Best of Show wine will be announced Aug. 3 when all the medal winners are celebrated at the official Colorado Governor’s Cup Tasting held at History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway in Denver. Information here.

This year’s judging featured 324 wines from 46 wineries, a welcome jump of about 25 percent over last year in both categories but still well short of where the competition could be. Colorado now has close to 150 wineries, so less than a third of them take part in the contest.

Wineries offer many reasons for not entering this and other competitions, like they simply forget to send their applications in time or it costs too much or they don’t have the wine to spare. But just as Colorado Mountain Winefest brings Colorado wines to a diverse audience, in the end the Governor’s Cup contest is a boon to the state industry.

The 12 selected wines in the Governor’s Cup case are used to promoted Colorado and Colorado wines and are featured at state dinners and marketing events.

It’s notable to add that this year’s entries in the cider/mead category also eclipsed last year, indicating the continued growth of artisanal ciders and meads. Well, ciders, anyway.

Four ciders and three meads were selected for the final round of judging, which again raised the familiar argument of whether there should be a separate competition for the non-grape segment of the wine industry. You can argue all you want as to whether ciders and meads actually are wines or should be in their own category but you’ll get no take from this side.

Last year there was a separate six-pack case of ciders and meads selected to accompany the regular Governor’s Cup case but this year it will be a mixed case. There was some discussion about separating the judging (that’s been tried in the past with fruit wines) and having separate Best of Show awards and Governor’s Cup cases for grape wines and for cider and mead. The problem is that separation adds to the cost of the competition.

The Governor’s Cup case wines (and their respective medals) includes: Bookcliff Vineyards (2016 Riesling, double gold); Carlson Vineyards (2015 Tyrannosaurous Red, gold); Colorado Cellars/Rocky Mountain Vineyards (nv Raspberry, double gold); Colorado Cider Company (Grasshop-ah cider), double gold); Creekside Cellars (2014 Cabernet Franc, double gold); and Guy Drew Vineyards (2015 Syrah, double gold).

Also: Meadery of the Rockies (Strawberry/Honey, gold); The Infinite Monkey Theorem (2013 Albariño (sparkling), double gold); Two Rivers Winery (2013 Port, double gold); Decadent Saint the Winery (2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, gold); Whitewater Hill Vineyards (2016 Sweetheart Red, double gold) and Winery at Hold Cross Abbey (2015, Merlot, gold). The final medal total was eight double gold medals, 16 gold medals, 140 silver and 103 bronze, totally 267 medals out of the 346 entries.