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It’s a wrap: Colorado (mostly) finishes 2017 harvest and it’s a big one

November 5, 2017 Comments off
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Hanging around after harvest. Some grapes from the 2017 harvest went unpicked, either due to lack of demand or when winemakers ran out of storage space. Photo & story by Dave Buchanan.

Talking earlier this summer to winemakers and grape growers across Western Colorado left two impressions: One, All signs earlier this summer pointed to an early harvest and, two, that there was going to be a lot of grapes to harvest. In most cases that has proven true.

“I think everyone is finished except for some late stuff that didn’t get harvested and was left hanging,” state viticulturist Horst Caspari of the CSU research station on Orchard Mesa said last week. “One reason some grapes weren’t harvested is because the wineries’ tanks are full and no one is buying anymore.”

Most winemakers are reporting this year’s harvest took advantage of excellent mid-summer growing conditions and ran about two weeks early across the valley.

Kaibab Sauvage of Colorado Vineyard Specialists LLC in Palisade said he forecast an early harvest last spring after seeing an early bud break (flowering) on his vines.

“We were about 20 days ahead of normal,” said Sauvage, who owns and manages vineyards and sells grapes on contract to winemakers. “This was an excellent harvest, especially because it’s done. We came up with a little unsold fruit but for the most part we got everything sold.”

Sauvage repeated what many grape growers were saying, that the size of the 2015 and 2016 harvests, among the largest in the valley’s history, haven’t left much room for the 2017 crop.

The two previous years allowed wineries to fill their tanks and build some back-stock after disappointing harvests in 2013 and 2014.

But wineries still have much of that back-stock, which means they don’t have extra tanks or storage places open.

“We have a history of feast or famine, and (winemakers) definitely feasted in 2015 and 2016,” Caspari said. “We still have plenty of inventory from last year and sales aren’t increasing by 20 percent every year. Most wineries have bought all they can take or want or both.”

Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, who teaches the viticulture and winemaking courses at Western Colorado Community College, said she had grape growers cautioning her in September about an early harvest.

“The students weren’t quite ready for the grapes when they got delivered,” she said. “I told them, ‘Welcome to the world of winemaking.’”

However, Nancy Janes at Whitewater Hill Vineyards and Winery said her crop, which is west and a bit higher in elevation than most other grape areas in the Grand Valley, finished right on schedule.

“I’d say at this point we’re pretty much right back on track,” Janes said. “So sometime during the course of it we fell back into a more normal schedule.”

She said her harvest, which she expects to be around 90 tons, is up a bit from last year. Some of that, she said, is the growing conditions this year as well as continuing recovery of vines damaged during the hard winters of 2013 and 2014.

Sauvage agreed that 2017 has been excellent for quality.

“Both quality and quantity,” he emphasized. “We were down about five percent from 2016 but that was the biggest year I’ve seen in Colorado for the last 17 years.”

Caspari said early estimates put the 2017 harvest at just over 2,000 tons. When all the numbers come one, this year could eclipse the 2,100 tons harvested in the 2012, the largest yet on record.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Grape wine? Fruit wine? Two sides share top award at 2016 Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup Competition

August 22, 2016 Leave a comment
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Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (left) enjoys the occasion as Glenn Foster (in blue) of the Meadery of the Rockies and John Garlich of Bookcliff Vineyards share Best of Show in the 2016 Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup Competition.Photo courtesy Kyle Schlachter/CWIDB

This year’s Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup Competition, sponsored by the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, wound up Aug. 4 with Meadery of the Rockies in Palisade and Bookcliff Vineyards of Boulder sharing Best of Show in their respective divisions.

A Strawberry Honey wine from the Meadery won the cider, fruit wine and mead division while Bookcliff took the traditional grape wine division with its 2013 Ensemble, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

Additionally, Bookcliff and Whitewater Hill Vineyards of Grand Junction both had three wines included in the Governor’s Cup Case, which this year holds 18 bottles instead of the 12 usually found in a case of wine.

The other six are ciders, fruit wines and meads. Meadery of the Rockies and Colorado Cellars both have two fruit wines selected for the case.

The complete list of winners can be found on the Colorado Wine Industry Development website here.

This year’s Governor’s Cup, the only wine competition exclusively for Colorado wines, featured 250 wines from 35 Colorado wineries and continues as a much-awaited display of the state’s steadily improving wine industry.

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Wine judges Andrew Stover of Washington, D.C. and Jeff Seigel of Dallas share some opinions after the official end of the 2016 Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition.

An observer might expect, given the state has 140-plus wineries, to see more than one-quarter of those wineries entering the state’s namesake competition.

The reasons for the lack of entrants are several, including some wineries don’t open their email to see the invitation or forget to send their entries on time.

Some wineries enter other competitions and say they can’t afford to enter another contest, although at $25 per entry, Colorado charges only a fraction of that charged by national or international wine contests.

But in truth, some winemakers simply don’t hold the state competition in high esteem.

One winemaker I recently talked to, a talented vigneron who in the past has done quite well at competitions at various levels, has quit entering the state contest.

She said it’s worth more from a marketing standpoint to enter the better-known San Francisco International Wine Competition, the largest in the U.S.

“Why waste the money to get a medal here when I can get a gold or double-gold from San Francisco?” she asked, not expecting an answer.

There are a couple of good reasons why winemakers enter competition. One is to see where they stand in relation to current levels of winemaking, an effort at making sure they “aren’t standing still,” as Parker Carlson once told me.

Another is to see if their taste still is true. One recognized danger facing winemakers (and wine writers) is “cellar palate,” which may happen by drinking only one’s own local wine and not picking up on incremental changes, usually bad, taking place in your wine.

A badly made wine surely will be noticed, you would think, but what if that’s how your wines taste all the time and you don’t have any comparison?

But perhaps the leading reason to enter competitions is to give customers what they want, and they want bling.

“People like to see medals,” Carlson also said, and every winery you’ll ever visit displays a shelf or two stacked with their collection of ribbons, medallions and trophies.

Who can blame them? Not only is it impressive looking but it also makes great copy for your blog or FaceBook page.

However, I doubt most casual tourists – to whom go a majority of Colorado wine sales – have the time, knowledge or eyesight to differentiate between the San Francisco competition, the International Eastern and the Colorado Governor’s Cup.

I’m not saying there aren’t people who know the difference, but there also are people who can tell a Pinot Gris from a Pinot Blanc.

There’s much more to this story.