Posts Tagged ‘Colorado Wine Week’

Creekside Cellars continues the reign of Colorado cab franc

It’s Sunday, 95 degrees, and I’m recuperating from Colorado Wine Week.

I missed a Colorado Wine Week post or two Friday and Saturday but really, I honestly have a good excuse.


Winemaker Michelle Cleveland still shows her surprise and pleasure after her Creekside Cellars 2010 Colorado Cabernet Franc was named winner of the Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup competition. The wine won Double Gold for Best of Show and Best Bordeaux varietal.

Friday night’s Day 6 Wine Week Challenge was the Governor’s Cup Awards presentation, and I opened (or had opened for me, which is even better), scads of tasty Colorado wines, including the Best of Show and Double Gold Cabernet Franc from Creekside Cellars.

Saturday, well, Saturday was the Colorado Urban Winefest (lots of nice remarks coming from that event) plus I woke up hungover out of sorts and needed some time to gather my thoughts, which mostly were “Where am I?” and “How did that happen?”

But important things first, right?

Congratulations and a well-deserved high three (it’s a long story but how many fingers does Pluto have?) to Michelle Cleveland, talented winemaker and all-around great person for Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, for winning the 2013 Governor’s Cup Best of Show and Double Gold for her 2010 Cabernet Franc.

Dark, luscious, lots of fruit and a judicious 24 months in Appalachian oak (she said it’s the same species of oak tree used to make French oak barrels) to balance.

Too bad there’s not any left.

Funny story: Michelle said she made 44 cases (that’s about 100 gallons or so) of the wine, which grew in the 10-acre Creekside vineyards in the Grand Valley, (Hey, almost all – 87 percent – of Colorado grapes grow in the Grand Valley) but had only 1 (one, uno, half of two) case left by the weekend.

“I didn’t know how fast it would sell,” she said, but at least she had enough to share with the light intimate crowd at the Governor’s Cup Awards at Metro State University.

Michelle really likes Colorado cabernet franc (the bottle’s label reads simply “Franc,” and underneath says “Colorado’s Cabernet”) and she and Kyle Schlachter of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board have this plan to promote cab franc as Colorado’s best red grape.

I’m all for it after tasting some of the excellent cab francs being produced by various Colorado winemakers. Curiously, the other double-gold medal Bordeaux-red winner this year also was a 2010 Cabernet Franc by Jackie Thompson of Bookcliffs Vineyards, and the 2012 Gov’s Cup winner was yet another cabernet franc, this one by the enigmatic Matt Cookson of the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.

“We’ve been making cabernet franc since we opened (2000),” said Michelle, who said she began as a beermaker before making the switch to fermenting grapes.

As for the oak, well, “We like oak,” she said with a sly smile. “But it has to balance with the fruit and the 2010 vintage was huge fruit. The only problem is cab franc needs a long growing season but we haven’t had any problems.”

And for those who are aware of this year’s tribulations in the vineyards (sounds like something Danielle Steel might write, eh?), everyone I’ve talked with are saying (fingers crossed behind their back) their cab franc is one of the few vines to be healthy after the January freeze and the April frost.

And remember 2010 was a light vintage, too, but Michelle had no problem wringing a Best of Show from the grapes.

The rest of the Governor’s Cup winners are here, and among the top award-winners were Glenn Foster (Talon Wines); Jackie Thompson (Bookcliff Vineyards); Jay and Jennifer Christianson (Canyon Wind Cellars); and Matt Cookson (The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey).

There were 225 wines submitted for the competition but Governor John Hickenlooper, who is a great supporter of Colorado wine, wasn’t able to make his usual appearance.

After the awards, I headed over to Row 14, one of the Denver restaurants hosting the Sips & Snacks, pairing a glass of Colorado wine with a larger-than-an-appetizer but smaller-than-your-appetite plate.

Row 14 was pouring the 2011 Two Rivers Winery Syrah and paired it with carnitas tacos. Good food, great wine, nice people, lots of fun. Lots.

Back on the … with Palisade Red

GUNNISON – Back on the road…

Thursday night in Gunnison, one of the most beautiful towns in the state.

Plum Ck Palisade Red 1

Plum Creek Cellars winemaker Jenne Baldwin-Eaton calls this Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc her red table wine. It’s a lovely wine, even when the table is no more than a concrete road barrier next to the Taylor River north of Gunnison.

The early June weather is perfect, there is a bit of snow in the high country for a scenic backdrop and it’s too early for the mosquitoes.

And they do get world-class skeeters here, with all the flood irrigation drenching the fields.

Locals get a hoo-hah about saying small children and dogs have been carried away.

It’s Day (well, let’s see, what day is it? oh, yes, 6) that’s it, Day 6 of Colorado Wine Week 2013 and not coincidentally also Day 6 of the Colorado Wine Week Challenge.

Well, my challenge, anyway, which is for you to open and share a Colorado wine everyday or night or both this week.

Sharing is a good idea, or you’ll possibly wind up with a fridge full of open bottles, standing there, corks just waiting to be popped and shared.

Tonight, my Wine Challenge wine is the Plum Creek Cellars 2009 Palisade Colorado Table Wine, a medium-bodied red with soft tannins and plenty of dark red fruit, with just a hint of spice.

Plum Creek prides itself on always being 100-percent Colorado grapes, and most of these grapes were grown in the Grand Valley AVA with the rest coming from the West Elks AVA.

It’s a blend of merlot (42 percent); Cabernet Sauvignon (42) and Cabernet Franc (16). Sometimes in the past the blend has included syrah or zinfandel but this version is the three Bordeaux grapes.

I may have the Cab Sauv and Cab Franc mixed up but I know the wine is mostly merlot. I left my notes at home, so if it’s wrong, I’ll fix the ratio when I get back Sunday. (I’d send you to the Plum Creek website, but it’s hopelessly out of date.)

According to Plum Creek winemaker Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, 2009 was notable because it was the last of the great vintages.

“It was nearly perfect – long, even temperatures, with great ripening of all our grapes,” she said last week. “All the vintages since then have been, well, trying.”

Which means too hot, too cold, too short, too long, or all of the above.

What’s also remarkable about 2009 that it stayed warm well into October, so long into October that Jenne was picking grapes for a Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (that’s for later this week) at the end of October and into early November.

But then the door slammed shut.

A deep, deep freeze, with temperatures in the valley hitting 22 below zero, swept into western Colorado Dec. 9-10, and within a week grape growers were reporting losing 75 percent and more of their vines, I mean froze smack to the ground.

Obviously, there weren’t many grapes available in 2010. That 2010 vintage was so small, one winemaker friend made his whole year’s production in a 7.5-gallon carboy.

And there’s talk this year, after the hard freeze last January and the late freeze April 17-18 (20 degrees), may be short, also. We’ll hear more about that as the season goes on, but there is a lot of open space in the grape vines this summer.

Tomorrow night (Friday) is the Governor’s Cup Award presentation at Metro State University, so I’ll be drinking award-winning wines for the wine challenge. Oh, to celebrate and drink interesting wines.

Colorado Wine Week Day 3 and a tiger (or cougar) by the tail

It’s Tuesday, almost halfway through Colorado Wine Week 2013 and there still are so-o-o many more wines to try during the initial Colorado Wine Week Challenge.


Parker Carlson’s 2011 Cougar Run Grand Valley Dry Gewurtztraminer. Carlson began putting animal figures on his wines 30 years ago, well before so-called “critter” wine became popular. The quality of the drawing is in direct correlation to the improvement in computers and digital art.

I’m leaning in, honest, and I know it seems like work but press on and pull those corks.

You know the drill: Open and share a Colorado wine (or two) every day or night this week. I was hoping it would rain today and cool things off (so hot, so hot) and had a lush cabernet franc (the Grand Valley grows great cabernet franc) all ready to pop but no-o-o.

No rain, temps in the low 90s and drier than a divorce attorney’s laugh.

So tonight, I chose a Carlson Vineyards 2011 Cougar Run Grand Valley Dry Gewurtztraminer ($13.50).

Lots behind this medium-bodied wine, which has crisp acidity and tropical fruit and roses (notice the cute photo)…

Carlson started making a dry gewurtz in 2009, said assistant winemaker Ian MacDonald, when the local chardonnay was in short supply.

“We didn’t have enough chardonnay to make our normal blend and we had this gewurtztraminer ready so I suggested to Parker we dry it out and sell it,” said MacDonald, who starts tomorrow (June 5) bottling the 2012 dry gewurtztraminer.

To Parker’s surprise, the dry version sold, well, I can’t honestly say it ran out the door like Carlson’s luscious cherry wine, but MacDonald said the dry gewurtztraminer pays it’s own way.

And really, that’s all any winemaker can ask.

Carlson made 800 gallons of the 2011 gewurtztraminer, which with my math comes out to about 335 cases.

Even at that, it sells out every year.

The Gewurtz grape itself has a convoluted genealogy but apparently wa-a-a-y back when, it might have originated in a grape from  around Tramin in northern Italy’s South Tyrol, where the residents speak German more than Italian.

Back to Colorado Wine Week. The Governor’s Cup Award presentation is Friday night at The Hospitality Learning Center at Metro State College University (sorry, an old habit, y’know), but Parker Carlson won’t be there. Seems every June he and his wife Mary take off for 6 weeks to go fishing in Michigan.

Last year, Mary caught the bigger fish.

Colorado Wine Week Challenge Day 2


the 2011 “No Oak” Chardonnay from Whitewater Hill Vineyards on Orchard Mesa.

It’s Day 2 of Colorado Wine Week and my personal Colorado Wine Week Challenge, where your task – such as it is – is to open and share a Colorado wine every day during this special week.
My selection today is the 2011 Chardonnay ‘No Oak’ ($14) from winemaker/owner Nancy Janes at Whitewater Hill Vineyards on Orchard Mesa.
Like many of us who enjoy chardonnay, Nancy quit drinking chardonnay for a couple of years after she was put off by the over-oaked wines that swept to popularity a few years ago.
“I like a little oak but that was too much for me,” she said, and the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd agreed.

She finally gave in, but instead of drinking one of the all-oak, no fruit wines, she decided to make a “no oak” because she wanted something to drink that reflected the heritage of the chardonnay grape.
This wine is a pure reflection of the Chardonnay grape, with a bright, minerally nose and no malolactic fermentation to disguise the grape.
The wine recently received an 87 from the Beverage Tasting Institute.

She also makes a lightly oaked chardonnay for those who just have to have a little oak.

Nancy will be  among the winemakers in Denver this weekend for the Governor’s Cup Awards presentation Friday at Metro State University and the Colorado Urban Winefest presented by Westminster Total Beverage at Infinity Park in Glendale.

Colorado Wine Week Challenge, Day 1

This is the first day of Colorado Wine Week 2013, a weeklong (or did you know that?) celebration of this state’s vibrant wine industry and the best opportunity you may have to sample Colorado wines.

And great food.

CO wine week No. 1

Two first-day selections for Colorado Wine Week Challenge 2013.

And Colorado wines and great food, together.

While the week is sort of, kind of, a statewide thing, its really designed as a Front Range get-together, which for those of you who don’t live in Colorado (that’s fine, don’t move here) means everything east of the Continental Divide.

Which really means the event is aimed the 8 jillion or so people in the urban strip from Fort Collins (north) to Colorado Springs (mid-state).

My blogging and Colorado wine colleague Jacob Harkins of Godot Communications and Local Winos Media has been doing the heavy lifting, which means trying to herd cats with press releases, emails, etc and etc.

You can get all the information you need here, but in short, the week culminates in the third annual Colorado Urban Winefest (presented by Westminster Total Beverage, I have to add), which this year roosts at Infinity Park in Glendale, an innr-suburb of Denver, which obviously is THE place to be Saturday. Around 46 wineries, including many you need to know, pouring their hearts out to please your palate.

That is, if you like Colorado wine, are curious about Colorado wine or know someone who is either or both.

As for me, here’s my contribution – A Colorado Wine Week Challenge: Open and share a Colorado wine every day this week.

Yeah, I know it’s already Sunday but give it a try.

Tell you what. I’ve already opened two local wines, so you can use one for your starter (there’s a glass or two left in the bottle). The rest of the week is up to you.

My first-day choices are the 2012 Pinot Gris from Stone Cottage Cellars ($22) and the 2006 Pinot Noir ($26, if available) from Terror Creek Winery. Both are West Elks AVA wineries and situated near each other (like 500 feet apart) just west of Paonia, high above the valley of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

And when I say high, I mean that Joan Mathewson of Terror Creek is making her elegant and thoughtful wines at 6,417 feet, making hers the highest winery in the north hemisphere.

And Stone Cottage Cellars Pinot Gris has a body and heft, hints of melon, fig and almonds, that recalls how well-made pinot gris tasted before the demands of the market onslaught ruined it, just as the same overweening push for profits ruined merlot. Thank you, Brent and Karen Helleckson of Stone Cottage Cellars.

That’s the end of the Sunday sermon.

Take the week to explore some of the restaurants and bars offering food and Colorado wine pairings, menus available here.

Keep me posted on what you’re drinking, and tomorrow I’ll share the Day 2 selections for the Colorado Wine Week Challenge.

Let’s see, where is that corkscrew??????