While most people are not cognizant of the fact that there is a high-quality wine industry present in Colorado, those who are will be quick to point out that it is centered on the western side of the state in and around the town of Palisade in the Grand Valley. A majority of the approximately 100 wineries located around the state have their vineyards or buy grapes from growers in the Grand Valley. Despite Palisade being the locus for vineyards, the Front Range (in and around Denver), is actually where about half of the state's licensed wineries call home. Why so far away from "wine country?," most people ask. The population of the Grand Junction Metropolitan Statistical Area is approximately 146,000, whereas the population of the Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined Statistical Area is over 20 times larger with about 3,110,000 people. The consumer market is larger along the Front Range, so wineries find it easier to market their products when closer to a larger audience.
Unfortunately, the climate of the Front Range is not conducive to growing Vitis vinifera. However, while several growers are experimenting with French-American hybrids, one winery has produced traditional vinifera wines from a small vineyard in north Denver. J. A. Balistreri Vineyards buys most of their grapes from western Colorado, but occasionally bottles limited-release wines from grapes harvested near the winery in Denver. Julie Balistreri told me that they did not get any Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Denver Vineyard in 2009 or 2010, but when they do, as in 2008, they have fun making a barrel or two of unique wine.
Most Balistreri wines that I have tried (and I have not tried all of their offerings) tend to be big, bold and fruit forward reds and whites fermented on their skins. The wines are single-vineyard designated and bottled and labeled one barrel at a time. Each individual barrel number is hand-stamped on the back of each bottle. This approach provides an interesting way to experience terroir and barrel variations.
2008 J. A. Balistreri Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel 193, Denver Vineyard, Colorado
This Cabernet Sauvignon differs in style from many of Balistreri's reds. It is an opaque dark red color and stains the glass as you swirl it. It is not especially fruit forward, yet dark fruits, mainly cassis and dark strawberries, are noticeable. Old-world aromas of earth, leather and truffles are also present. This mouth-filling wine has medium-plus tannins combined with dark chocolate, black cherries, smoke and tobacco on the palate. The finish is a nice, medium length. The 15% alcohol is not noticeable. Overall, this is a nice, balanced Cabernet that is not overly concentrated and very traditionally styled. It is not going to change your life, yet it is a fun curiosity with an interesting narrative. 15% abv Sample $24. Good (tasted 2/09/11)