Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Colorado Wine Deserves a Seat at the Adults' Table

This past weekend, I hosted a blind wine tasting with a dual theme. The first half of the tasting was devoted to pinot noir. This portion was divided into two flights, one for old-world style wines and a second for bolder new-world style wines. As we had five bottles for the new world flight and only three for the old-world flight, I decided to put a Colorado pinot noir into the first flight. In a lineup that included two Grand Cru Burgundies and a famous Oregon pinot noir, the Colorado wine showed its high quality but also showed that Colorado still has a long way to go to make world-class pinot noir.

The second half was an open category in which people brought a special bottle that wasn't pinot noir. There was a syrah flight, a Brunello di Montalcino flight and a Bordeaux-style flight. In the syrah flight, I slipped in a Colorado syrah with two other high-pedigree syrahs. One bottle was a California syrah that Robert Parker, Jr. rated 100 pts for a previous vintage. The other was a twenty year-old syrah from France's Rhône Valley that Robert Parker, Jr. did rate 100 points when it was released! The Colorado syrah not only showed very well compared to these two famous wines, it was also voted as wine of the flight by more than half of my guests. One of the guests who had attended a previous tasting was jokingly horrified that he enjoyed the lowly Colorado wine more than the two famous syrahs! While not everyone preferred the Colorado syrah and these results may not be replicable, this just goes to show that points don't necessarily correspond to individual preferences, and that Colorado wines can sit at the table with the 'adults' of the wine world!

Below are my brief notes from the two flights that included Colorado wines. They are not as descriptive as my notes usually are as I didn't not spend as much time with each wine as I normally do.

Flight One, Old-World style Pinots (single blind):

Wine 1: Lovely cloves, leather and spice. Did not benefit from a decant but it keeps getting better in the glass. Excellent Dominique Laurent, Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, 1998 Group Wine of the Flight (WOTF)-tie

Wine 2: Intense aromas and flavors of fresh flowers and strawberries. Very smooth and it clearly stands out as different from the other three. Excellent Domaine Serene, Grace Vineyard, Willamette Valley, 2004

Wine 3: Muted nose, especially compared #2. Very light, but nice palate. A good wine but clearly outclassed by the others in the flight. Very Good Jack Rabbit Hill, M&N, Colorado, 2006

Wine 4: A peer to #1, but with a bit more body and less finesse. Cloves, leather and mushrooms. Excellent Domaine Louis Latour, Chateau Corton Grancey, Corton Grand Cru, 1996 Group WOTF-tie

Flight Three, Syrah (single blind):

Wine 1: Good complexity and depth of flavors. Black fruits with a slight spiciness. Very smooth with fine tannins. Very Good/Excellent Boulder Creek Winery, Colorado, 2008 Group WOTF

Wine 2: Big dark and brooding. Massive tannins hide the dark fruit. This wine is big and closed! Needs plenty of time in the bottle or a long decant. Good Donelan, Cuvée Christine, 2008

Wine 3: This wine is clearly in different league than the other two and is hard to compare it to them. Very complex, but sour cherries are what stand out. Long finish and obviously something special. While this is without a doubt a world-class wine, I preferred the youth and freshness of Wine 1 slightly to this wine. Excellent M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie, "La Mordoree," 1991


  1. About a week ago, I uncorked my second-to-last bottle of 1991 Dervieux-Thaize Cote Rotie. What was really instructive was the vast difference between CA Syrah and Rhone Syrah, as well as their respective aging outcomes. The wine was still vibrant and well balanced, though vastly different from its early broodingly dark, fruit filled profile. A real pleasure to drink.

  2. Yes, the new world syrahs were vastly different than the Cote-Rote. All were a pleasure to drink, but for different reasons. Your comments are spot on. Glad to hear that you still have one bottle left to enjoy!

  3. Based on my humble one bottle of Colorado (The Alfred Eames Syrah 2007), I agree with your headline. It was a wonderful wine and I hope to try more Colorado wine some time.

  4. Laurence, I'm glad that you enjoyed your only Colorado wine experience. Eames makes some great wines. I hope that you can try many more wines from CO! Thanks for reading and commenting. Cheers!