Monday, June 27, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: 2006 Gruet Winery Blanc de Blancs

As Ben nears the three month mark, his personality is getting almost as bubbly as the wine we drink in his honor. He loves interacting with us by cooing and smiling. He plays with rattles and other toys in his crib, but he really loves to show off his new motor skills to us while we watch him kick, bat and wiggle his way around the caged bed that will hold him for the next few moons. This week he also had another play date with his crew from mommy's work where he participated in his first game of soccer as a sort of opening act for the U.S.A. vs. Mexico Gold Cup championship game. He even wowed his buddy's visiting grandmother from Costa Rica with his ability and desire to stand up (with the support of mom or dad, of course). Despite his strong legs, I hope that he does not inherit his mom's early walking!

I think each of the dads had more fun than the unwitting foosball players, though the outcome of the Gold Cup could have been a bit better.

2006 Gruet Winery, Blanc de Blancs, New Mexico

Keeping with the loose idea of trying sparkling wine from various parts of the world, this week we stayed close to home and picked a bottle from the heralded wine state of New Mexico. This wine is a pale yellow and yields beautiful streams of tiny and eager bubbles. Bright citrus flavors are met with tropical fruits, sweet green apples and a slight toasty/nuttiness. In the mouth the acidity provide a tart contrast to the flavors of apple preserves on a toasted bagel. All of the Gruet I've had in the past has been an exceptional value for the price and this vintage bottling is elegant, complex and worth trying. 12% abv Purchased $26. Very Good (tasted 7/23/11)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Simonsig 2007 Brut Rosé

Our little Ben is starting to really grow! He has put on about five pounds in only 11 weeks. He is also starting to move around quite a bit. He'll roll to his side, but not all the way over yet (thank goodness!) and he will spin around on his back and shimmy across the floor a few inches at a time. I hope that he gives us a few more months until we have to actually baby proof the house. The cats will also be in for a new way of doing things once Mr. Wiggles is fully mobile. We also took Ben to the pool for the first time and he enjoyed dipping his feet in the water while rocking a highly fashionable swim-shirt and baby shades!

As we've journeyed on our sparkling safari, we've tried lots of new and different wines and this week is no different. In addition to the official installment, I've had the opportunity to try some special bubbly thanks to some generous acquaintances. Over the past two weeks, a 1997 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, 1998 Gosset Celebris, 1990 Egly-Ouriet Millésimé 100% Grand Cru and 1990 Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Rare have entertained my taste buds. While they may not be official Ben's Bubblies, they do deserve a mention as being excellent opportunities to expand my experience with sparkling wines of the world. This week's wine may not be a traditional grape to make sparkling wine, but it nevertheless was fun and I recommend trying some for yourself.

2007 Simonsig Brut Rosé

This wine is a beautiful pink color, reminiscent of the pink in a peach where the flesh meets the pit. Lovely aromatics on the nose suggest strawberries, cranberries, peaches and rose petals. Tart flavors of stone fruits and flowers are complemented by a slight yeastiness. The finish is short and marred by a slightly unpleasant metallic aftertaste. Overall, this rosé is not a bad wine for the price and a fun wine from the continent of Africa. 12% abv Purchased $15. Good (tasted 6/17/11)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More than 15 minutes of fame...

With the first-ever Colorado Wine week over, you might think that Colorado wine will return to the back shelf of the wine shop between the boxed Franzia and the mop closet. It need not be this way. With your help, we can keep Colorado wine in the spotlight. On his The Wine Spectator blog, Matt Kramer asks why doesn't eating local translate to drinking local. Colorado wine sales account for less than 2.0% of all wine sales in the state, yet countless restaurants and grocery stores actively promote their local food products. As thousands of people discovered this week, Colorado produces quality juice, so why don't more people drink it? Well, here are five ways to make Colorado wine matter in the next 51 weeks that will not be proclaimed in its honor:

1. Ask for Colorado wine in restaurants. Restaurants drive the food and beverage trends. If restaurateurs and sommeliers see the demand for local wines, they will put it on theirs lists.

2. Buy Colorado Wine. Most liquor stores have a token Colorado wine or two on their shelves, but they are usually relegated to a shelf at the back of the store. Most people don't want to buy the disgraced product that retailers won't support. If a liquor store doesn't have a Colorado wine that interests you, don't cave in and by that California Cabernet. Go to a different shop that supports our local wineries. Let your wallet speak for you and all of our local vintners.

3. Serve Colorado Wine to your friends and family. Don't just drink Colorado wine at home by yourself. When you go to dinner parties, bring a bottle of the local stuff. I've been a part of a local wine group for almost a year and each time I go, I bring a bottle (or more) of Colorado wine. These guys drink some good (and expensive) juice, but each time they are pleasantly surprised with the quality that the bottle of Colorado provides. Don't be surprised if your favorite Colorado wine is preferred over more expensive and prestigious wines. Perhaps have some fun and don't let your friends know what they're drinking. Blind tasting can remove the local wine bias some oenophiles have while training their palates. They might just be surprised when the brown bag is removed.

4. Visit a winery. Colorado Wine country is a lot closer than Napa or Bordeaux. 3.5 hours west of Denver on I-70 and you can be amongst the vines and wineries of the Grand Valley. Feeling adventurous? Visit Colorado's other American Viticultural Area around the towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss along the North Fork of the Gunnison River. If you aren't feeling up to a long drive (from the Front Range) there are almost as many wineries on this side of the mountains as the western slope. While not surrounded by vines, the urban wineries of Boulder, Denver and other Front Range cities produce quality wines.

5. Go to Winefest next year. Wine festivals come and go. If you really want to support the industry and try lots of great wines, buy a ticket as soon as they are released and help drive the number of attendees into the thousands. This support will go a long way to keeping Colorado wine in the hearts and minds of wine lovers across the state and the country!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Colorado Wine Week: Highlights and Lessons Learned

The 2011 Colorado Cup Winemaking Competition and the events of the first-ever Colorado Wine Week are now in the rearview mirror. Both were undeniably successful in raising the bar of the wine industry in the the Centennial State, but both could be room for improvement. The Colorado Winefest at Northfield Stapleton was without a doubt a great first-time event, and almost all of the guests and winery representatives that I spoke with were pleased with the outcome. Even though there were a few hiccups, the event should only get better as the organizers learn from experience. The most notable adjustment needs to be a better location for the winery booths. Some were stuck at the ends and did not get as many visitors as they should have and others were next to popular food vendors and were difficult to access. Also, a map, list of the attendees and schedule of events would be helpful for finding booths and seminars. Overall, good, but small improvements will make it great.

The competition also provided well-deserved recognition for our hard-working winemakers despite a few issues. For starters, not really a complaint of this competition per se, but when panels of people judge wines most of the wines stay stuck in the middle. When Robert Parker, Jr. likes a wine he gives it a 95-point score and proclaims it so. He doesn't have four other people's opinions changing his proclamation. On a judging panel, it only takes one or two judges to make a gold-medal wine into a silver or even a bronze. If a bronze medal is 11-14, silver 14-17 and gold 17-20, these hypothetical scores show how a wine could get gypped out of its rightful hardware. Judge 1 = 17.5, Judge 2 = 17, Judge 3 = 17, Judge 4 = 16.5 and Judge 5 = 13.5. The mean score is 16.3, or silver, but the median is 17, or gold. This distributions of scores is quite common at competitions and most outcomes land in the bronze and silver categories. Just as with pundit proclamations, take competition results with a grain of salt. Taste the wines for yourself and drink what you like!

Also, only 33 of the approximate 100 wineries entered the Colorado Cup, which means some pretty big names in the world of Colorado Wine were notably absent. To me, competitions are not much more than a measuring stick, but if the wineries of our great square state really want to measure up against each other, every single winery needs to be a part of the process. Perhaps like cult Napa Valley wineries that do not allow critic tastings outside the confines of their ivory towers, some wineries may be afraid of being compared on a level playing field. Sometimes there are other reasons for not entering wine (like a new baby!), but media and consumer darlings like The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Sutcliffe Vineyards, Jack Rabbit Hill, Colterris, Alfred Eames Cellars and Settembre Cellars need to enter every year for this event to accurately reflect the state of Colorado wine.

Most importantly, all of the events of Colorado Wine Week garnered unprecedented media coverage for Colorado wines. The Grand Junction press plastered Governor Hickenlooper's face and comments over their airwaves and websites, one Denver television station aired two segments on the Denver events, the Denver Post put Colorado wine on the front page of the food section and countless other blogs posted multiple stories on the festivities. While all of this was just a blip on the radar screen compared to political sexting scandals, it is a start to bigger and better media attention in the years to come. Cheers to Colorado Wine!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Patrick Bottex "La Cueille" Bugey-Cerdon Rosé (Méthode Ancéstrale)

This week Ben had his two-month doctor's appointment. Unfortunately, this appointment included his first immunization shots, and he was not a happy camper. He had a fever the first night and was ornery for a few days, but is doing better now. He is using his hands and arms more and is even holding the rattle his mom made. He also went to his first wine festival and met a handful of Colorado's winemakers. He loves showing off his big toothless smiles, but only when there are no cameras around. We are amazed that at only two months old, he knows when we are trying to take his picture, and becomes very stoic and the smiles cease. It really is quite funny, but I'm sure that we'll get some photos of his sweet bubbly face in the future. Thus, for this week's Ben's Bubbly, we picked a sparkler as sweet as our little boy.

NV Patrick Bottex "La Cueille" Bugey-Cerdon Rosé (Méthode Ancéstral)

This grapefruit-pink sparkling wine is made from 90% Gamay and 10% Poulsard in the area between the Savoie, the Jura, Burgundy, and the Rhône in France. Different from the méthode champenoise, the méthode ancestrale technique bottles the wine before primary fermentation is complete and the wine goes through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Unlike in Champagne, dosage is not permitted. Bright fruit (mostly ripe strawberries) dominates the nose and the palate. Quite sweet, this wine is perfect as an apertif or for a picnic on a hot summer day. More acidity could make this a more complete wine, but nonetheless it is fun and refreshing. 8% abv Purchased $14. Good/Very Good (tasted 6/10/11)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

11 things you didn't know about Colorado wine

Today's Colorado Winefest at Northfield Stapleton will top off a successful Colorado Wine Week that included tweet-ups, a tasting at the Governor's Residence, and a celebrity chef dinner with Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg. Forty eight wineries will be pouring an abundance of wines along Northfield's Main Street. Over one thousand people are expect to attend this first-annual event that also features food and wine pairing seminars and a Riedel "glass tasting." So, in honor of all the first-time Colorado wine experiences this week, I offer a list of eleven things that you might not have known about Colorado Wine:

1. There are more wineries along the Front Range than in the Grand Valley.
2. Only 15 states have more American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) than Colorado.
3. Colorado is home to the highest vineyards in the North Hemisphere.
4. Winegrapes have been grown in Colorado for over 120 years.
5. Most of the grapevines in Colorado are self-rooted whereas most in California and France are grafted onto American rootstock.
6. Colorado is home to two Jefferson Cup Award-winning wines (Bookcliff Vineyards' Petite Sirah and Boulder Creek Winery's VIP Reserve)
7. The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board was created in 1990 by the Colorado General Assembly to promote and support Colorado's wine industry.
8. Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Colorado.
9. There are over 100 licensed wineries in the state (up from 40 in 2000 and 5 in 1990).
10. Meaderies, cideries and perries are considered wineries according to the Colorado liquor laws.
11. Both the Colorado Winefest in Denver and the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade are fundraising events for the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: 2006 Colorado Cellars Trinity Colorado Champagne

Last week was a big week for Ben. Mom went back to work for just this week to teach an interim class, so Dad got to babysit two days. Grandma also took him for one and he even went to class with Mom for one day! Then, this weekend Mom went out of town (Vegas for a bachelorette party), so Dad got him the entire weekend! But fear not, the other Grandma came out all the way from Wisconsin to help. He was a perfect gentleman the entire weekend (though he did poop on Grandma once...) and we even went to Colorado Springs to visit Ben's uncle and brand new puppy! After a busy seven days, Ben is eagerly awaiting Mom's return tonight!

This week is a big week for Colorado Wine, too. Governor John Hickenlooper kicked off Colorado Wine Week yesterday by touring Two Rivers Winery and Chateau in Grand Junction and announcing his proclamation at Canyon Wind Cellars in Palisade today. Colorado Wine Week culminates with the Celebration of Premier Colorado Wines at the Governor's Residence on June 9 and the Colorado Winefest at Northfield Stapleton on June 11. Almost 50 Colorado wineries will pour and sell their wines to Denver's thirsty wine lovers! To get into the swing of things, we chose one of only three (that I know of) sparkling Colorado wines for this week's Ben's Bubbly.

2006 Colorado Cellars, Trinity Colorado Champagne

With only three sparkling wines produced in Colorado, finding one may be a bit of a task and this is probably the only one you'll find in local retail stores. It is light yellow in color and emits fruity aromas with notes of toast on the nose. It tastes slightly sweet with lots of fruit: oranges, bitter strawberries and sour apple. It reminds me of Grand Mimosa (mimosa with a shot of Grand Marnier added). Overall, there is something not quite right with the wine. It is an average attempt at local sparkling wine (though I wished they'd drop the Champagne name on the label), but no where near the quality of other bubbly at even half the price. I definitely think that Colorado has the potential to produce quality sparkling wine, but we just need some more wineries to collectively raise the bar. 12% abv Purchased $30. Average (tasted 6/3/11)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Gris

Last week, I wrote about two different Pinot Grigios from Canyon Wind Cellars. The crux of that piece was how blending grapes changes a wine. I examined how blending two different grapes changes the varietal characteristics of wines made from only a single type of grape. Due to a lack of timing and planning, I did not discuss another aspect of blending, blending the same grape from a variety of regions. These types of blends often highlight (or hide) the characteristics of a wine from each sources' terroir. Days after tasting the Colorado Pinot Grigios, I enjoyed a Pinot Gris from California. While Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same cultivar, there is a noticeable difference between the Italian (Grigio) and French (Gris) winemaking styles of these wines. Pinot Grigio tends to be light, crisp and have citrus and mineral aromas and flavors. Unfortunately, many (not the Canyon Wind wines) are often light to a failing. Pinot Gris on the other hand tends to be heavier and fruitier. They also often have a spiciness that I really enjoy.

While the Canyon Wind Cellars' Pinot Grigio was from a single vineyard in the Grand Valley AVA of western Colorado, the California Pinot Gris was sourced from three distinct growing regions in California. 38% of the grapes were sourced from Clarksburg, 35% from Monterrey and 27% from the Russian River Valley. Each of these regions has a distinct climate that imparts different attributes that talented winemakers can use to blend quality wines that may not speak to a specific place but a style. All three source regions share the climatic characteristics of warm days and cool nights that allow grapes to ripen beautifully. Even though this wine is probably a result of bringing in outside fruit to make the Russian River based juice go further, this entry-level blend provides excellent quality for a small price.

2010 J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Gris, California

A brilliant yellow color in the glass, this wine yields exceptionally citrus aromatics. With slightly honeyed notes, lime and orange blossom dominate the nose. Fruity, yet crisp flavors of lime and spicy lemongrass dance across your tongue. The complexity and spiciness offered here are a few of the reasons I usually enjoy Pinot Gris over Pinot Grigio. This 14% abv Sample $16. Good/Very Good (tasted 5/25/11)