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!


  1. I beleive this a fair and accurate report. A better location for the venue should be considered as well as more consistency in the commerical wine competitions. All too often thought, politics (and not the ones plastered on the news that week) but within the wine community plays a part in who participates. My only concern is that many of the complaints were highlighted prior to the event (including location, marketing, and the sheer size of the event) but organizers were deaf - I only hope now they are listening and will consider those things now.

  2. Thanks for reading and posting! Northfield would not have been 1 of my first choices but I think the venue actually works pretty well. I'm sure the organizers will consider all possibilities for improvement. As for consistency of the competition, that will never happen. It has been proven that wine competitions are inconsistent. If the same exact competition were held this week the results would be wildly different. My main point was that even very good wines tend to fall to the middle of scores. Even not so good wines creep up to the middle of scores. Nevertheless, the first ever Colorado wine week was a success