Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Colorado winery wins Jefferson Cup for third year in a row!

Two weeks ago, Doug Frost (one of only three people in the world to hold both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier credentials) gathered a group of wine experts to taste "the best of the best among wineries from all of America’s wine regions." This year, Frost selected (wineries need to be selected and not just submit wine and an entry fee) wine from twenty-two states and award the Jefferson Cup to wines made from both Vitis vinifera and non-vinifera grapevines. For the third year in a row, a Colorado winery walked away with top honors. Congratulations to Canyon Wind Cellars for winning a 2011 Jefferson Cup and joining the ranks of Colorado's previous Cup winners: Boulder Creek Winery and Bookcliff Vineyards.

While Canyon Wind Cellars was the only winery to earn a Jefferson Cup, all of the other Colorado wineries that were invited earned an impressive array of awards. Below is the list of Colorado winners. To view the complete list of awards, please visit Doug Frost's website here.

Anemoi Wines
Medal of Excellence, 2009 Boreas

Bookcliff Vineyards
Medal of Excellence, 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Medal of Excellence, 2010 Petite Sirah
Medal of Merit, 2010 Syrah Reserve

Boulder Creek Vineyards
Medal of Excellence, NV Consensus
Medal of Merit, 2008 Merlot
Medal of Merit, 2009 Syrah

Canyon Wind Cellars
Jefferson Cup Winner, 2009 Petit Verdot
Medal of Excellence, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Medal of Merit, 2009 47-Ten Red

Reeder Mesa Vineyards
Medal of Excellence, 2009 Petit Verdot
Medal of Merit, 2009 Land's End Red
Medal of Merit, 2009 CabSyrah
Medal of Merit, 2009 Petite Sirah

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
Jefferson Cup Nominee, 2009 Merlot
Medal of Excellence, 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Medal of Excellence, 2009 Cabernet Franc
Medal of Excellence, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Medal of Merit, 2008 Syrah
Medal of Merit, 2009 Merlot Reserve
Medal of Merit, 2009 Revelation

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Redstone Meadery Black Raspberry Nectar

Ben has been quite busy this past week. He continues crawling all over the place and is starting to cruise. His favorite game continues to be playing with the cats. One cat still wants nothing to do with Ben, but the other is a good sport when he gets a handful of fur. This past week at daycare he discovered that his friends have hair, too. The caregiver told mom that as she was laying one of the other babies down for a nap she heard a scream from the other room. She rushed out to see what was the matter only to find our dear little Ben on top of one of his older classmates smiling away with two fistfuls of hair. I guess we shouldn't be surprised as the easiest way to get him to laugh at home is letting him pull our hair. In terms of new life skills, he has started to understand how to high five. He now slaps any open palm near him. He really is getting cuter every week!

Redstone Meadery, Black Raspberry Nectar

This is the first time I've posted on mead. For those of you that don't know, mead is often considered honey wine. While most purists would claim that mead is not wine, meaderies (along with those that make cider and perry) are licensed as wineries. In fact, Redstone Meadery might be biggest winery in Colorado. They have an advantage as they can produce mead year round and don't have to wait for a short harvest season.

Dark pink color, this slightly sparkling mead looks like the color of a jolly rancher. It smells like a low-sugar natural soda with a bouquet of raspberries and honeycomb. I was expecting lots of sweetness from the nose, but only a hint of raspberry and loads of dried honey were to be found on the palate. This is not going to make oenophiles scratch their heads while deep in thought, but it is refreshing and might make a good change of pace or simple summertime sipper. 8% abv Purchased $20 Average/Good

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Taltarni Brut Taché

It is a few days late, but I didn't forget about Ben's Bubbly this week. Traveling and the holidays can really mess up your schedule. I was in Napa last week (more on that visit in the coming weeks) and in Grand Junction a few days after getting back. A lot happens when you're out of town with a baby at home. A day after leaving, I got a call from my wife telling me that our teething boy had not one but four teeth coming in on top! He looks like such a little person now with his toothy grin.

Taltarni Brut Taché, Victoria and Tasmania, Australia
This Australian sparkler is made from the same traditional varieties as Champagne (52% pinot noir, 42% chardonnay and 6% pinot meunier). Fermented as a white wine, when the bottle was disgorged it was stained (Taché is French for stained) with red wine. The final result is an orangeish copper color. It has a bouquet of fresh strawberries and cherries. The palate has the same fruit combined with a slight yeastiness. This is a simple, yet entirely pleasant and refreshing wine. 13% abv Purchased $17 Good/Very Good

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meet the Winemaker: Michelle Cleveland (Creekside Cellars)

Michelle Cleveland - Creekside Cellars
There is a misconception in Colorado that most of the state's wineries are along the western slope in the Grand Valley. It is true that most of the vineyards are located there along with a critical mass of wineries, but almost half of the state's wineries are spread out along the Front Range between Fort Collins and Pueblo. The reason for this is simple: the Front Range is where the consumers are found. While not surrounded by picturesque vineyards as the wineries in the Grand Valley, these "urban" wineries are found in Quonset huts, industrial parks and even in quaint little mountain towns. If you live in Denver, you don't have far to go to find a winery producing world-class wine. And if you haven't had the pleasure yet of having a glass of local wine along with a plate of charcuterie while overlooking Bear Creek, I suggest you get up to Evergreen to visit with our guest this week, Michelle Cleveland.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet the Winemaker: Kyle Schlachter (Colorado Wine Press)

As you may have noticed from the title, I am interviewing myself today. I thought it would be interesting for me to answer the questions I pose to Colorado's winemakers. And, no, I am not a winemaker. I would love to give it a go with a very small batch, perhaps as early as next harvest, but my winemaking skills are limited to mixing the dredges of leftover bottles to see what happens. Turns out I'm no master blender...

CWP: How did you get into winemaking?

Well, I am not a winemaker, but I got into wine about ten years ago when I met the woman would be become my wife. I tried so hard to impress her that I would cook her dinner and as she had just returned from a semester in Spain, I usually bought the best Spanish wines I could afford (i.e. $20). One of these wines, a 1994 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Gran Reserva, really knocked my socks off and made we want to learn about why this particular bottle was so much better than any other wines I had previously. I started reading wine books and taking wine classes and the rest is history.

CWP: If you weren’t in the wine business, where would you be working?

I would probably have finished my Ph.D. by now, be teaching at a university and researching how the environments of Colorado's or Costa Rica's mountains ecosystems have changed over the past 20,000 years using lake sediments. While I enjoyed the thrill of scientific discovery, using hazardous chemicals and staring through a microscope for hours at a time were not all that thrilling.

CWP: What do you do when you’re not at the winery?

When I take my wine hat off (which is not very often) I enjoy playing tennis, running, gardening and, of course, playing with Ben.

CWP: What is a wine that you currently do not make that you want to make?

As I make no wine, I think sparkling wine would be a fun challenge to undertake. I think Colorado has the potential to make good bubbly, but we need someone to invest the intensive labor and capital involved to do so properly.

CWP: If you could make wine in any wine region in the world, other than Colorado, where would you be making wine and why?e

I thought I would say Spain, but as I learn more about Friuli I think that there are a lot of interesting wines being produced there. I would love to break the mold and make orange wines in amphora buried in the ground. Plus, the sheer diversity of varieties and styles will allow Friulian wines to really become popular in the future.

CWP: What is the best bottle of wine you’ve ever drunk?

Best and most memorable are so different. The wine that I still think about to this day is that 1994 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Gran Reserva. It may not be the most exceptional wine that has ever crossed my lips, but if I had to choose only one wine experience to carry with me the rest of my life, I'd forget all the others if I could keep that one with me.

CWP: To what style of music would you compare your wine lineup?

If I were making wine, I think I'd like to make wine in the style of Queen. I think that Queen is perhaps one of the, if not the, greatest band of all time. They made unique music that is underrated. Every time I hear a Queen song, I think, "what a great song." I would want people to do the same with my wine.

CWP: What do you think consumers should think of when they think about Colorado Wine?

I would like Colorado consumers to think of it first when they think of wine. So much has been made of the locavore movement, but wine is often an afterthought.

CWP: Where do you see the Colorado wine industry in 10 years?

In ten years, I see consumers not questioning the quality of wine with Colorado on the label. While we will never be as big as California, Washington, Oregon or New York and sold all over the world, we will at least be able to consistently produce wines that can compete in quality.

CWP: What question would you like to ask me and my readers?

What wine publications/media to you regular go to for wine information?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Scharffenberger Cellars Brut

This week, drooling Ben was back in full force. One of his front upper teeth is coming in and boy is he teething again. If he is not slobbering all over his hand, he is chewing on something else to help him with the tooth. Thankfully, he hasn't been too crabby about it this time around. We've also expanded his diet by adding peas. He wasn't too excited about the canned peas he had tried previously, but the frozen peas that I made for him have been a big hit; though not quite as well liked as sweet potatoes! Finally this week, he has moved on to knee crawling for almost all of his self-locomotion. He loves crawling around after his rubber soccer ball. He even enjoys kicking it when he is walking while holding on to one of us. Before we know it he'll be running around on his own.

Scharffenberger Cellars Brut

We decided to go back to California with this week's sparkler. Founded in Anderson Valley by current chocolatier John Scharffenberger in 1981, Scharffenberger Cellars is now owned and operated by Roederer Estate owner Maisons Marques & Domaines. I've had and enjoyed the 1998 Brut before, so I figured I'd give the non-vintage Brut a try. Unfortunately, by comparing the label with the image on the website, I think this bottle is not a recent release and had been on display in the store a bit too long. It smells toasty with notes of lemon and apples, but tastes slightly musty, bordering on chemically. The citrus and apple flavors are still there, but are leaning towards being almost cidery. The wine was not terrible, but I wouldn't recommend buying it. I am hopeful that I can find a newer release and give Scharffenberger another shot. 12% abv Purchased $16 Average

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meet the Winemaker: Blake Eliasson (Settembre Cellars)

Small and boutique is how one might describe all of Colorado's wineries, but Settembre Cellars is the epitome of small and boutique. Founded in 2007 by Blake and Tracy Eliasson, Settembre produces just a few hundred cases annually. They sell almost all of their wine from the winery and even offer a bicycle delivery service to local wine lovers in Boulder. In addition to recently starting one of the hottest wineries in the state, Blake and Tracy welcomed their first child, Oliver, into the Settembre family a few months ago. Having a recent addition of my own, I am especially appreciative that Blake took the time to be my guest for this week's winemaker interview.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: 2006 Marenco, Pineto, Brachetto d'Acqui

Ben trying to escape...
It has only taken seven months, but Ben is now fully mobile. He is crawling everywhere. He wants to walk everywhere (with the aid of mom or dad's hands to steady him). Nothing is safe. He is pulling himself up on furniture and everything left on the furniture is fair game. His newest trick, mastered this past week, is sitting on his own. Now, when we hear him making noise in his crib he is usually sitting up in the middle when he should be sleeping. I don't know if you've tried, but it is difficult to fall asleep while sitting up! It is amazing how time flies and how much he has grown in just a few short months.

2006 Marenco, Pineto, Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG

It is also amazing how time flies when it comes to wine. I bought a case of this wine a few years ago, and had forgotten that a few bottles still remained in our "cellar." Brachetto d'Acqui wines, hailing from the same wine region that gives us both Moscato d'Asti and Barolo, are made to be drunk young, so I figured we should pop one open before it was too late. This bottle is clearly not at its freshest state, but still holding on nonetheless. The color has faded to a light garnet red, but the juice is still frizzante and lively. Fruity on the nose and the palate, this sweet red is dominated by red raspberries, tart cherries and sweet grapes. This wine goes down easy and before you know it they bottle will be gone. But don't fear, at only 5.5% alcohol a whole bottle is not out of the question for just one person to finish! Look for this and other Brachetto d'Acqui wines to pair with chocolate, a movie and a someone to snuggle with. 5.5% abv Purchased $19. Very Good

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meet the Winemaker: Brooke Webb (Mesa Park Vineyards)

Brooke Webb
Twenty years ago there were only five commercial wineries in the state, so Colorado's wine industry is still in its teenage years. Today, there are over one hundred! Most wineries popped up organically as families decided to give the wine lifestyle a try. Eventually, some wineries changed ownership. Our guest today is the assistant winemaker at one such winery. Mesa Park Vineyards is the newest incarnation of Mesa Grande Vineyards. Bought by the Price clan (Chuck and Patty Price along with their daughter Brooke and her husband Brad Webb) in 2008, they handcraft red wines from the classic Bordeaux cultivars: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. Brooke, now juggles being assistant winemaker, mother and a job, but she found the time to answer our questions!