Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Meet the Winemaker: John Garlich (Bookcliff Vineyards)

John Garlich
Well, after a week without a winemaker interview, we are back with one of Colorado's elite winemakers. Last year, Bookcliff Vineyards won Colorado's second ever Jefferson Cup for their 2009 Petite Sirah (their Ensemble red blend was also a Jefferson Cup Nominee). They continued to rack up top honors as they won two best of category awards at this year's Colorado Governor's Cup. While starting to gain a national reputation for producing excellent wines (see Daily Grape #77), they remain a local favorite. They produce a argosy of wines, their robust reds and luscious muscat-based dessert wines are some of my favorite in Colorado.

One of only four Boulder wineries, Bookcliff Vineyards has sort of a split personality. The winery is located in an urban industrial park in North Boulder next to Upslope Brewering Company, but they also own and manage 24 acres of vineyard in Palisade, CO, growing ten different varieties. If you haven't tried a wine from Bookcliff, I urge you to go get a bottle and come back to read our interview with owner and winemaker, John Garlich.

CWP: How did you get into winemaking?

In the late 70’s, my wife and I discovered wine. I thought it was so cool that there were all these different levels of flavor and that they evolve with time. I found it intriguing that there were all these different variables that are part of the wine-making process. In the early 80’s, I started making wine from California zinfandel grapes. Since then I have taken classes at UC Davis. In the mid 80’s, we looked at land in Oregon and explored the potential of starting a vineyard and winery there. At that point we did not have the resources to pull it off. In the early 90’s, we discovered Palisade on our way to Moab. After visiting some wineries in Palisade we thought it had lots of potential. We took out time finding the best vineyard property in the valley. We bought a ten-acre peach orchard and converted it to a vineyard. Initially, we sold most of the grapes to other wineries. We started our winery in 1999. We have expanded our vineyard area to 26 acres, and now use most of the grapes for our winery.

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

I would be structural engineer working on commercial buildings. I have worked on the Colorado Convention Center, Coors Field, DIA and numerous office buildings all around the country including Hawaii.

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

Backpacking, cross country skiing and traveling.

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

Zinfandel. Actually we will make our first Colorado zinfandel this year. It should be released sometime next summer (2012).

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

Napa, because I would get paid more.

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

1979 Lytton Springs Zinfandel. A small winery in Sonoma that was eventually bought by Ridge.

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

Classical music; lots of complexity and nuance.

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

Bargain. I would gladly put our wines in a blind tasting up against any wines in the world at the same price point.

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

The Colorado Wine industry should be much bigger and should have earned a spot in the top four states for wine quality.

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

What do you like about Colorado Wine?

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