Thursday, April 28, 2011

Colorado Wine Shines in the National Spotlight

April 2011 might have been a very big month for Colorado wine. At the beginning of the month, the purveyors of DrinkLocalWine.com announced that the 4th annual Drink Local Wine Conference will be coming to Colorado in 2012. Dallas wine blogger Jeff Siegel (the Wine Curmudgeon) and Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre created the site to promote the quality of the wines, grapes, flavors and opportunities offered by regional wines. This conference will bring several dozen wine writers from around the country to Colorado in order to explore all that is Colorado wine. Writers will tour wineries, taste Colorado's vinous delights and take part in a "Twitter Taste-Off" where attendees will taste and tweet about their favorite Colorado wines. This conference could do a lot to show the world what Colorado grapes have to offer.

Not only was that announcement a move in the right direction for the Colorado wine industry, several weeks later, wine personality Gary Vaynerchuk,  made his way to the Centennial State to promote his new book, The Thank You Economy. At the book signing, Vaynerchuk, formerly of WineLibraryTV.com and currently appearing on DailyGrape.com, was given a bottle of Guy Drew Vineyards' 2007 Metate by an enthusiastic guest at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. The following day before his trek to Boulder, Vaynerchuk taped episode 26 of his Daily Grape (see video below) while tasting the bottle of Colorado wine. After briefly describing Colorado's wine history, Vaynerchuk sampled this blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah and was blown away by its quality. Hundreds of fans commented on this video and many were interested in where they could find wines from Colorado. Drew, according to a Grand Junction Sentinel article, has already sold 10 cases of the 300 case production offering to viewers of the video across the country. Other wine writers, including ColoradoWino and Sourgrapes, have cited the Vaynerchuk video in their posts. When major wine personalities like Vaynerchuk take note of Colorado's wines, consumers will reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, not everyone is buying what Colorado is selling. In a conversation in the comments section on one of Steve Heimoff's blog posts, Steve states that he was in Colorado several years ago and "found most of the wines inferior." He also claims that the reason he doesn't review Colorado wines is because no one pays him to do so. He fails to realize that many consumers may actually be interested in wines from places other than California (see comments on Daily Grape episode 26). While I enjoy reading Steve's blog, every once in awhile I find his holier-than-thou attitude a little frustrating. While he did offer to review Colorado wines if I sent him a case, he would only do so on his blog, but not in the more widely distributed Wine Enthusiast Magazine. If you make great Colorado wine and want Steve to try it, let me know. If you are a Steve Heimoff fan (or critic) and would like him to explore non-California wines, let him know. Like all wines regions, Colorado offers a spectrum of wine styles and qualities, and together we can continue to show the world that some of Colorado's wines are truly world class.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: 1994 Argyle Brut

Well, we are now at three full weeks of having little Benjamin with us.  He is starting to develop a slightly predictable sleeping schedule and he is more alert and wanting to take in all of his surroundings. He is starting to fuss a little more, especially after feeding, but he has not gotten to the point of outright crying. The cats are finally returning to their normal personalities and even investigating Ben a bit more closely. While he is still very new to us, these past few weeks seem like a lifetime and five minutes at the same time.

Thinking about how new and young Ben is got me to thinking about older and aged wines. A majority of wine is meant to be consumed within a few years of its production date. Only a small portion of the world's wine actually improves in quality as it ages. Some wineries age their young wines in oak barrels to impart aromas, flavors and tannins. This process is supposed to add complexity and ageability to the wine. Nevertheless, consumers (especially Americans) often hold on to wines long past their vintage date. There are really only four ways for consumers to have access to well-aged quality wines and the additional complexity they yield. First, and most likely, is consumers buying wine when it is released and storing it in a proper temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar. Second, some wineries actually take this step for the consumer and release their wines when they are deemed drinkable. Third, sometimes retailers keep wines for an extended period of time (intentionally or not) before being bought by consumers. Finally, one might be befriend a wine aficionado who has come by a bottle, or more, of older quality wine.

Many laws governing European wine regions dictate the aging requirements of quality wines, including sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France. Multi-vintage champagne must be aged 15 months before being released, and vintage champagne must age 36 months. After it is released, it is up to the consumer on how much longer to keep the bottle before popping the cork. Given ideal conditions, such as the bottom of a sea, champagne can age hundreds of years!

While sparkling wine from the eponymous Champagne region of France is often put on a pedestal, wine regions around the world also produce bottles of bubbly. While I was perusing the shelves of an off the beaten path wine shop, I spied a bottle of a 17-year old sparkler from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. As the price sticker had probably been on the bottle since it was released, I figured that I could take a shot and give it a try. So, for this third edition of Ben's Bubbly I give you the 1994 Argyle Brut.

1994 Argyle, Brut, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Made from the traditional champagne grapes, this wine is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. While the bottle does not release as much gas as younger bottles of bubbly, the wine still foams slightly as I pour it into two flutes. A slight head covers a golden, straw colored wine. Very toasty aromas dominate on the nose, but I also sense hints of caramel, nuts and even herbs. The toast is still present on the palate and pairs with golden delicious apple, orange marmalade and a hint of woody mushrooms.  While this is a nice bottle of wine, it should have been consumed more than a few years ago. The acidity has diminished and it is lacking the vibrancy and liveliness that I prefer in my sparkling wine. Perhaps I will seek out the the extended tirage bottlings from Argyle that are meant to age longer than the simple brut offering. 13% abv Purchased $18. Good (tasted 4/21/11)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Hans Igler Sekt Brut Blaufränkisch

It has been a great week with Ben. With my family having gone back home and the parade of friends fading to a trickle, it has mostly just been mom, dad and Ben.While we've gotten a few less hours of sleep and the diaper changes are like running across a firing range (only to have a bomb explode moments after successfully avoiding a bullet!), everything has been great. At his one-week appointment, he had exceeded his birth weight by 3.5 oz. Last night, he slept for three three hour blocks (a record since the first night!). Today, Ben went on his first stroller ride outside and enjoyed it except for the occasional sun in his eyes. He is spending a little more time each day alert and looking around taking in the world surrounding him. With our life being so different than they were just two weeks ago, I chose a 'different' sparkling wine for this week's Ben's Bubbly.

NV Weingut Hans Igler, Sekt Brut, Blaufränkisch, Burgenland, Austria

Blaufränkisch, aka lemberger, wines are unique and often hard to find. I've written about a local lemberger produced by Carlson Vineyards here, but when I saw this sparkling blaufränkisch from Austria in a local wine shop I just had to have it. Not knowing anything about the wine before I popped and poured it, I was slightly surprised to see it pour a beautifully effervescent salmon-colored (think cooked salmon) glass of wine. The bubbles seemed to erupt from the bottom of the flute and cascade up the glass through the light pink juice. The nose was somewhat muted, but there we were able to pick up unripe strawberry and cranberry aromas. A little bit more expressive, yet green, on the palate, grass and toast with cranberry preserves were what came to mind with this tart sparkler. While not a profound wine in any way, it was tasty and fun. How often do you see sparkling blaufränkisch? I have one more bottle tucked away and will revisit it sometime after this year-long sparkling sojourn. 13% abv Purchased $14. Good (tasted 4/14/11)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ben's Bubbly: Ruinart Blanc de Blanc (also starring Ovid and Drinkward Peschon)

Well, this past week was quite eventful. We brought our little Benjamin home when he was just four hours old and have had a continuous line of friends and family come over to meet him and lend us a hand. The first night was great. He (and we) slept for eight hours. He was quite sleepy after his grand entrance, but after catching up on sleep our little hungry guy emerged. My wife feeds him while I get diaper duty. He is very well behaved and only cries when he gets cold during diaper changes, but he usually gets his revenge during those sessions...

My parents drove out from Wisconsin to see their number one grandson. My sister flew in from college and my brother drove up from Colorado Springs. This was the first time that we'd all been together in almost 18 months and the first time my parents and sister have seen my brother since he got back from Iraq last month. To celebrate these two joyous occasions, we opened a few bottles of wine including the first of fifty-two bottles of bubbly.

While it has taken me almost a week to get this post finished, it is my intention to be more prompt with Ben's Bubbly posts. I do have to leave the disclaimer that countless diapers were harmed during the making of this piece...

2007 Peñascal Estate, Tempranillo Rose, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon

We opened this rosado to sip while cooking dinner and enjoying the 70-degree weather. Sitting in the refrigerator for more than a few months, it was time to open this one from Spain. Pinkish-copper in color, this tempranillo is a refreshingly dry rosé. Strawberries, papaya and herbs are noticeable on the nose and palate. I really enjoy dry rosés and this one is no different. While it is nothing special, I will look for more tempranillo rosés. 12% abv Purchased $8. Good (tasted 4/6/11)

2007 Drinkward Peschon, Entre Deux Meres, Napa Valley

This Bordeaux-style blend produced by  mothers Lisa Drinkward and Francoise Peschon (winemaker at Araujo Estates) is a blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon, 11% merlot, 7% cabernet franc and 7% petit verdot. This opaque purple-black wine packs a lot of aromas and flavors. Dominated by blackberry, cassis and vanilla, smoke, glycerol, and a bit of leather also make an appearance. While the tannins are smooth, the big fruit and vanilla yield a mouth-coating experience. Not for those who are looking for a more nuanced wine.14.3% abv Purchased $55. Very Good (tasted 4/6/11)

2005 Ovid, Experiment K1.5, Napa Valley
Ovid's flagship wine is a Bordeaux-style cult wine produced from grapes grown on Pritchard Hill to the east of Oakville at 1400 feet above sea level. They are also committed to the idea of experimentation with their wine. Each year they release small amounts of unique Experiment wines. The first offering was the K1.5. This initial release is a blend of 73.5% cabernet franc, 21.9% petit verdot, 3.5% merlot and 1.1% cabernet sauvignon. The wine is dark garnet and yields a unique, yet beautiful bouquet. The earthy and spicy scents are a stark contrast to oak and fruit bombs so prevalent in the Napa Valley. Chocolate, licorice and dark fruits make this experiment a tasty success. 14.5% abv Purchased $85. Very Good/Excellent (tasted 4/7/11)

NV Ruinart, Blanc de Blancs, Champagne

The first bubbly of our 52-week journey had to come from the eponymous region of Champagne. I have not had much sparkling wine and usually do not pick up on the subtle differences these under-ripe grapes and carbon dioxide produce. At an industry tasting last year, this wine stood out from the others to me. Produced from 100% chardonnay, lemon, orange blossoms and a slight yeastiness combined with the fine beads of bubbles made this a lovely opening act. Not as sublime as I remembered it to be, but still this is a lovely wine. 12.5% abv Purchased $50. Very Good (tasted 4/7/11)

1997 Murphy Goode, Vintage Port

Many Port-style dessert wines produced in California are made from zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon. That is why when I was in California three years ago I was surprised to find this very traditional wine made from 70% tinto madeira and 30% touriga and aged in barrels for 20 months. As it was only available in the tasting room, I bought a case and have been slowly going through the bottles. This is about as good of a domestic port-style wine that I have tasted. This wine has notes of toffee, prunes, dried dark fruit, and even a little vanilla. Not overly sweet and showing any of its high alcohol, this is a delicious value dessert wine. I'm glad that I still have five more bottles. 18.5% abv Purchased $24. Very Good (tasted 4/7/11)

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Editor

It has been a slow couple of weeks publishing here at Colorado Wine Press. On Monday, April 4, we welcomed a new editor, Ben, to the staff. We've been getting ready for his arrival from a few months now, but for the last few weeks we've really ramped up our preparations. Well, he arrived a few days ago and has been very demanding. I can tell that my already occasional posting schedule is going to be even more random. However, Ben has decided that we need to add a new regular column to the site. To celebrate our new boss, we are going to be posting a weekly article about sparkling wine for the next year. Starting next week Ben's Bubbly will be featured on Colorado Wine Press. Speaking of Ben, he's calling me again...

Ben - Born 04/04/11 - 7 lbs 14 oz - 21 inches