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Friday, January 27, 2012

Who says Colorado doesn't produce some of the world's best wine?

Colorado makes some damn good wine. However, one of the biggest issues many people have with Colorado wine is the word "Colorado" on the label. Sure, some of the fun of drinking certain wines is what is on the label, but if you eliminate preconceived notions about the region by hiding the label, I am quite confident that Colorado's best wines can compete with the world's best wines. I've done it time and time again. And I will continue to do so to prove my point. However, even the blind tasting I am sharing with you now surprised me.

A few months ago, my tasting group decided on 2003 Bordeaux as our next theme. Bordeaux produces perhaps the best known and most sought after wines (both red and white) in the world. Bordeaux is a large and complex region, but to simplify things, it is often thought of in two terms: the Left Bank and the Right Bank. The banks refer to the side of the Gironde estuary (where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge) on which the vineyards lie. Wines from the Right Bank are generally velvety merlot-based wines. The Left Bank wines are made mostly from cabernet sauvignon and considered by many to be more structured, long aged and generally more prestigious. They are so highly regarded that in 1855, the merchants of Bordeaux classified the châteaux of the Left Bank into a five tier hierarchy based on quality and price that remains little changed to this day. At the top are the First Growths that command hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per bottle. A total of only 61 Bordeaux châteaux of nearly 10,000 are now a part of this classification. These classified Bordeaux châteaux are the yardstick by which all other cabernet sauvignon are measured. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to see how Colorado wine at its best compares with the top wines in the world.

The lineup did not include any of the super expensive First Growths, but it did have some pretty big names from the Left Bank (and the vintage wasn't too shabby either). Everyone gathered at our new house and brown bagged 7 bottles of classified Bordeaux, plus a few ringers to keep us honest. No one knew all of the wines in the lineup, but we knew many of the names that were hidden from view. Paired with a top sirloin steak and a round eye roast, we had a grand time tasting through the flight. Only one bottle disappointed (and even that was contentious, but more on that later), and a few surprised when the labels were revealed. After the Bordeaux flight, a generous guest opened two other big red gems and then we sipped on a variety of dessert wines. Overall, it was quite a night!

The Bordeaux-themed flight included ten wines ranging in price from $30-$300 and were from Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Washington and, of course, Colorado. The tasting notes are mine, and I will note my ranking of the wines as well as the group's.

Wine 1: This shows a little bit of volatile acidity and is a bit funky. Some nice cigar box and cherries are on the nose. Flavors of sour cherry and green olive are most prominent, but overall this one is rather light and fades quickly. My least favorite if you don't count the corked bottle. Average

Wine 2: This is a big wine. Lots of dark fruit, cassis, and tobacco. Nice, but does not stand out as special. Good/Very Good

Wine 3: Another big wine. Red fruit and leather on the nose lead to molasses, spices, dark fruits and smooth tannins on the palate. This is a thick and aggressive wine that is probably still young. Very Good/Excellent

Wine 4: Wow. Loads of fruit on both the nose and mouth. This thing is complex. Fruit, violets and vanilla keep lingering on the long finish. This was the first wine I went back to revisit. My wine of the night. Excellent/Outstanding

Wine 5: Another lovely wine. This is the first to be a bit green and have a slightly metallic nose, but the smooth tannins, typical cab flavors of currant and tobacco and exceptionally long finish make this one to remember. Not as fruity as the others, but still a typical Bordeaux. My number two of the night. Excellent

Wine 6: This wine is full of pepper and smoke. It is a lot lighter on the palate than the others. Unfortunately, it falls apart in the mouth way too quickly. Good

Wine 7: Back to the good stuff. Lots of red and black fruits are on both the nose and palate, but this is the first to show nice herbs of sage and tea. It goes down very smooth. Not too complex, but a very nice wine. My third choice of the night. Very Good/Excellent

Wine 8: The first thing I notice is the alcohol. It tastes very New World; like a buttery blackberry liqueur. Decent, but a bit too much for me at this point. Good/Very Good

Wine 9: Corked. Offensive nose and TCA is the first thing that comes to mind for me. The group had a discussion and several people were adamant that it wasn't corked, just a bit bretty. It tastes better than it smells, but still shows only earth, leather, mushrooms and no fruit. My least favorite, but I still stand by my assessment of it being corked. NR

Wine 10: This is a big fruity lollipop. It is thin, simple and slightly metallic, but fun to drink. Nothing special. Good


Top Wines of the Night as voted by the group:
#1: Wine 5 (5 first place votes, 1 second)
#2: Wine 4 (3 first place votes, 1 second, 1 third)
#3: Wine 3 (1 first place vote, 3 third)

Find out the identities after the jump...

Wines unveiled:
Wine 1 = 2005 Andrew Will, Champoux Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills AVA
Wine 2 = 2003 Château Ducru Beaucaillou, Saint Julien
Wine 3 = 2001 Canyon Wind Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Valley AVA
Wine 4 = 2003 Château Léoville Poyferré, Saint Julien
Wine 5 = 2003 Napanook, Napa Valley AVA
Wine 6 = 2003 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Wine 7 = 2003 Château Giscours, Margaux
Wine 8 = 2003 Château Léoville-Las Case, Saint Julien
Wine 9 = 2003 Château Cos d'Estournel, St. Estèphe
Wine 10 = 2003 Château Pichon Longueville Cometesse de Lalande, Pauillac

Once again, a Colorado wine was chosen by a group of well-versed wine drinkers (13 people this time, though only 11 voted) as being amongst the top wines of the night. I've had many wines from Canyon Wind and find their reds to be very good wines. While it was not in my top three, it was my fourth favorite of the night. Anyway you spin it, it was as good if not better than many of these glorified imports. I, and the group, was surprised that the Napanook (second wine of Dominus Estate) turned out to be the group's overwhelming favorite, but it was a damn good wine. I have never had a Dominus, but if the Napanook is a taste of what's to come from the bigger name, I can't wait to try one.

After the lineup was drained empty, one generous guest decided to open up a bottle of 2003 Schrader Cellars T6 and a bottle of 2003 Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard. Even though both came from vineyards in the Oakville AVA, they couldn't have been more different. The Schrader was a big, powerful fruit-forward beauty. The Heitz was restrained and refined, yet both were awesome in their own right. Following this intermezzo, we broke into the sweet stuff. I didn't take notes, but the 2001 Château Climens was surprisingly dry, but still breathtaking. We had 2003 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume and a 2009 Bedrock Lachryma Montis Late Harvest Semillon that were both sweetly unctuous. A 2007 Croft Port was the icing on the cake, but needs many more years to reach its potential. Overall, the night was filled with some big-name (and tasty) wines. But, the underlying theme that more than a few friends left with was, "who says Colorado can't produce some of the world's best wine?"

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