Friday, February 8, 2013

Taking local to a whole new level

Colorado wineries are small. Even the big ones are small. The biggest wineries in the state produce about 20,000 cases annually. In fact, the entire state produces about 115,000 cases each year (much of it from Colorado-grown grapes). One winery takes the small and local approach to a whole new level. Settembre Cellars is perhaps the smallest winery in the state. Blake and Tracy Eliasson founded the tiny endeavor in their Boulder home in 2007. They made wines in lots as small as 4 and 5 cases. Today, their biggest lot is still a miniscule 84.2 cases and they have just recently crossed the 500 case annual production threshold.

They source all of their grapes from Colorado. Most of those grapes come from the Grand Valley AVA four-hours' drive to the west of Boulder. All of their wines are are single-vineyard, single-variety wines. But to make their wines truly local, they decided to also plant two small vineyards in Boulder. The first, named 80304 after their zip code, is a tiny experimental vineyard in their backyard. The Leon-Millot and Marechal Foch produce enough grapes to make about 2 cases of sparkling rosato. They sell this wine to customers who purchase a Community Supported Wine share (CSW). They also planted Oliver's Vineyard at the 63rd St Farm to hybrids as well. They expect to begin producing wine from this vineyard in 2014. In addition to their almost dogmatic adherence to local, they offer a bicycle delivery service for wine purchases. How many wineries do you know that offer a bicycle delivery option?

The wines are handcrafted in an old-world style. Blake pays attention to the slightest details and often tweets about his late-night punch downs. Their technical sheets and newsletters even suggest at what temperatures each of the wines should be drunk. Settembre also bottle ages their wines before they are released. This is why the current releases are from the 2010 and 2009 vintages whereas most wineries are now selling their 2011 and even 2012 wines. This extra attention to detail is worth the wait for drinking these wines. Settembre Cellars produces truly hand-crafted local wines that is more than just lip service.

2010 Settembre Cellars, Dry Riesling, Grand Valley AVA

Just 463 bottles of this steely riesling were made. This is bone dry (~0.1% RS) and shows wonderfully crisp acidity (3.1 pH). It is not exceptionally aromatic, but there is some nice lime, apple and pear aromas to be found. What it lacks on the nose is made up on the palate. It is not overly fruity, but is intense with its spicy, saline and mineral flavors along with some pear rind and Kaffir lime flavors. The finish is quite long and satisfying.13.2% abv Sample $25. Very Good/Excellent

2010 Settembre Cellars, Chardonnay, Grand Valley AVA
This chardonnay bridges the gap between California and Burgundy, but leans more French in style. The typical green apple, peach and floral aromas are present on the nose. The use of new oak is quite noticeable on the palate. This is a rich, slightly buttery chardonnay that coats the mouth. It tastes like a caramel apple with a little bit of smokey vanilla dusted on top.14.5% abv Sample $25. Very Good

2009 Settembre Cellars, Sangiovese, Grand Valley AVA
Only 18.8 cases of this rosé-like sangiovese. The light color doesn't equate to little flavor or aromas. I could just smell this all night. Roses, cranberries, strawberries, orange peel and a hint of spice can be found on the nose and mouth. This is a fun and unique Colorado wine. 14.3% abv Sample $24. Very Good/Excellent

2009 Settembre Cellars, Syrah, Grand Valley AVA
This is very northern Rhône in style. This burly red is full of roasted meat, sage, garrigue, flowers and a slight funkiness aromas. Loads of acidity are balanced with raspberry, truffles and earthy flavors. The alcohol is slightly noticeable on the medium-length finish. 14.2% abv Sample $28. Very Good

2009 Settembre Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon "Valley," Grand Valley AVA
Settembre makes two syrahs from two different vineyards. This one comes from Creekside Cellars' Vinelands Vineyard near to the Colorado River. This is definitely not a California cab. There is a good amount of red fruit up front, but it shows much more finesse and acidity and not as much concentration as its burly west coast cousins. The mouth-coating tannins are balanced with leather, blackberry and currant flavors.  13.7% abv Sample $30. Very Good

2009 Settembre Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon "Mesa," Grand Valley AVA
Quite a contrast from the "Valley" cab, this one is from Mueller Vineyard on the terraces above the Colorado River. There is a little less acidity in the "Mesa" and a lot more pyrazine (green pepper flavors). It is light and floral when tasted side-by-side to the "Valley." It is quite complex, but shows flavors in the leather, tobacco and caramel spectrum. The different cabs are fun to compare, but it seems to me that a blend of the two would make a better wine. 13.1% abv Sample $37. Good

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