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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Colorado Wine Week, 2013

Next week (June 2-8) marks the third annual Colorado Wine Week. In 2011, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper proclaimed the first week of June to be Colorado Wine Week to coincide with the first ever Colorado Urban Winefest. Both the Urban and Mountain Winefest (in September in Palisade) are put on by the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (the wineries' and vineyards' trade association). The Urban event has changed venues three times the past three years, but has also grown in scope beyond just the Saturday afternoon festival and may soon surpass the original festival in importance for the local industry.

The kickoff event for the week's festivities is billed as a "Farm-to-Turntable" Party on Sunday, June 2. The idea behind this event is to combine a farm-to-table passed appetizer gathering with music from a DJ. It is nice to see a fresh approach for Colorado wineries to reach a different audience. Almost all of the wineries are run by retired Baby Boomers and the younger generation is often overlooked as an important consumer base. Not surprisingly, perhaps Colorado's most successful winery, Infinite Monkey Theorem, has focused on the "farm-to-turntable" type of crowd. I am looking forward to seeing how successful this event is.

Sticking with the hipper crowd and bringing back a theme from last year's Wine Week, local alcoholic beverages other than wine will be celebrated as well. There will be a Colorado Cocktail Celebration (June 4) at Green Russell where Denver's top mixologists will use local wines in creating unique mixed drinks. Also, on June 6, organizers have developed a wine, beer and spirits food pairing competition they've dubbed "Craft Colorado" at Root 25 Taphouse & Kitchen. I think it is an important step for the industry be considered on the same level as the highly successful craft breweries and distillers in Colorado. Too often wineries complain that they're not as successful as the breweries instead of trying to place nicely with them and support everyone.

One of the highlights of the week for me (because I helped organize the Governor's Cup) is the Governor's Cup Awards Presentation Reception and Tasting at the Hospitality Learning Center at Metro State University on June 7. Only medal-winning wines from the competition will be allowed to be poured; so attendees won't have to worry about getting a mouthful of vinegar or horse manure. I was able to taste many of the winners during the competition and can say that there will be some really nice wines poured. And for the second year in a row a cabernet franc won best of show. This year, Creekside Cellar's 2010 Cabernet Franc succeeded the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey as earning the Governor's Cup. As I've said before, I think Colorado could really make cabernet franc its signature variety.

The week concludes with the Urban Winefest breaking in its new digs at Infinity Park in Glendale. More than three dozen wineries will be sampling and selling bottles. The rugby stadium and park are near the high-rent Cherry Creek North so the walk-up crowd should be sizeable and affluent. The venue is not as centrally located as last year's, but the space is bigger and parking is more ample. If the festival stays at Infinity Park in 2014 I'd say this year's event was successful.

Perhaps the most important part of Wine Week isn't the proclamation or the events, but the buy-in from area restaurants and retailers. Along the Front Range, from Boulder to Colorado Springs, restaurants and wine shops are now involved in the local industry like never before. Dozens of restaurants will be offering Colorado wine and appetizer pairings all week. The restaurant tier has been a tough cookie for most Colorado wineries to crack, but Wine Week has been a boon for getting on wine lists and in consumers' mouths. And getting Colorado consumers to see that Colorado has a growing, quality local wine industry is the goal of the whole week.

Tickets for all events can be purchased here. Use the promo code "WINEWEEK" for $10 off (25%) your ticket to the Urban Winefest.

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