Two weekends ago, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board (CWIDB, and for which I work part-time) held the Governor’s Cup Colorado Wine Competition. This year was the fourth incarnation of the largest, and most prestigious, statewide commercial wine competition (actually the First Lady's Choice was awarded the first year because the Governor had not given consent to use the title). The 2014 Governor’s Cup was awarded to Canyon Wind Cellars’ 2012 Petit Verdot from the Grand Valley AVA. The past two years saw cabernet franc coming out on top, but even before this result I was starting to think that petit verdot might be the best cultivar for Colorado producers. This year also marks the inaugural "Governor's Cup Case." Modeled after the Virginia Governor's Cup Case, the top twelve wines will be the wines that the CWIDB use for the next 12 months for its marketing and educational endeavors.
A total of 183 wines from 26 local wineries were judged by a panel of
sommeliers, wine writers, consultants, and winemakers from
Colorado and around the country. A list of the judges, along with their bios, can be found at http://www.coloradowine.com/2014GovsCup. Not to take anything away from any of the judges, but the most notable judge was Warren Winiarski. Winiarski is most famous for starting Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and winning the Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976. A bottle of 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon now sits in the Smithsonian Museum for that monumental accomplishment. But before changing California wine history, Winiarski made his mark in Colorado. When Warren and I first met last year, he told me that he wanted to come back to Colorado to see what the industry is up to these days. He eagerly accepted an invitation to judge in the competition and also gave a seminar for industry professionals while he was here (more on that next week).
I guess the wines he tasted intrigued him enough to rekindle that 46-yr old connection to Colorado. Over the last two weeks, I've spoken with Winiarski a handful of times and he sounds giddy schoolkid each time. He is already planning a return to trip to get out to Palisade to visit the vineyards this summer. “I was truly impressed with the quality and direction of Colorado’s
wine producers. The industry has come a long way since I made wine here
46 years ago! Quite a number of the wines I tasted were beyond
expressing merely the region but had the character of classics,” he exclaimed.
Another notable judge, Linda Murphy, writer and co-author of American
Wine with Jancis Robinson, added, “I found a few Merlots and Cabernet Francs that could hold their own against California and Washington wines, although Cabernet Sauvignon, in general, needs a longer growing season to get fully ripe. I'd like to see more Colorado winemakers try hybrid varieties that have been bred to withstand cold temperatures and ripen in short growing seasons” That statement on hybrids is sure to be contentious with Colorado producers. Few have been open to using these lesser-known varieties, though one of the top wines in the competition had some hybrid varieties in its blend.
As I stated above, this year marks the first time that the CWIDB is assembling “The
Governor’s Cup Case.” The Governor’s Cup Case is composed of the top
cider, mead, white, rosé, red and dessert wines from the competition,
along with the next six highest scoring wines. Whereas the Virginia Governor's Cup Case is chock-full of red blends, the Colorado counterpart is the definition of diversity. There are 12 unique varietal and blended wines. Does the fact that no single variety or style stood out mean that Colorado has no specific wine to hang its hat on? Well, that question is hard to answer when less that a quarter of all producers submitted samples and many of those that did, did not send their entire lineups.
You can have a chance to taste many of the medal-winning wines and meet the winemakers at the Governor’s Cup
Wine Mixer on June 6 at the Hyatt Place Cherry Creek. The awards presentation and tasting is a part of Colorado
Wine Week, May 31 – June 8. The week-long celebration of local wine
begins with the Manitou Springs Wine Festival, Saturday, May 31 and
culminates with the Colorado Urban Winefest, June 7 at Infinity Park in
Glendale, CO. Visit http://www.coloradowineweek.com for more information.
The 12 wines in the Governor’s Cup Case are:
Best Red Wine and Best of Show
Canyon Wind Cellars, Palisade, CO: 2012 Petit Verdot, Grand Valley AVA
Best White Wine
Boulder Creek Winery, Boulder, CO: 2013 Riesling, Colorado
Creekside Cellars, Evergreen, CO: 2013 Rosé, Grand Valley AVA
Best Dessert Wine
Ptarmigan Vineyards, Grand Junction, CO: 2012 Muscat Glacier, Colorado
Best Fruit Wine or Cider
Branch Out Cider, Fort Collins, CO: Perennial Sparkling Dry Cider, Colorado
Rocky Mountain Vineyards, Palisade, CO: Great Catherine’s Spiced Nectar Mead
Bookcliff Vineyards, Boulder, CO: Friday’s Folly White, Colorado
Bookcliff Vineyards, Boulder, CO: 2012 Malbec, Grand Valley AVA
Carlson Vineyards, Palisade, CO: 2012 Tyrannosaurus Red Lemberger, Grand Valley AVA
Ryker’s Cellars, Denver, CO: 2012 Petite Sirah, American
Stone Cottage Cellars, Paonia, CO: 2012 Gewürztraminer, West Elks AVA
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, Cañon City, CO: 2011 Merlot Reserve, Colorado