This blog post is a combined effort from my friend and co-worker, Garrett, and me, your humble Wine Yogi. Garrett and I taught this exact class together recently at The Wine Gallery and it was a HUGE hit. We changed a lot of minds on the subject of Colorado wines and I hope you will give these local and small wine producers some love and check them out.
From thinking that it is gross and underwhelming to saying that Palisade is soon to be the next Napa Valley or Sonoma county, there is a lot of inaccurate rhetoric regarding Colorado Wine. Colorado Wine has been historically made to pander to those interested in sweet wines and made with imported California bulk wine with fruit juice added. While a few of these wineries still exist, the old guard of Colorado’s wine industry is beginning to retire and as new blood enters, we have made about two decades of progress in the past three years. While there has been this progress there is still room for more in the industry as a whole, but there are shining stars in Colorado wine that are putting us on the national stage.
As for our second qualm…Colorado wine is not and will not be the next Napa or Sonoma, but we do have a unique opportunity to experience this amazing experiment before the tourists take over as they have in Napa and Sonoma. Colorado offers its own unique climate, terroir, varietals, and hospitality. The Million Dollar Breeze that goes through Colorado’s larger AVA (American Viticultural Area), the Grand Valley, keeps grapes and peaches from freezing in the winter and scorching in the summer heat on the western slope. Colorado grows hybrid varietals, such as Chambourcin and St. Vincent, that have been modified to thrive in climates that experience harsher winters. Colorado also has western hospitality that shows especially well when you visit smaller Colorado wineries. It is not uncommon to be invited into a winemaker’s home for dinner during a visit or have them recommend the best place in town to get (insert baller food or drinks to take you straight to FlavorTown here).
Anyways…thank you for coming to our Colorado Wine TED Talk. Let’s drink some wine.
THE STORM CELLAR 2020 BONE DRY GEWÜRZTRAMINER
Winemakers, and our friends, Jayme Henderson & Steve Steese, met while sommeliers at Shanahan’s Steakhouse. Both had spent their entire adult lives in the beverage industry before “retiring” from the restaurant scene and becoming winemakers. This power couple have quickly become the rock stars of Colorado Wine, helping to put the industry on a national stage using both their knowledge of marketing wines via social media and connections to publications and creating insanely good wines that may not drink 100% varietal specific, according to our fellow somm at The Wine Gallery, Patrick, but shine in their own regard with aromatics that are worth lingering on for 10-15 minutes before your first sip and balanced mouthfeel made from lees stirring and consulting with incredible winemakers in California, Oregon, and the Finger Lakes. (Also, don’t get us started on their use of layering their gas blankets on their wines to preserve aromatics…Chef’s Kiss.)
As for the wine. It is 96% Gewürtz and 4% Riesling (but you didn’t hear about that little trick to preserve acidity from me) sourced from Bonzek Vineyard in Palisade. It spends a day cold soaking before pressing and follows that with a life in stainless steel before bottling. This is a definite porch-pounding wine that I have definitely never filled a tumbler up with to take the dog for a walk or a quick hike in the mountains…Drink it with fish, shellfish, light cheeses, the Shakira station on Spotify? But for sure, include it on your Easter table because it is amazing with ham or turkey. And of course, in-laws, Easter egg hunts, and breezy Colorado days.
Kristal’s Easy Cheese Comments:
Sawatch Artisan Foods Baby Gouda: Local butter and cheese producer, Sawatch Artisan Foods, seeks to keep things close to home (within four hours of Colo Spgs) and use only the best ingredients while honoring the past by sticking with traditional methods of butter and cheese production. Using handcrafted, tumble-churned butter results in small-batch, artisan cheeses. Their Baby Gouda (named for the Dutch city of Gouda in the Netherlands and pronounced “How-da” by the locals) is aged two to four months on traditional Dutch pine planks and has a mild, creamy flavor profile. It is a great cheese to use in fondue, melted on a burger or as a grilled cheese sandwich, or to pair with a variety of beers and wines.
Also consider Cashmere Double Cream Brie from Haystack Mountain which uses milk from Longmont Dairy. They produce not only cow’s milk-based cheeses, but some lovely chevre and goat/cow milk blended cheeses. I like to pair this tangy, funky, and rich cheese with Steve and Jayme’s Gewürtz because of the killer aromatics and dry finish. There is nothing more pleasing to my palate than the balance of dry wine against something full of fat, such as double cream Brie.
CHILL SWITCH 2018 CABERNET FRANC
David (Dave) Aschwanden only produces wine from Colorado grapes (we stan a local king). He also grows grapes at questionably the highest elevation in the United States at his property in Cedaredge that sits at 6,800’. Dave uses old-world winemaking techniques that let the grapes speak for themselves. Dave lets the native yeast take off in his wines and ferment until they die off before inoculating. Dave mainly ferments whole-cluster in macro bins. Almost leaving the grapes as they were when they were delivered to him for fermentation. Dave has told me multiple interesting things about winemaking at high altitude. The temperature is cool enough in fall to not need temperature control for fermentation, yet it also poses the issue of fermentation taking longer due to the cold weather in winter causing his fermentations to stall until spring. An anecdotal story he had to share was regarding him rushing to put wine in barrels over winter, as he ages it at least 30 months in French Oak. He walked into the winery in spring and throughout the day the rubber bungs he used to keep the barrels closed kept launching into the air throughout the day due to the pressure from CO2 buildup from fermentation. Dave is exactly what you would expect from a winemaker that spends most of his time in his winery by himself (he won’t let you visit unless you’re planning on buying at least a case) and spends the rest of his time cross-country skiing in remote areas. He gets incredibly excited and nerdy regarding his wines once he opens up, but unless you are good at asking questions and getting him to open up, it is a very awkward experience to taste through his wines to decide what to bring into The Wine Gallery.
Tasty Notez: All of the green bell pepper. Well-balanced with a lighter body than warmer climate Cab Franc. A wine designed for my friend, Garrett. Not too overwhelming to need food to pair with, but also enough to pair with gyros, may I say pâté? (Garrett is genuinely asking here because the only time he has had it is when he did girl’s trip with me and the other Wine Gallery Girls.) If you are serving lamb for your Easter celebrations, this is a must have for Sunday.
Not to be a marketing expert’s target audience, both of these wines from Dave have gorgeous labels which remind me of my own Easter table, not to mention the absolute perfect wines Dave has made for your Easter celebration. This Riesling is dry but the fruit truly sings as well, so if you have some guests that enjoy “sweet” wines, this wine is certainly an option for a spring party. A clean and crisp representation of this famous German varietal (often presented with residual sugar and lower alcohol levels), this wine’s acidity will cut the saltiness and carb heavy foods you often find on spring and summer party tables. Got a graduation party coming up? This is a great wine to offer guests. Planning a bridal shower? This wine perfectly pairs with cucumber sandwiches and
MouCou Camembert: Front Range cheese makers, Birgit Halbreiter and Robert Poland, have sought to produce award winning cheeses while reducing their environmental impact and supporting local dairy farmers. Their first cheese, MouCou Camembert, is free of additives or preservatives and adheres to the traditional bloomy expectations of soft surfaced ripened cheeses. As it continues to age, it will continue to soften and behave more like butter in terms of texture with a nutty note that makes a lovely contrast with the tangy notes of the rind (and yes, the rind is edible!)
ALFRED EAMES 2018 ESTATE PINOT NOIR
Eames Petersen learned to make wine when he decided to spend some time in Spain during his teenage years. While those were a while ago Eames, who started his winemaking career in Paonia in 1984, makes some of the best full-bodied reds and one of the few Pinot Noirs made from Colorado grapes. Eames put himself on the Colorado map by creating Spanish Style Red Blends like his Sangre Del Sol and Tempranillo but makes other incredible wines such as his Sauvignon Blanc Viognier blend and what we are tasting today. Eames Estate Pinot Noir is a labor of love from pruning in March to bottling 2 ½- 3½ years later. While there are many Colorado wineries that produce Pinot Noir, there are only two that I currently know of that produce it with Colorado grapes. Colorado’s lesser-known West Elks AVA provides a climate that lends itself to producing incredible Pinot Noir Grapes that somewhat bridge the gap between Washington and California Pinot Noir.
Garrett’s Nerdy stuff for this specific wine: This Wine spends its life after primary fermentation in 100% French Oak. Occasionally Oak Spirals are used in neutral barrels, as it provides greater control over the final product. Eames lets his wine sit in oak for at least 24 months prior to bottling. His winemaking process includes extended maceration times to extract more tannins and pyrazines. This gives the relatively lighter, cool climate, fruit aromatics and flavors that are often found in both Washington & Oregon Pinot as well as California. There is green bell pepper on the nose, but elegant fruit on the palate.
We are also going to try Eames’ Tempranillo, which the “Wine Gallery Girls” (and yes, that includes Garrett) absolutely loved so much we brought this true to style Spanish inspired wine into The Wine Gallery. Did I mention that The Wine Gallery is the only wine store on the Front Range carrying Eames’ wines? Oh, well now you know.
Kristal’s Easy Cheese Comments
Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy First Snow: Dawn Jump founded Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy in 2002, combining her love for goats and cheese-making with bringing sustainable food to her local community at large. Located in Buena Vista, this working dairy (you can tour it throughout the year) has produced award-winning cheeses using old world cheese making techniques. Their bestselling First Snow is a soft rind ripened cheese dusted with Poplar ash in the French style of making Morbier (cow) cheese (traditionally, the ash was used to protect the milk in between morning and evening milking of their cows. The evening milk was not enough to create an entire cheese, so the curd was pressed and a layer of ash placed on top until the morning curd could be added the next day.) This goat version of Morbier is ripened and hand-turned, giving it extraordinary depth and character. This cheese is absolutely stunning with Eames’ Pinot AND Tempranillo.
Sauvage Spectrum Sparklet NV Sparkling Rosé
Sauvage Spectrum is the love child of Winemaker Patric Matysiewski and the largest grape grower in Colorado, Kaibab Sauvage. Many of your favorite wineries and wines on the front range may be a product of Patric’s previous adventures in winemaking with wineries such as Infinite Monkey Theorem and Carboy. You may also know of a few wineries that source their grapes from Kaibab, including: Carboy, Infinite Monkey Theorem, The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, Bookcliff, Balistreri, and many others.
It is a not-so-well-kept secret that Sauvage Spectrum came from Kaibab having an excess of grapes during bountiful harvest years, leading the way to the first release of Sparklet. It has since transformed from a wine made from varietals that were not the first selection and essentially leftovers, to being the premier grapes due to Kaibab realizing he can make more money processing his grapes into wine than selling them wholesale (though the ROI takes a little longer). Sparklet and Sparklet Rosé were the first wines to be released from Sauvage Spectrum with their fun, screen printed bottles. However, Patric has been becoming more experimental with some of his newer pet-projects which include a Pet-Nat made with hops, A Heavy-Toast American Oak (Bourbon Style) barrel-aged Malbec, and other funky stuff that other winemakers are afraid to approach. However, be aware that some projects are more palatable than others.
The Wine: This is another wine that screams summer fun to us with the bubblegum notes from the Petite Pearl (a hybrid from Michigan that grows really well here in Colorado) and strawberry notes from St. Vincent (though we didn’t tell you about any of the varietals used in this “proprietary Blend.”) The winemaking style to make this a sparkling wine is non-traditional and something Patric carried over from his days at Breckenridge Brewery. Rather than do a secondary fermentation in a brite tank or bottle, Patric uses CO2 to force-carbonate his wines in tanks that were specially ordered and built for this purpose. This lends itself to the slightly larger bubbles in the wine, but help to preserve the light mouthfeel and fun, summery, fruit this wine has. This is a perfect Easter table wine or one to break out on summer nights with friends around the campfire or playing Monopoly while using champagne flutes to feel classy as friendships are ruined…
Cheesy Come, Cheesy Go:
Springside Pueblo Chile Cheese Spread: Springside president and owner, Keith Hintz, made his way to Pueblo after meeting and falling in love with his wife, Jennifer, who called Pueblo home. Recognizing that there was an opportunity to bring artisan and his family’s own award-winning cheeses to Southern Colorado, Keith opened Springside Cheese in 2012, the company’s first retail store outside of Wisconsin. Inspired by southern pimento cheese, this cheese spread kicks up the best classic Pueblo Chile warmth and hint of smokiness. Each batch is mixed by hand with Springside’s own cheddar cheese and diced fire-roasted Pueblo chilies. Use this on your burgers or as an addition to a charcuterie board with fresh baguette or as an alternative to butter on cornbread.
A New Addition to #ThirstyThursday
As Mandy has mentioned on several shows, folks using alcohol and drugs to cope with the stresses the past few years have brought into our lives has seen a dramatic rise. I am not immune to those challenges and given what I do for a living, I frequently check my own consumption of wine and spirits to make sure that I am in charge of the wine and it is not in charge of me. For some folks, sobriety is the best and only answer for them. In honor of that, I will now be including non-alcoholic options for those who, like Dave the Intrepid, don’t enjoy alcohol or for those folks who need a different option for their own health. So, in sticking with supporting Colorado businesses, we will be tasting Rocky Mountain Soda Co. Prickly Pear soda! Inspired by prickly pear cactus fruit, this cola is refreshing and a delightful choice for your Easter table. The pear and cactus notes lend themselves nicely for spicy foods as well as salty foods, such as ham, potato gratin, or Sawatch’s Chipotle or Sage Cheddar.
If you are looking for help in finding sobriety in your own life, please consider these resources (some of which you have heard Mandy mention and another that is a personal friend of mine who freed herself from alcoholism and found herself through yoga.)
Step Denver is a resource for men looking to free themselves from addiction and regain their lives back. My husband and I have donated two vehicles to this program so even if you don’t need their services, they are a great program to support!
The Raleigh House is a substance abuse recovery program that personalizes each program to fit the needs of their client.
Go Sober is a medically assisted outpatient program that focuses on your brain chemistry to help you go sober forever. They are a sponsor of Mandy’s and she has had them on several times, so if you have more questions, she is happy to help put you in touch with them. If you aren’t sure if you have an issues with alcohol, they have a private, free online assessment (I took it and as I suspected, my score indicates that I do not have an issue) you can use to begin your own evaluation.
Emerge with Cole Chance is not a recovery program itself but is a program meant to support you in your journey to sobriety. Cole will be hosting a yoga retreat this fall at Mt, Shasta, California, which I will be attending (any chance I get to do some yoga with this beautiful soul I leap at…I will be joining her again a month later. For more information on these two retreats, check them out here: The California Retreat and Mindfulish Retreat.
The Other Nosh…
In addition to the cheeses listed above, we will also be enjoying some local artisan foods (what #ThirstyThursday segment doesn’t have food from The French Kitchen?) We will be enjoying Elevation Artisan Meats (Denver) Basque Recipe Salami, sausage from Charcutnuvo (formerly Continental Sausage and my absolute favorite hot dog and sausage maker), and since Dave hasn’t had macarons from Honey B’s yet, we’ll see how his Prickly Pear soda “pears” with my favorite cookie, and other assorted goodies. I am still gathering all the goods…so tune in to find out what we’ll be enjoying.
That wraps us this blog post on Colorado Wines. From my family to yours, wishing you a happy Easter, Passover, Spring…