How many frogs must you kiss to find a handsome prince? An important philosophical question for a wine blog to ask when wine tasting in non-traditional grape growing areas. Saturday (June 11th), we attended Denver’s first Colorado Winefest. Driving through a downpour most of the way across town, we wondered if outdoor Winefest would become a washout. The wet weather made it seem like a perfect day for frog kissing. But lady luck smiled, moved the storms off to the east and the afternoon turned perfectly sunny for this very well run and attended event. The wines were better than expected and as a result, fewer frogs were kissed.
For $35, participants received a wine glass (unlimited samples), tote bag and a few meal tickets to use with local vendors positioned throughout the festival held at The Shops at Northfield Stapleton, near the abandoned and re-imagined Stapleton Airport area. Over 50 of the state’s nearly 100 vintners stood ready pour. The $35 included most of the wine offered however a few wineries offered “reserve tastings” for a couple of dollars extra.
Colorado wine? you say. The Colorado wine industry dates back to the 1800’s but like in most of the country, the local wine industry died out, a victim of prohibition laws. Over the last twenty years Colorado has had a viticulture resurgence, of sorts, with now over 1000 acres of planted grapes and nearly 100 wineries. Most of the grapes are grown on the western plains, near Grand Junction and Palisades.
The wineries are concentrated in both the Palisades and the Denver metro areas but there are others around the state. We found that the vast majority of Colorado wineries do use Colorado grapes but we did see a few with juice imported from California, Washington and Oregon.
The crowds were enthusiastic as they milled between the wine, art, wine related furniture and household accessory booths with food vendors intermingled throughout. Now to the wines… Colorado, as you might imagine, has a short growing season and as a result many of the wines are not as big and complex as their west coast brethren. With most of the normal varietals represented, I was surprised to see so many Cabernet Francs, Tempranillos and Viogniers. Quite a few sweet and off-dry wines, as well.
Generally, I found that there was less varietal flavor difference than in other regions. Whether that is the result of Colorado grapes or winemaking skill, I don’t know. Surprisingly, there were not as many frogs, “bad wine,” as we expected. That said, not that many stood out either, when compared to west coast wines.
There were however, some pretty good wines. It was interesting to see, as the event wound down, which wine booths had crowds and which had only a few takers. It didn’t take long for discerning Colorado wineauxs to find their way to the better vintners. With nearly 50 wineries represented, we did not get to taste all the wines, but we did taste most the of medal winners from the event.
Here are a few of our favorites (No Frogs Here!):
BookCliff Vineyards, Palisades, CO – 2009 Tempranillo $20
Cottonwood Cellars, Olathe, CO – 2005 Classic Blend $16
Verso Cellars, Denver, CO – 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon $20
Guy Drew Vineyards, Cortez, CO – 2007 Metate (Cabernet Shiraz Blend) $20
Guy Drew Vineyards, Cortez, CO – 2009 unoaked Chardonnay $16
Guy Drew Vineyards, Cortez, CO – 2009 Viognier $16
Kahil Winery, Grand Junction, CO – 2009 Pinot Gris
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