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2012 Winefest attracts crowd with eye on buying

By Dave Buchanan

Mid-morning Sunday found winemaker Nancy Janes of Whitewater Hill punching down caps and making room for grapes yet to come in what’s expected to be an early wrap-up to the 2012 harvest.

“Normally we finish around the third week of October but this year everything is early,” said Janes, moving around the tanks of crushed grapes fermenting in her winery on 32 Road. “I think we might get our last grapes sometime in the next two weeks.”Punch down tool in a vat of Whitewater Hill shiraz

Pulling the protective cover from a vat of shiraz grapes, she grabbed what looked like a four-foot long stainless steel potato masher and began pushing the dark-red and purple cap of grape skins down into the fermenting wine.

“I have to punch these guys down so don’t get splattered,” she cautioned a visitor stand nearby. Punching down immerses the floating cap, keeping the wine and skins in contact, allowing the wine to extract color and flavors and prevents the cap from drying.

“I have to do this two to three times a day for the next seven to nine days,” Janes said, steadily working her way around the frothing vat until everything was mashed down.

Several winemakers have said visitors to the Colorado Mountain Winefest on Sept. 15 came ready to spend, in contrast to 2011.

“People were in a buying mood and seemed more focused on dry reds, which would have been why Doug (Vogel at Reeder Mesa Winery) did so well,” Janes said.

Two of Doug Vogel’s Reeder Mesa Winery products, the 2009 Cab/Syrah blend and the just-released 2010 Petit Verdot, both of which won silver medals in the Best of Fest wine competition, were being poured in the VIP tent and Vogel said that spurred the sales of those wines.

“Once the buzz started, I sold out and had to go back to the park and bring back an extra 10 to 12 cases,” said Vogel, adding he saw “twice the sales this year” compared to 2011.

Brook Web, co-owner of Mesa Park Vineyards on East Orchard Mesa, said this year her booth ran out of Barn Owl Red, which earlier had won a gold medal at the Mesa County Fair.

“We had to go get more, which is a nice problem to have,” she said.

Over at the Boulder Creek Winery tent, owner Mike Thompson found himself running short of wine late in the day.

“I brought over 50 cases of wine this year, more than what I had last year, and sold out by three,” said Thompson, who also noticed more visitors from out of state, particularly Wyoming and California. “We brought two whites, a blush and three reds and the reds definitely had no problem selling.”

Not all of the buying action was during Winefest. It seems many visitors still prefer to taste at the Winefest and buy at the wineries.

Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, winemaker for Plum Creek Cellars, said they sold less wine this year during Winefest but made up for it in the tasting room. “We’ve been pretty busy today and that’s a good thing,” she said. “We sold more wine last year (during Winefest) but people definitely were in a buying mood on Sunday.”

Jesse Diner at Colterris Winery tasting room on East Orchard Mesa agreed. “We’ve been pretty busy today,” she said, watching as a gaggle of seven bicyclists rode out to resume their late-September jaunt along the Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway. “As long as the weather stays nice, I think we’ll stay busy.”



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