Boulder Creek ‘Best of Fest” continues streak
More notes from Saturday's Festival in the Park:
Maybe someone was surprised that Boulder Creek Winery's 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon won Best of Show honors at the Colorado Mountain Winefest, but not winery owner Mike Thompson.
Boulder Creek is on a bit of roll at the Winefest, having secured Best of Show three of the past seven years. His last win was in 2008 with his 2005 Boulder Creek Winery Colorado Syrah.
This latest win won't be overlooked, Thompson said, but there were signs three years ago that the vintage was special.
"I knew the Cabernet was really good because when we got the grapes in, it was like 'Wow, these are the best yet,'" said Thompson, who's quick to give all the credit his wife Jackie, Boulder Creek's winemaker.
"She's a perfectionist," said Mike of Jackie, who was trained at UC-Davis. "I wasn't surprised we won 'Best of Show' but I'm quite honored by the award."
Boulder Creek, if you remember, was one of two Colorado wineries selected to pour their wines in Paris earlier this year at the home of Charles Rivkin, the U.S. Ambassador to France
"The French were great to us," Thompson said. "They all wanted to know about our elevation and climate, the soils. Generally, the terrior of Colorado wine."
Colorado now boasts more than 100 wineries, which makes it difficult for even the most-dedicated to keep up with who makes what and where.
Perhaps Max Ariza, the energetic sommelier and wine director who also teaches at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, might be the only one who has tasted nearly every Colorado wine.
That said, I found several wineries new to me (and fairly new to the state) that are worth watching.
Ten Bears Winery from LaPorte might be in the most unexpected place, out on the eastern plains where winter wheat, corn, cattle and hogs are the rule.
It's not a place generally thought of wine country.
"You're right, it would be easier for us to raise 1,000 acres of corn than 40 acres of grapes," said winemaker and owner William Conkling. "We're definitely something different out there. the county commissioners don't know what to think about us."
Ten Bears is pretty small, with about 480 vines, covering about an acre, and has been making wines since 2006, said production manager (and Conkling's brother) David Szleczinski.
"It's not so bad, we're growing some cold-hardy varietals like Marquette (a red grape) and La Crescent (a white)," he said.
They source most of their grapes from the Grand Valley and are trying to stay 100 percent Colorado grapes but last year's frost changes things.
"We may have to get some grapes from Oregon and Washington this year," Conkling said with a shrug.
Ten Bears website lists 14 wines, so I tasted the nonvintage Cameron Pass White, a well-made blend of Viognier and Pinot Grigio, and the 2008 Grand Valley Dry Riesling.
The latter, crisp yet plenty of fruit to balance the alcohol, is a delightful wine but in short supply with only 23 cases made.
"It's been pretty popular," admitted Conkling.
Another new winery is Dithyramb Winery from Centennial.
Dithyramb, according to winery owner Candice Bundy, refers to an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.
Candice and husband Sean Bundy are the owners and have been home winemakers since 1995. The winery opened in 2008.
The winery makes grape wines, mead and fruit wines.
Because most grape growers are going to be short of supply, Dithyramb will be making more fruit wines this year, said Candice, who prefers to stay 100 percent Colorado fruit.
"I don't want to buy grapes from somewhere else because then I'm making a Washing wine or a California wine, not a Colorado wine," she said. "We picked up some peaches and some pears to make up the difference.
"We'll be about fifty-fifty."
On the local culinary scene, Certified Executive Chef Wayne Smith, head instructor for the Mesa State College Culinary Arts program, said that program is seeing a 40 percent increase in enrollment this year.
"It's crazy," said Smith as he monitored his students preparing meals under the Winefest VIP tent. "We're maxed out for room."
Smith said this year's class includes "lots of nontraditional students" fascinated by the world of cooking.
But so full is the program that some students are taking their general education classes first because the culinary program hasn't room for them right now.
And fellow culinary instructor Jon St. Peter, also a Certified Executive Chef, said the program can only get bigger.
"We have so many great resources right here, with the wine industry and the agriculture and the four-year college experience," he said. "It's like we're a mini-Napa Valley."
Saturday's Festival in the Park seemed sort of like what you might envision Napa being - great weather, lots of great wine, food, music and people and a wonderfully successful Festival in the Park.
Yep, just like Napa only better because it's home in western Colorado.