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Colorado Urban Winefest draws engaging crowd

By Dave Buchanan

I stopped along the runoff-swollen Colorado River a few nights ago while on the way home from the Colorado Urban Winefest in Denver, just to listen to the voice of the river.

A calm minute was appreciated after the hectic but fun Colorado Wine Week 2014 (June 1-7), a week that featured wine-related events every night (especially if you count the 50 or so restaurants offering the Sips and Snacks small-plate pairings for $20 and under) and a few quiet moments alone were welcome.

The week's events, sponsored by the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE) and the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, began June 1 when more than 150 people turned out on a Sunday evening for the Farm-to-Turntable Keg Wine party at Ben Parsons' Infinite Monkey Theorem urban winery in Denver's upscale River North (RiNo) District.

A few days later, another, even more-vocal group showed up at the Green Russell on Denver's Larimer St. to cheer on their favorite mixologist in the always-entertaining wine-cocktail competition. The winning cocktail, featuring the WTF (Wine That's Fun) Red blend from winemaker Michelle Cleveland of Creekside Cellars, was created by Robert Corbari of the Populist, also a bar and eatery on Denver's Larimer St.

The highlight of the week, of course, was the fourth annual Colorado Urban Winefest, summer sister to the Colorado Mountain Winefest each September in Palisade. The Denver event again this year took over the grassy spaces at Infinity Park in Glendale, where winelovers were blessed by cool temperatures and overcast but not rainy skies.

As might be obvious from the accompanying photo, observers said attendance was up some 10 percent or more from last year, reflecting the matter of event-goers growing comfortable with the event and the location.

“I think people finally are identifying with the park and the Winefest,”said Jacob Harkins of Godot Communications, the event's marketing firm. “We've had a great turnout this year, and I think people are starting to get how serious Colorado wines can be.”

The attendance was strong all day and there were manageable lines at most of the booths, part of the attraction being the knowledge shared by winemakers with customers curious about Colorado wines, meads, and hard ciders (there was a good crowd in front of Paonia's Big Bs Hard Ciders all day long).

Given this year's growth and a positive outlook for the future, Urban Winefest organizers already are exploring ways to fit more people into the park's present configuration, which has options to expand. As if proving how popular this event can be once the word gets out, there still were people coming in as the event entered its final hour.

It's a fun event – very people oriented, as winefests tend to be–and there were lots of good wines to share and remember. And some fun stories. I ran into Sheena Sayed and David Nix, both from Denver, at the Mesa Park Vineyards booth, where they were buying a couple of wines from winery co-owner Brooke Webb.

Sheena said this was their second Urban Winefest. “Last year was our very first date,” she beamed. “We had a wonderful time.”

And to prove her words, she held out her left hand, on which she was wearing a golfball-sized diamond.

Not everybody gets engaged at Winefest, at least not in that sense, although no one can blame you if something very good happens. It just shows you have much of a family industry Colorado wine continues to be.

 

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