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DLW 2012 was a hoot, and the wines were good, too

By Dave Buchanan

The DrinkLocalWine conference last weekend in Denver was a hoot, with plenty of wines (mostly good), seminars (all good) and frank talk (mixed) about Colorado’s wine industry.

The general reception seemed to be Colorado winemakers are on the right track and making decent to very good wines but overall the industry needs a few more years to mature and find itself. That’s neither shocking nor new, even though there are some winemakers here who already have found their niche and are quite happy, thank you, producing wines that attract consumers, especially repeat consumers, which are the ones you really want to attract.

But what some of the critics mentioned is the lingering notion that Colorado still hasn’t unovered the magic of its unique terroir – that elusive expression of its geography, climate and power of place – that translates into wines uniquely Colorado.

Of course, that “one terroir, one Colorado” may never happen, given the vast range of wine-growing areas in the state, but with 80 percent or more of the state’s wine grapes currently coming from the Grand Valley, this area might find some signature for its wines.

A similar note was heard during the Blind Challenge Tasting, which asked a panel of recognized wine experts to taste six wines, three each from Colorado and California, and determine each wine’s origin. None of the panelists were able to determine every wine’s origin, which may or may not mean anything other than there weren’t any well-known French Bordeaux among the mix.

As Master of Wine Sally Mohr of Boulder pointed out, there are way too many wine-growing regions in California to come up with a “typical’ California wine. “And we have the same issue in Colorado,” she said.

Westword wine columnist Kendra Anderson, however, pointed out that she thought Colorado has “it’s own style" of winemaking. “If you taste it enough, you can notice it,” she said.

She didn’t say what “it” is, but that’s the mystery and beauty of wine and terroir – your palate is different from mine, which means what you like or taste in a wine might not be something I like or taste. Can people really discern the Rutherford dust of Napa cabernet sauvignon, the stony minerality from Loire sauvignon blanc or the apple and citrus of German Rielsings? You’ll have to taste them, with other similar wines, to find out.

What’s of particular note was the enthusiastic support for Colorado wines and food products shown by several Front Range restaurants, among them Boulder bistros Salt and the Black Cat and Denver's Row 14 Bistro and Wine Bar and the sister  restaurants Linger and Root Down. The locavore movement is heartfelt and growing among many chefs and wine directors, said Evan Faber, beverage director at Salt and one of the headliners at the 2011 Colorado Mountain Winefest.

“It’s an exciting time to be drinking local wines,” Faber said. “People have a new sense of exploration when they go out to dine.”

Jensen Cummings, executive chef of Row 14 Bistro, said “people are getting more adventurous” when dining out. It’s not just a willingness to try dandelion greens and goat cheese, it’s eating locally raised pork, goat cheese made by the dairy down the road and wine made by the person sitting next to you.

“Colorado wine has a mystique,” Cummings said. “It speaks to the terrain of Colorado and (winemakers) are trying to define that.”

One of the highlights of the conference was the Nomacorc Colorado Twitter Taste-off, which had wineries competing for panegyric tweets during an afternoon tasting. When the fingers quit flying, the winners were: Best red wine – Ruby Trust Cellars (Castle Pines) “The Smuggler,” a cabernet franc-based blend; Best white wine and Media Choice award – Guy Drew Vineyards (Montezuma County) Pinot Gris; Nectar of the Hops (mead) – Redstone Meadery (Boulder).

And finally, Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, much-deservedly was honored with the annual Friend of DrinkLocalWine honor for "his tireless work in promoting the state's wines," according to the DLW comittee. Congrats to Doug for all his successful efforts in herding the wild cats of the Colorado wine industry.



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