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Edesia redux and the rise of a signature Colorado red grape

By Dave Buchanan

A quick turn a few weeks ago around Edesia 2014, which subtitles itself “A Palisade Culinary, Wine and Spirits Adventure,” revealed a lively crowd intent on making the best of a windy day best described as typical of spring in the Rockies.
Jazz filtered through the cooking-scented air of the Wine Country Inn, the regular host for this annual food- and wine-tasting fundraiser for the Marillac Clinic.
Along with the paid guests, although perhaps with a bit more serious intent, were the handful of winemakers in attendance, many of them still wondering what the spring bud break might reveal.
The prolonged cold snap in December, which was remarkable not only for its length but also the depth of the cold that early in the winter, has already been felt in vineyards still recuperating from recent, similar cold periods.
“It was really cold, for a real long time,” said Nancy Janes of Whitewater Hill Vineyards, reflecting the sentiments, if not the words, of most of the winemakers I talked to.
Grapevines take some time each fall to “harden off,” their systems shutting down for the needed rest period between growth periods.
How long the shutdown takes depends on the grape variety, with some –we’re looking at you, merlot – being more-susceptible to early cold than others.
Most winemakers already know or suspect there’s been some damage to their vines, simply because it was so cold and it was only December, but the whole story won’t be known until later this month when the vineyards waken fully.
On the wine side of the event, two things were noteworthy. First, there was the wide selection of Cabernet Franc wines available, a varietal that in the last five years or so has become a darling of the Colorado wine industry.
This medium-bodied Rhone grape, once was used mostly for blending (and in Washington and Oregon, where it grows well, it’s still mostly a blending grape) but now some winemakers suggest it might become Colorado’s signature red grape.
“It grows well here and more people are learning how to make really good wine from it,” noted Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, winemaker from Plum Creek Cellars. “Plus, it does will in our climate, which is pretty important considering the winters we’ve had recently.”
She reminded a visitor that it was the late Plum Creek founder Doug Phillips and then-winemaker Erik Bruner who in 1989 planted some of the earliest Cab Franc in the Grand Valley.
“Our first bottles were in 1992, so I think we’ve been doing it the longest,” she said.
There were at least five Cab Francs available for tasting at Edesia, ranging from the fruit-forward and lively Cab Franc from Davy and Bennet Price at DeBeque Canyon Winery to the pensive offerings from Whitewater Hill, Plum Creek and Carlson Vineyards.
In the “Look what we have that’s new” department, Theresa and Scott High of High Country Orchards and Colterris wines were showing off their new Cabernet Sauvignon white wine named “Coral.”
“We wanted a white wine to offer our guests at the tasting room but we didn’t want to plant any white grapes,” explained Theresa High.
Cabernet Sauvignon normally produces full-bodied red wines (it’s the steak lovers red wine) and it takes some deft maneuvering to keep it fresh and alive and still mostly white.
“I had an idea of what I wanted and I talked to (winemaker) Ty (Lawson) and he did this,” said Theresa, holding a bottle of the light-amber (or coral, if you like) colored wine. “We’re really happy with it.”
A quick taste showed it’s slight on the sweet side with apricot and white peach notes.
The wine is available at the Colterris tasting room and several local liquor stores. It’s also being poured by the glass at the Wine Country Inn and Bin 707 Foodbar, among others.
 

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