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Reporter’s Notebook from Colorado Mountain Winefest

By Dave Buchanan

Reporter’s Notebook from the 20th Colorado Mountain Winefest:

So many wines to taste and stories to tell.

The crowd was late-arriving Saturday for the opening bell of the 20th anniversary Colorado Mountain Winefest but don’t call it a fashion statement. Unless your fashion tastes include gum boots and Gore-Tex jackets.

The morning rain doused the riders on the Tour of the Vineyards and undoubtedly caused many people to hesitate before committing to the Festival in the Park.

“We got rain early and then it really dumped in the middle but the end of the ride was beautiful,” said one rider, her hair wet but her smile bright as the sun came through the clouds.

No official attendance tally yet from the Winefest officials but one unofficial observer (me) said it appeared overall numbers were a bit down from last year when 6,800 people came through the gates. You couldn’t tell that from looking around the chatty-happy VIP tent, where it was clear many enthusiasts figured again the $190 VIP tix were the best buy of the Winefest.

The VIP tent, with its special wines and a menu to die for, certainly was the place to be and be seen and showed once more that the tent is something people want and are willing to pay for. In addition to some insider-type wines (favorites of the wineries poured as part of the 20th anniversary celebration) VIPers enjoyed a terrific brunch/lunch thanks to some innovative thinking and menu design from the culinary arts staff and students at Western Colorado Community College. Thanks and a tip of the chef’s toque to Dan Kirby and executive chefs Wayne Smith and Jon St. Peter of WCCC.

And speaking of paying for it, those $190 tickets make a difference when figuring the bottom line for the Winefest. Winefest director Sarah Catlin mentioned that even though ticket sales dropped in 2010 compared to 2009, overall revenue was up, thanks in part to the VIPers.

The big story, of course, was winemaker Tyrel Lawson of Kahil Winery, whose 2009 Malbec won double gold, the Best Red Wine and ultimately Best of Show in the Best of Fest competition.

“I knew it was a good wine but you never expect anything like this,” said Tyrel early Saturday, a few minutes before the crowds reached his tent. Winning isn’t new to the personable and recently married 26 year old: his same wine, the 2009 Malbec, won double gold at the 2010 Winefest. What’s next for this highly talented vigneron?

“I think I’d like to do it in all French oak,” said Lawson, pictured here with his raves-winning wine, flinching a little just thinking of the cost. Let’s see. Lawson made 411 cases of his 2009 Malbec, and there are about 24.6 cases in a barrel, so he would need 17 barrels for one vintage of Malbec. A new French oak barrel costs around $1,000.

Do the math.


 

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