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Winefest hangover almost gone

By Dave Buchanan
caskey%20at%20winefest.JPG The 16th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest has come and gone, along with more than a few hangovers from a long weekend of too much great food and all-too-much wine. Final attendance numbers weren’t available early this morning but judging from how quickly the crowds filled River Bend Park Saturday it’s likely the festival isn’t far from reaching its self-imposed cap of 6,000 attendees. As expected, the $150 VIP tickets, limited to 300, sold out early and in case you were wondering if dropping a buck-and-a-half was worth the extra perks, you should have seen the contented smiles from folks under the white tent enjoying the specially selected wines and the imaginative menu prepared by staff and students from the Culinary Arts program at Western Colorado Community College. The Best of the Fest wines were chosen earlier in the week by a panel of tasters including winemakers, retailers, educators and distributors, but the true test of any wine is how it’s received by the public. Not surprisingly, Parker Carlson again took Best Overall, this year with his 2006 Laughing Cat Gewurtztraminer, the second consecutive year a Carlson gewurtztraminer has taken Winefest’s top award. But don’t expect to find any of the award-winning gewurtztraminers at the winery. “Oh, we were sold out of that by 2 o’clock (Sunday),” said Mary Parker, the other half of the talented winemaking duo. “Once the award was announced, that wine didn’t last long.” Carlson has a history of making excellent white wines (his riesling took a gold medal this year and has won Best of Fest honors in the past), and while the Grand Valley isn’t known for its ability to grow white grapes, Carlson has figured out and where to make the most of the valley’s microclimates. “The area seems so conducive to growing both riesling and gewurtztraminer and (Parker) knows how to pick them to get those wonderful flavors,” Mary said. “The gewurtztraminer is grown right up the road, so Parker knows just when to pick it.” The top red wine was Amber Ridge Vineyards’ 2004 Cabernet Franc, a varietal once thought to be good only for blending but steadily growing in popularity with drinkers due to its fruity, low acidity characteristics and with grape growers because it ripens early, a key concern in Colorado’s short growing seasons. Forgetting the official score sheet for a minute, what were your favorite wine(s)? Did you find something that surprised you, or something that dismayed you? And while you’re at it, give us your opinion of Colorado wines in general. And was there something about Winefest you particularly liked or disliked? Were there not enough seats available for the dinners with winemakers, couldn’t find a wine you liked, or was the park too loud, too crowded or was it just right, to really enjoy the experience? You can submit comments at the bottom of this blog. *Photo by Dave Buchanan. Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, demonstrates a tasting wheel for Winefest visitors Susan Markle of Littleton (left) and Cheryl Hurley of Golden.