Among Winefest’s most valuable contributions: knowledge

The 2010 Colorado Mountain Winefest might just be memories to the thousands of wine lovers who flocked to seminars, winemakers dinners and the ever-popular Saturday Festival in the Park, but it’s more than that.

Really. It’s an inch-thick stack of notes ranging from Max Ariza’s entertaining and educational seminar Friday titled “Same Grape, Different Wine” to Mike Thompson’s low-key but heartfelt honor at his Boulder Creek Winery’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon being named “Best of Fest.”

Here is a sample of events I attended, with even more notes and insights on my blog Wineopeners under the Lifestyle tab at GJSentinel.com.

Ariza, a certified sommelier, longtime restaurant wine director (including the Brown Palace Hotel) and instructor at Johnson & Wales University, loves Colorado wine and the place grapes for it grow.

“This valley,” said Ariza, standing in a seminar room at the DoubleTree Hotel and waving his arms in an attempt to figure out which way was east and west, “grows grapes from France, Spain, Germany and Italy. It’s like the cradle of the world.”

And like most cradles, it holds something still in its infancy. In this case, it’s a wine industry.

“Colorado’s wine industry is like this,” Ariza said, cupping his hands together. “The rest of the world is ...” and he stretches out his arms.

But that’s a good thing, because there’s so much promise to be fulfilled.

“When you buy a Colorado wine, you have peace of mind,” he said. “This wine industry gives you exactly what they say and have the heart for.”

BIG NUMBERS: With walk-ins still arriving at 2 p.m. Saturday for Winefest’s Festival in the Park at Palisade’s Riverside Park, Sarah Catlin, director of the Colorado Mountain Winefest, started thinking record crowds.

Last year’s record attendance of 7,200 celebrants is certainly in danger of being exceeded, considering there already were 100 or so people waiting to get into the Festival when gates opened at 10:30 a.m. and a line snaked through the gates most of the day.

“We sold 6,400 tickets by 7 p.m. Friday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to beat last year’s attendance,” said Catlin, who kept her cell phone and personal radio close by all day, monitoring the event.

She was a model of calm all day, and one observer likened her to the proverbial duck on the pond: calm on the surface but paddling like hell underwater.

“It’s too late to worry about anything,” she said during a very short break under the VIP tent. “If it didn’t get done by now, it doesn’t need doing.”

Final attendance numbers should be released this week.

ON A RUN: If anyone is surprised that Boulder Creek Winery’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon won Best of Fest honors, winery owner Mike Thompson isn’t among them.

Boulder Creek is on a bit of roll at Winefest, having secured the top award three of the past seven years.

His last win was in 2008 with his 2005 Boulder Creek Winery Colorado Syrah.

This latest win is just as welcome as the others, Thompson said, but there were signs three years ago that the vintage was going to be special.

“I knew the Cabernet was really good because when we got the grapes in, it was like ‘Wow, these are the best yet,’ ” said Thompson, who’s quick to give all the credit to his wife Jackie, Boulder Creek’s winemaker. “I wasn’t surprised we won Best of Fest, but I’m quite honored by the award.”

NOT DISCOURAGED: Check that label on a bottle of Colorado wine, and if it has the round logo for “Colorado Grown” that means the wine inside is 100 percent Colorado grapes.

After devastating frosts last winter and again this spring, winemakers around the state are scrambling to find enough grapes to fill their barrels.

While some winemakers already are making plans to source grapes from other states, several wineries are changing their short-term plans in order to remain 100 percent Colorado.

Both Nancy Janes (Whitewater Hill Vineyards) and Jenne Baldwin-Eaton (Plum Creek Winery) are rearranging their bottling regimen in order to balance their existing supply with demand and retain their commitment to 100 percent Colorado grapes.

Candice Bundy of Dithyramb Winery in Centennial said she’s going to be making more fruit wines.

“We picked up some pears and some peaches and will use that,” she said. “I don’t want to buy grapes from somewhere else, because then I’d be making an Oregon or Washington wine, not a Colorado wine.”

RECESSION HITS: Davelyn (Davy) and Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery said Saturday they will be closing their tasting room on U.S. Highway 6 east of Palisade.

“It’s the recession,” said Davy, saying the closure will be effective early next month. “Our walk-in numbers have been dropping the last two years and this Fourth of July our business was 75 percent of last year’s.”

The Prices are “going to reconfigure our business plan” and consolidate their operation at the winery’s storage facility in Palisade near the Palisade Brewery and the Peach Street Distillery.

“We’re OK, we aren’t going anywhere,” Davy promised. “But something’s got to change.”


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