County fair adds wine competition

Budding wine communities often celebrate their burgeoning status in the market by including a commercial wine competition in their county fairs.

Mesa County will welcome this tradition into its fair next month. All Colorado winemakers can participate in the competition as long as at least 85 percent of a wine’s ingredients came from Mesa County.

A panel will taste the entries Saturday and the results of the competition will be announced on the first day of the fair,  July 20. The panel will include locals and out-of-towners and mix wine professionals with wine fans, including Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca.

Acquafresca was the driving force behind the wine competition. The commissioner said he began advocating for a wine competition a few years ago. Having a local wine competition will help promote the winemaking industry and raise the bar for wine quality, he said.

“We’re looking at this not only being a fun event but something that’s going to help bolster the local wine market and elevate it to a new height,” Acquafresca said.

“It adds a whole new feature to the Mesa County Fair and hopefully will bring in some new people that haven’t come to the fair before.”

Local enologist Steve Menke, an associate professor for Colorado State University’s extension on Orchard Mesa, will supervise judging this weekend. Menke said he doesn’t know if the competition will bring nationwide attention to local wines. But it will at least stir local interest, he said.

“There are still some people here that don’t know the scale of local grape and wine production,” he said.

It costs $5 to enter a wine in the contest, and there’s no limit to how many entries a winemaker can submit. Entries were due at the end of the business day Monday.

The winning wines will be displayed in the Community Building at the Mesa County Fairgrounds during the fair,  July 20–24, but won’t be available for sampling at the fair, according to Fairgrounds Manager Marsha Kosteva.

The competition will be in addition to a wine contest for amateurs that has been held in previous years, Kosteva said.

The wine competition isn’t the only new addition to the fair this year. Fireworks, traditionally set off on the second day of the fair, will instead color the sky on opening night, Kosteva said. Demonstrations by local businesses, agencies and craftmakers will debut this year as well.

The fair also will have new acts such as Wild About Monkeys!, a traveling exhibition with trained baboons, and Salida Circus School, which features jugglers, stiltwalkers and other circus acts.

In addition, the tractor pull event Wednesday evening will be packaged with lawn-mower racing.


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