Boulder wine wins at K.C. invitational

A Colorado wine again came away with top honors at the Jefferson Cup Invitational wine competition.

Doug Frost, founder of The Jefferson Cup Invitational in Kansas City, Mo.,  recently announced the 2009 Petite Sirah from Bookcliff Vineyards in Boulder was awarded the 2010 Jefferson Cup in the red vinifera wine category.

“In the past years, the Jefferson Cup seems to have focused upon syrah or cabernet (sauvignon),” Frost said. “But this year, there was greater diversity of wines, though vinifera grapes dominated among the red wines.”

Twenty-one states entered this year’s competition with more than 600 wines. Twenty of the wines — seven white wines, eight red wines and five dessert wines — were awarded Jefferson Cups.

Frost said that together with 50 other wines nominated for (but not awarded) the Jefferson Cup, these 20 wines represent some of the “most compelling wines made in America.”

“I am very pleased with the way the Jefferson Cup Invitational competition has developed” in its 11 years, Frost said in a prepared statement. “We had a representation of the best of what every quality wine producing region in the country is offering right now, including improved representation from Washington, Michigan, Virginia and Texas as well as some standout wines from California, New York and Oregon.

“Colorado and Ohio wines rose to the top of the pack this year.”

The national attention being paid to Colorado wines is “very gratifying,” said Bookcliff Vineyards co-owner John Garlich.

“It’s very gratifying to look at this competition and see the other wines we were contending against,” Garlich said. “Most of them came from a lot of well-known wine-producing states.”

Awards from competitions such as the Jefferson Cup “are a real boost to the state’s wine industry,” he said.

Garlich said the grapes for his award-winning petite syrah came from vineyards owned by Ed Slater in the east end of the Grand Valley.

“Our own petite syrah is still young, we just planted it last year,” said Garlich, who grows grapes in vineyards near Slater’s, just south of the Colorado River, east of Palisade. “I like to experiment and try different things and we planted petite syrah, tempranillo and graciano after I saw Ed had it on his property.”

Garlich and partner Ulla Merz aren’t new to the Colorado wine industry, having been winemakers and grape growers since 1996.

He purchased his initial vineyards, then planted with peaches, as were so many acres in the Palisade area, in 1995 after seeing a hand-drawn map of the valley’s better grape-growing areas.

“I always knew that end of the valley was the best,” Garlich said. “Rick (Hamman, then state viticulturist) had sketched a map of the Grand Valley color-coded to vineyard areas and had ranked them best to worst.

“This was one of the best.”

Hamman currently is the viticulturist for Hogue Ranches and Mercer Estate Winery in Washington.

Garlich said he’s fortunate to raise grapes in the east end of the valley where vines are protected from severe frosts by the wind, known locally as the “Million Dollar Breeze,” coming through De Beque Canyon.

Grape growers in that end say the breeze saved them from the extensive damage suffered elsewhere during the intense sub-zero freeze of December 2009.

“I’m thankful we aren’t on the other end of the valley,” Garlich said. “We don’t even have a wind machine, and I’m thankful I don’t get up in the middle of the night to tend wind machines.”

His vineyards are in that part of the valley known as the Vinelands, with its long history of grape culture.

“Being there has really paid off for us,” Garlich said. “We’ve never had a bad season.”

Reeder Mesa Winery, whose 2007 Land’s End Red was awarded a gold medal in the 2009 Jefferson Cup, swept several “Medals of American Merit” in the 2010 competition.

The 2008 Merlot, 2008 Land’s End Red and the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon all were awarded this equivalent of a silver medal, which according to Frost respects wines “exemplary of their regions and varieties.”

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