FD: Wine Column March 25, 2009

Out of the CAVE and into wine festivals

Change is in the air as spring brings a jump in activity in Colorado’s wine country.

One big change is the Rocky Mountain Association of Vintners and Viticulturists, which represents the state’s wine makers and industry along with the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. It has rebranded itself as CAVE, Colorado Association of Vintners and Enologists.

It’s more than simply a change in initials; it’s a move aimed at bringing into the fold all the wineries in the state, of which there were close to 90 at last count.

And it’s a play on the word “cave,” which can be pronounced “cawv” and refers to the cellars, or caves, where wine is aged and stored.

The name “Rocky Mountain” made sense when Colorado’s wineries numbered fewer than 20 and were concentrated on the Western Slope. Now that wineries are found from the Front Range to Estes Park to Cortez, it’s good to have everyone feel part of the family.

Your list of must-do events for this summer now can include the West Elks Premier Vintage Wine Festival scheduled for Aug. 1 at Orchard Valley Farms in Paonia.

Orchard Valley, as you know, is the home of Lee and Kathy Bradley’s Black Bridge Winery, and last summer the winery and store hosted a one-day festival that proved a tremendous success.

Well, at least I thought it a tremendous success. There was great wine and food, good music and conversation and big trees to relax under, all accompanied by the rolling laugh of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

This year, the festival is scheduled to include all the above plus dinners with wine makers, food and wine pairing sessions and more.

Information is available from the Paonia Chamber of Commerce at http://www.paonia.chamber.com.

And since we’re on the subject of food and wine in the North Fork Valley, we’ll mention Dava Parr’s Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn in Paonia.

The ever-ebullient Parr started cooking at age 16 and by 18 moved to Aspen to start a 20-year career in fine cooking for the stars.

The pressure of Glamour Gulch eventually took its toll, and a couple years ago she decided to slow down a bit and start her own restaurant.

It’s not her first solo gig: A previous life found her running a vegetarian restaurant for a couple years in London, but that’s part of another tale.

More recently, she moved to Paonia, leased a rambling old farmhouse at the end of a dirt road and opened her Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse Inn and Gardens.

She’s slowly growing her business, fostering an appreciative audience of faithful diners flocking to her Friday night dinners and staying in her five-room bed and breakfast.

The dinners are a reflection of her cooking philosophy, a community-style meal with one sitting, although that might change if the demand continues to grow.

Dava serves fresh, organic, locally grown products, ranging from local West Elks AVA wines to free-range chickens to produce from the wonderful growers dotting the hillsides below Mount Lamborn.

Friday night’s menu, for example, featured fresh chicken served Moroccan style from The Living Farm/TLC Greenhouse and a salad of fresh greens, some of the first of the year, from Zephyros Farm, both well-known in the Paonia area.

Breads, rolls and desserts are homemade, and Friday’s dessert was an almond-and-date baklava with creme anglaise.

Prices are, well, underpriced. Adults eat for $15 and children under 4 foot tall eat for $8. Wine (local West Elks AVA, of course), desserts and coffee are extra.

The 6:30 p.m. seating is early enough to allow people to go out for a show or live music after eating and with warm weather arriving, there’s going to be al fresco seating outside.

You can reach Dava Parr at 527-4374 or http://www.freshandwyldinn.com.

Friday’s wine was a new bottling from Bill Musgnung of Bethlehem Cellars of Paonia. This year, Musgnung varied a bit from his 2006 First Release of 60 percent Syrah, 40-percent Cabernet Sauvignon blend to meld the flavors of 50-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40-percent Syrah and 10-percent Cabernet Franc.

It’s still very youthful — it was bottled about a month ago and Musgnung still hasn’t decided on a name or price — but the wine opened gracefully during dinner and showed great promise.

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