Four Grand Valley wineries win county fair gold medals

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—Grande River Vineyards co-owner Naomi Smith holds a bottle of 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc, which won a gold medal and the best of show award in the Mesa County Fair Commercial Winemaker’s Competition. Whitewater Hill Vineyards was named best overall winery.

One of Colorado’s oldest wineries took top honors this week at the Mesa County Fair Commercial Winemaker’s Competition.

Grande River Vineyards, the fifth-licensed winery in a state now boasting more than 100 licensed wineries, was awarded a gold medal and the fair’s best of show honor for its 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc.

Three other Grand Valley wineries also won gold medals. They were Mesa Parks Vineyards’ non-vintage Barn Owl Red, Talon Winery’s 2011 Viognier and Carlson Vineyards’ Cherry Wine.

The awards were announced at a special reception earlier this week.

“This year’s gold medal winners are truly excellent world-class wines,” said Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, one of the four judges for the contest. “We are fortunate to have artisan winemakers in our ranks that can produce such works of art.”

Along with the four gold medals, 13 silver and 28 bronze medals also were awarded to the 66 entries from around the state.

Whitewater Hill Vineyards, which won five silver medals and five bronze medals in the competition, was named best overall winery.

Cabernet franc is grown in Colorado for its cold-hardiness but used primarily as a blending grape. Only recently has it been bottled as a single-varietal wine.

“It’s really been a personal favorite of mine for a number of years,” said Naomi Smith, co-owner with her husband, Steve Smith, of Grande River Vineyards in Palisade.

The winery planted its first vines in 1987.

“We’ve made a regular everyday cabernet franc for years but only a few times have we bottled a reserve cab franc,” Smith said. “I think this (2007) is a really good example of Colorado cabernet franc.”

The wine is available locally only at the winery in Palisade.

The grape, one of the three main grape varietals used in Bordeaux, “is becoming one of Mesa County’s showpiece varietals,” Acquafresca said.

“I cannot tell you how pleased I am that our best of show wine is one of the ‘flagship wines’ that our industry is becoming increasingly known for,” he said.

Smith said cabernet franc makes a terrific food wine and is less tannic than its relative, cabernet sauvignon.

“If you like a dry red wine, you will love cabernet franc,” she said.

Acquafresca, a longtime supporter of Colorado’s wine industry, said the wine competition is aimed at promoting Mesa County grapes and wine production.

The other judges for the wine competition were Jay Bileti, International Wine Master and wine writer; Harold Baer, founder and managing editor of the Colorado Wine News from 1991-2009; and Jay Seaton, publisher of The Daily Sentinel.

All commercial wineries in Colorado were invited to the competition, the only requirement being at least 75 percent of the grapes used had to come from Mesa County.

The county provides roughly 80 percent of the wine grapes grown in Colorado.

All winning wines will be on display through Saturday at the fairgrounds Community Building.


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