Impressions from winefest

Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk about some of the impressions lingering in the aftermath of this weekend’s 18th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest.

It all began Friday with Maximilian Riedel, 32, urbane, very European, well-spoken and not coincidentally 11th generation designer and proselytizer for the famed stemware company of the same name (it rhymes with needle), saying grand things about the Colorado wines selected for his seminar on fine glassware.

“I think some of these wines are as good anything produced anywhere,” he said, a comment that brought big smiles from the winemakers in attendance.

Riedel certainly knows his wine, so we’re not going to argue on his evaluation of the state’s wine industry.

He also knows his glassware, which I’ll talk more about next week.

“The shape (of a glass) has an impact on the perception of the wine,” he told the seminar. “The glass helps the wine talk to our senses.”

The wines that were selected for his seminars included Grand River Vineyards’ 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Canyon Wind Cellars’ 2006 Chardonnay,  Black Bridge Winery’s 2006 Pinot Noir and Spero Winery’s 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was most impressed (hey, it’s my column) with Grand River’s Sauvignon Blanc, which is made in the New Zealand style with a bit of grass, lots of citrus, and a bright, crisp acidity that pairs well with many foods.

According to Grande River co-owner Naomi Smith, winemaker Cory Norsworthy is the one to credit for the marvelous transition of Grande River’s wines.

“We’ve given him the reins and he’s really doing a wonderful job,” said Smith.

Norsworthy is an Australian by birth and he’s familiar with the Australian/New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc, which emphasizes those grassy, citrus components, as compared with the melon and tropical fruit style found in many California sauvignon blancs.

It’s that New Zealand style Norsworthy has brought to the Grande River Sauvignon Blanc, along with a touch of minerality which Riedel found particularly enticing.

“We hand-picked the grapes over three or four days, and since the (grapes) didn’t come in at the same time, we were fermenting one block while the others were being picked,” Norsworthy said.

He said this allowed the different batches to undergo fermentation with different times and different yeasts, drawing out more complex flavors from the grapes.

“This gives us a more complete wine, a three-dimensional wine rather than a one-dimensional wine,” Norsworthy said. “It’s something I wanted to try and I think it’s worked out pretty well.”

Judging from the lip-smacking going on at my table, everyone at the seminar agreed. The Grande River 2008 Sauvignon Blanc wine retails for around $12.

I also got a brief taste of DeBeque Canyon winery’s 2008 Riesling, the first riesling in five years for winemaker Bennett Price.

“We just didn’t have the grapes to make it,” said Price, noting the growing popularity of riesling in recent years. “I managed to pick up some grapes this year from Stoney Mesa (Winery).”

He aged the wine for three months in French oak barrels previously used for his gewurtztraminer, and the semi-dry riesling (it has about 1.5-percent residual sugar) seems to have picked up an interesting note of spice from the gewurtztraminer.

“I’m pretty happy with it,” Price said. “It’s hard to get something out in a year (to meet the deadline for Winefest) but this turned out pretty good.”

The DeBeque Canyon 2008 Riesling retails for around $12.

On a connected note, the other half of the DeBeque Canyon wine-making family, Davey Price, said the Winefest came as a much-welcome economic boost after a summer of recession.

“Labor Day was pretty good, but it was a slow summer for the most part,” said Davey, who managed to smile even during the busiest hours of the Winefest’s Festival in the Park. “I’m sure the economy had a lot to do with it. Winefest comes a terribly busy time (for winemakers) but it’s a good sales time for us. And (Saturday’s) crowd (was) better than last year’s.”

It also might have been a bit larger, although final attendance numbers weren’t available by press time. That’s something else for next week.


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