Risks pay off for amateur winemakers

The first batch of wine Rocky Hutson ever made was not his finest.

“You could’ve peeled paint with it,” he said.

Five years after picking up the hobby of amateur winemaking, Hutson took home a gold medal for his 2009 Peach Port and bronze medals for his 2009 Elderberry and Pomegranate wines at the Amateur Winemaker Competition of the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade. The awards were announced Sunday at a reception at the Colorado Wine Country Inn.

Hutson started making wine in his Grand Junction home after undergoing shoulder surgery. He needed something to occupy his time and his wife suggested he finally take up the hobby he had wanted to try for years.

“We just enjoy doing this,” Hutson said. “You just have to want to try it.”

Ronald Scovil of Aurora decided to try amateur winemaking after sampling a neighbor’s mead, or honey wine. Like many amateur winemakers, he is willing to take risks and produce non-traditional recipes. His Honey and Pluot (a hybrid of plum and apricot) wine and White Chocolate wine each took silver medals, and his Brazilian Honey, Rainier Cherry and Gewurztraminer earned bronze medals.

Scovil’s creativity is accompanied by structure. He and his wife monitor which recipes work best and trust judges notes to improve them. It sounds like a lot of work, but Scovil insists even the busiest person can find time to make wine.

He started the Colorado Wine Club to encourage amateur winemaking on the Front Range. The club meets to discuss the fun side of making wine, and anyone interested in going commercial can come an hour before monthly meetings to discuss how to make a business out of a hobby.

Patrick Chirichillo is considering going commercial this year. The Vail Valley resident won four of the five gold medals awarded at Sunday’s reception, with the highest score of the competition going to his Malbec wine.

Chirichillo learned winemaking from his grandfather and has a co-op in Wolcott that brings about 100 people together to make wine. He’ll probably use the same name as the co-op, Churchill Wine Cellars, for his commercial wine.

Even if he takes wine-selling to the professional level, Chirichillo said he plans to keep the co-op going.

“We enjoy it. We have a party around everything,” he said.


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