Spring starts with a barrel 
full of tasting

Winemaker Jenne Baldwin-Eaton of Plum Creek Cellars, left, explains how bottle aging affects the perception of red wine during the Barrel into Spring 2013 tasting Sunday. Eagerly absorbing the message are Ed Tanner, in the green shirt, and Cindy Charles of Arvada and Jacque and Tim Burroughs of Lakewood.

This past weekend was the second of the two-weekend Barrel into Spring 2013 tasting, and the event started with a rush, at least as far as Steve Smith of Grande River Winery was concerned.

“Saturday, we had 284 out of the 399 guests,” Smith said, with a laugh. “We usually have a pretty good crowd on Saturday but this year was amazing. They just came in waves.”

The spring tasting, presented by the eight member wineries of the Grand Valley Winery Association, is limited to 400 tickets each weekend, and the relative small number of participants makes the weekend a popular and more-personal experience than larger wine events.

“I really do think it’s a better experience,” Smith said. “It’s more intimate, you can take your time when you visit the wineries, and you usually the opportunity to talk with the winemaker and the winery owner.”

Maybe it helps that the fact the spring barrel tasting is in May, when the valley is blooming and emerald green and Front Range wine lovers are eager to get out of town.

Most of the wineries make the event educational as well as entertaining, and Jenne Baldwin-Eaton at Plum Creek Cellars had her popular sensory perception table offering samples of the different smells found in wine as well as a progression tasting of three different vintages of Plum Creek cabernet sauvignon.

She said the goal of the progression tasting was to make people aware of how wines change in the bottle.

The wines included a 2008 cabernet sauvignon (3.5 years in the bottle), a 2010 (one year) and a 2011, bottled in April.

“I’m showing how cabernet sauvignon changes the longer it’s in the bottle and whether the guests like it aged or like it young,” said Baldwin-Eaton.

She said most of the tasters preferred the still-new 2011 vintage.

“They all recognize how smooth the 2008 is but some of them like the more-fruit forward style,” she said. “Even though the 2011 is more tannic, they like all that fruit coming through” on the palate.

The 2011 was a bit edgy with obvious tannins but also a lot of the varietal blackberry and black cherry flavors.

The 2008 was rounder and smooth while the 2010 showed how three years in a bottle can soften the tannins and develop the desired balance between tannins and fruit.

Not surprisingly, and of course the whole point behind the selection, there was some difference in what the tasters preferred.

“I’d say 40 percent liked the 2010 and 60 percent liked both the 2008 and the 2011,” Baldwin-Eaton said. “Folks who like the 2010 want more tannin with their wine, whether they expect that with cabernet or that’s the style of wine they like.

“Because if you like the 2010, that was the one you liked and the others not so much.”

The take-away here is being able to communicate your wine preferences to a salesperson or a waiter.

“If you like the 2011 and you’re going to a liquor store (or restaurant) and trying to communicate the style of wines you like, you know you’re looking for younger reds that have more fruit character,” Baldwin-Eaton said.

She said a lot of people were attracted by the 2008, where the three years-plus of bottle aging gave it age-softened tannins and well-integrated fruit.

However, older wines generally cost more since there are fewer bottles available and there’s some cost involved in holding a wine rather than selling it right away.

“That means either you are going to spend more buying an older wine or you’ll buy (a younger wine) and put it away for while, knowing it will smooth out to this point,” Baldwin-Eaton said.

She laughed when asked about the 2008, which sold out several years ago.

She said the weekend wine is the last of its vintage and came from a case she unexpectedly found while moving some boxes in a storage room.

“I looked and thought, ‘Where did this come from?’ ” she said. “I opened one and it was still really good, so I thought it would be neat to have three levels of progression.

“But now people are asking me, ‘Where can I get some of the 2008?’ and I have to tell them we’re out of it. Again.”

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