Two Colorado vintners bag invitations to Paris tasting

It might not have the lasting impacts of the first Judgment in Paris, but two Colorado wineries are headed to France next week in what might the longest trip any local winery has taken to show off its products.

Boulder Creek Winery in Gunbarrel and Varaison Vineyards and Winery in downtown Palisade have been invited to attend and pour their wines at a tasting next month hosted by Charles Rivkin, the U.S. Ambassador to France, at his Paris residence.

With some 400 French importers, distributors, retailers, sommeliers and other knowledgeable wine-devotees expected to attend, the event is not only an honor but a perfect chance to show off Colorado wines, said Alex West of Varaison Vineyards and Winery.

“We were notified that the ambassador’s event was going on and we responded and found everything fell into place for us,” said West, who, along with his father Ron, is headed for Paris. “It’s definitely an honor to be invited and we look at it as an opportunity to pour our wines for the people we want to sell to.”

West said close to 90 wineries from the United States will participate in the tasting, most of them from California and New York.

He said Varaison, located at 405 First St. in Palisade, will pour its Creme Brule&233; Chardonnay, the Bin 3115 Estate Reserve Merlot and the Bin 405 Proprietor’s Reserve Merlot.

In addition, the Wests will treat the attendees to Varaison’s estate reserve Colorado sparkling wine, which Alex West called a Colorado Champagne.

“They have to be finished in the ‘methode champenoise’ to call it that,” he noted.

As with all Varaison’s wines, the sparkling wine features Colorado and Grand Valley AVA grapes.

“We started solely as an estate reserve facility and we’re the only mass-producer of Champagne in the state,” Alex West said.

That’s not to say the Wests are into industrial-size wine making. They produce about 12,000 cases annually, including all four wines, Alex West said.

“We’re not a winery that makes 35 different things,” he said. “We produce only four and those to the best of our ability. We want to be true to the terroir of Colorado as far as possible.”

That Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 or the Judgment of Paris was a wine competition that shocked onlookers when California wines, formerly considered of low quality, were judged as good or better than highly regarded French wines.

Mike Thompson of Boulder Creek Winery said he and his wife Jackie, who is the winemaker, will pour their award-winning 2006 VIP Reserve Bordeaux blend.

That wine won Double Gold earlier this year at the prestigious Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition in Kansas City, Mo.

When it was mentioned that pouring a Bordeaux blend to the French certainly was brave, Mike Thompson laughed and said, “Yeah, we’re going to a little ‘Bottle Shock’,” referring the recent movie about the original 1976 tasting.

“I might as well go over there and get insulted in person,” he said.

The Paris trip also marks the Thompsons’ 25th wedding anniversary, Mike Thompson said, so the week will have double the memories.

Getting the wine to France isn’t easy. Each winery must ship two cases and hope the wine makes it to France in time.

“I’ll be pleasantly happy to see it there when I get to Paris,” Mike Thompson said.

He and Jackie also plan to take advantage of laws allowing them to carry two liters apiece into the country.

“That way, we’ll at least have something when we get there,” Mike Thompson said.

Alex West declined to say if he and his father were hoping to make some business contacts while in Paris but did say that “most of our sales are outside the U.S.”

Each summer, large international tour groups make Varaison Vineyards and Winery a main stop on their trip to Colorado, Alex West said.

The Paris tasting may give the Wests more insights to finding and meeting that foreign market.

“We know the marketing nich&233; we want to be in and we’re working on how we achieve that,” Alex West said.

E-mail Dave.Buchanan@gjsentinel .com.


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