Festive grape lovers

Jasmine Blanchard, left, and Christie Anne Putnam, both from Boulder, stomp grapes during the 21st annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Riverband Park in Palisade on Saturday afternoon.

Photos by CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—Michael Pizzuto, a culinary arts instructor, cuts an ice sculpture at the 21st annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Riverband Park in Palisade on Saturday afternoon. A spokesman for the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology said ticket sales were up from last year.

They described the experience as “refreshing and slimy” while washing bits of purple from their feet.

First time grape-stompers Janet Kovacs and Susan Berkowitz, both of Denver, smushed, laughed and rocked-out in wooden barrels of fruit to the live music playing behind them at the 21st-annual Colorado Mountain Winefest Saturday afternoon. They made the trip to the festival with eight other friends for their “23rd-annual Chick Weekend” and said while this was their first time at Winefest, they think it should become an annual occurrence.

Kovacs and Berkowitz were among the thousands — ranging from first timers to annual event lovers, wine connoisseurs to newbies — who poured into Riverbend Park in Palisade. Many came prepared with lawn chairs on their backs to enjoy the perfect weather, wine, music, food and this year’s ticket-included educational features.

Tonya Cook, a local volunteer at Winefest, worked one of those booths, the wine aroma wheel. There, she helped enhance participants’ aroma-distinguishing skills through samples and smell glasses full of fruits, spices and nuts.

“The main goal here is to help people develop their palates,” she said.

After tasting a sample wine, they were asked what ingredients they noted and then could smell raw materials such as pepper, raspberry or raisin. Green bell pepper and grass were among those that really caught people’s attention in the white wines, Cook said.

A short walk past some of the 50 wine booths, the delicious smells wafting around Chef Glenn Smith’s cooking demonstration continued to tickle the senses of Winefest participants.

The Aspen resident provided cooking tips while creating the “bright, bold flavor” of braised pork short ribs with a plum glaze and apple coleslaw.

“Oh, it’s delicious. Worth the wait,” said Rene Pearson of Utah, smiling next to the sample plate. “Now to drink more wine.”

Of the estimated 5,000 tickets sold, the majority came from the Grand Valley, Denver, Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City. And while this year’s economic impact is not yet known, the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau said very few hotel rooms were left Saturday.

Jacob Harkins, founder and editorial director of Local Winos Media and spokesman for the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology, said ticket sales were up from last year, a number of wineries sold out and the educational seminars included this year with the ticket were well-received.

“There’s great agriculture happening in your backyard,” said Harkins, adding that Colorado is growing into a serious wine region.


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