Local wines cropping up across Colorado

The wrap-up of an intense three-day workshop in Boulder found several of us searching for a dinner place open on Sunday night, a task that can be fearsome in early-closing Grand Junction but one that offered many entertaining options in Boulder.

We ended at Salt the Bistro on the east end of the famed Pearl Street Mall. One of our small group recommended Salt, in the former Tom’s Tavern building, and we weren’t disappointed in the reasonable prices, wonderful food and a well-rounded or well-priced wine list.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the heading “Local Reds” on the wine list, which featured 23 Colorado wines including 10 whites and 13 reds, among the latter the Reeder Mesa 2009 Petite Verdot.

“We sell a lot of Colorado wine,” acknowledged our server, Joey Burton, who doubled as our wine steward. “I think they’ve come a long way in the past five or six years and I don’t know if it’s the vines finally are getting some age on them or the winemakers are learning which blends and varietals work best for them.”

As we talked about the continuing progress of the state’s wine industry, Burton showed a strong interest in and knowledge of Colorado wines, a result of Salt’s encouragement and ongoing wine-education program for the staff.

Our ordering the Petite Verdot was met with a nod and a smile.

“That’s a great wine but it’s pretty much a hand-sell since not many people understand Petite Verdot,” he said. “But once people try it, they really like it.”

As did our table. Dense, rich and dark but not overly so, with a great nose of blackberries and dark fruit, the wine paired well with our varied entrees of roast beet salad, wild sea bass and sweet pea ravioli.

Winemaker Doug Vogel said the wine has won three gold medals in various competitions as well as Best of Show at the Mesa County Fair.

“It’s 100 percent Palisade Petite Verdot,” he said. “I made about 150 cases of it, there just isn’t much (Petite Verdot) around.”

Vogel said he crushes the grapes and then removes the seeds after three days to avoid the heavy tannins common to many Petite Verdots.

“That makes it drinkable much earlier,” he said. The wine spends 18 months in French oak barrels prior to release.

A nice surprise was the price: $34, only a few dollars above the $28 price at the winery. It’s rare you find a wine on a list that isn’t marked up 150-300 percent.

When I later spoke with Salt beverage director Evan Faber, he said the goal he shares with Salt owner Brandon Heap is to make it easy for people to enjoy wine and discover new wines.

“It’s a little of both,” he said. “Not many people know about Colorado wines and we’re trying to educate them as much as possible. By keeping our margins low, we can introduce them to some wonderful wines.”

According the Salt PR person Kuvy Ax, the Boulder restaurant has more Colorado wines on its list than any other place in the state.

“Which means any other restaurant in the world,” she said, laughing. “They are really passionate about Colorado wines. Everything on their list from out of state is on the ‘imported wine’ list.”

Incidentally, it happens that Faber and Salt executive chef Kevin Kidd will be the headliners at the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade Sept. 15-18.


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