State’s microbrewer in chief ready to push Colorado wines

Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to put his Colorado wine where his mouth is.

While touring Palisade’s wine country Monday to kick off Colorado Wine Week, Hickenlooper, a brew-pub pioneer,  said he would try to do for wine what he helped do for the microbrewery industry in the state.

“I’m going to let it circulate through Denver that I’m not going to go to lunch at restaurants that don’t have a selection of Colorado wines,” the governor told The Daily Sentinel after issuing a wine week proclamation at Canyon Wind Cellars, 3907 N. River Road.

“I’m going to go to the Capitol Grill and The Palm and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got lots of places to go eat lunch. I’m the governor of Colorado. You’ve got to give me choices to have Colorado wine,’ ” Hickenlooper said. “We already do it with Colorado beer.”

The governor, who made a name and lots of cash for himself in Denver in helping launch the brew-pub industry there, said there’s no reason why Colorado wineries can’t do something similar.

He said that’s how California’s Napa Valley became one of the world’s premier wine areas.

“My real specialty was making beer, but I’m trying to rapidly get up to speed with wine,” he said. “This is a unique time in Colorado’s wine history. We have seen production increase in the past five years, and 900 percent in the past 20 years. We used to refer to Denver as the Munich of the West and Colorado as the Napa Valley of beer. Well, now I think we can start referring to western Colorado as the new Napa Valley.”

A cornerstone of Hickenlooper’s administration, as least when it comes to boosting the state’s economy, is to improve its brand image. He said more could be done specifically for its wine industry.

One way to do that is to increase where people are exposed to its wines, including in restaurants around the state, he said.

Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, told the governor the state’s wine industry is doing well, but could use help in promoting itself.

“Many of our wineries have already received international acclaim above and beyond their French competitors,” Caskey said. “We’re there, but we just need to get the word out more.”


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