Valley’s grape supply meager

Deb Petry, in foreground, traveled from Florida to stomp grapes Saturday and enjoy the weekend Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade.

On the surface, the 19th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade on Saturday may have seemed no different than the 18 others that came before it.

But some local vintners this year are a bit concerned about what impact last winter’s sub-zero temperatures will have on the immediate future of the winemaking industry in the Grand Valley.

In December, freezing temperatures in some areas caused irreparable damage to some grapevines. And then in the spring, frost destroyed more grapes.

Combined, the two incidents left a high demand for grapes and a low supply, at least for those growers in the valley, said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

“By and large, the wineries are still trying to buy local,” he said. “It’s just that, especially those wineries who don’t have long-standing contracts or don’t have their own vineyards, they’re scrambling to find grapes. A lot of people are going to start turning to out of state.”

Caskey said those local winemakers who are forced to go elsewhere for their grapes won’t be able to call their wines Colorado-grown if they use more than 25 percent out-of-state grapes. That’s why he said consumers shouldn’t be surprised to see “American grown” listed on local labels over the next year or two, rather than Colorado or Grand Valley grown.

By federal and state law, only wineries that use 85 percent or more of their grapes from a single area, such as the Grand Valley, are allowed to label their bottles as coming from there.

Winemakers at De Beque Canyons Winery said they have felt the pinch from the diminished grape supply, but they have taken steps to deal with it.

Davelyn Price, co-owner of De Beque Canyons Winery, said it’s going to be a couple of years before her winery feels a real impact from the winter freeze, and she hopes a better crop this year and next will help soften the blow.

“We’re not putting anything in reserve except what we can buy here locally, but we’ll stay consistently with Colorado grapes,” she said. “We have a small vineyard of our own,  and we’ll get some crop from it. Then we have growers that we have worked with for years. If they’ve got some crop, we’ll get a little bit from that. A lot of them have very little or none. Some vineyards west of Palisade did freeze up totally.”

Price has plenty of wine still in barrels to get through the next year, but things may get a little “scrunchy” by 2012 if demand exceeds supply.

Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, winemaker at Plum Creek Cellars in Palisade, said her operation is producing about half what it normally does, but it will remain all Colorado-grown.

“We have enough inventory to carry us through, but we’ll have to do a quick return on next year’s harvest,” she said. “Some of the whites we’ve produced from this year are shorter, but the reds were fine.”


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