Winners of county fair wine competition undoubtedly are ‘drinkable’

Can’t say that I’ve seen all the results of the wine judging for the Mesa County Fair.

As I write this, it’s still a Big Secret, since no one outside of the judges is supposed to know the results until the fair begins on Tuesday, July 19.

But being somewhat resourceful, I spied a short list of a few of the medal winners, which include Whitewater Hill and Grande River Vineyards.

If I were completely resourceful, I might have seen the entire list of winners but I was having trouble reading a piece of paper upside down and across a desk and the owner of the paper wouldn’t move his hand.

The complete list might have been released by the time you read this, but I’m out of town for a while and will let the fates reveal the winners.

But no matter who gets a medal and who gets snubbed, someone is going to question the judges’ criteria.

What would you use to base a wine judging, and more importantly, who should get to crow about their “award-winning” wines?

Let’s be bloody parochial about this, shall we?

Colorado wines (and really any wines not from the Left Coast or those foreign countries with a jillion years of wine-making tradition) have long been considered lesser because “they don’t taste like (Napa, Burgundy, the Loire, the Mosel, Tuscany, blah, blah blah).”

And in most cases, you’re right. A Colorado pinot noir rarely tastes like it came from Burgundy (although someone might argue that) or the Russian River Valley or the Otago region of New Zealand.

Ditto for the state’s cabernet sauvignon, merlot, carmenere, sauvignon blanc and on and on.

Which is No Big Deal, since the wines should taste like they come from Colorado.

Whatever that proves to be.

But it often becomes a Big Deal when a judge or a consumer, using those other areas as their sole reference, downplays what a Colorado wine has to offer in terms of drinkability.

Drinkability is something every wine drinker can argue about, and it certainly isn’t the only thing wine drinkers argue about.

But that personal sense of drinkability is what makes something as plonkish as Yellow Tail sell millions of cases every year.

Well, that and price, of course, which is material for another column.

Drinkability is what makes a winery a success or a failure, and what makes every winemaker wonder what he or she did right or wrong every time a vintage comes out.

And whether you’re a judge in a wine competition, wandering the big top at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, or venturing from one winery tent to another during the Colorado Mountain Winefest, it’s drinkability that makes you remember any particular wine.

Admittedly, it’s very difficult to make a snap judgment on something as complex as wine, but we’re forced into those judgments every time we walk into a winery or liquor store looking for something to take home.

Sure, you can spend all your time looking for an overripe zinfandel from Lodi, but you won’t find one in Colorado, unless it’s been seriously manipulated.

And then it won’t taste like it comes from Colorado, which wouldn’t be true to the winemaking.

Here’s to drinkability, and congratulations to all the county fair winners.

As an aside, check out the new website for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, at

It’s a remarkable piece of interactive web magic and puts all the state’s wineries at your pull-down fingertips.

Well, almost all of the wineries, anyway.

The Google map version I saw recently didn’t include Grande River Vineyards, one of the state’s oldest and most-influential wineries.

Surely that will change.

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Email Dave.Buchanan@gj


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