Traditions take over during the middle months of fall.

Homecoming, hunting season, Halloween, Thanksgiving. And one more, the annual Colorado Amateur Winemaking Competition.

You might have missed the last one, but it has been happening every fall for 15 years or more.

"I remember judging wines in the little building at Palisade Town Park while the (Colorado Mountain) Winefest was going on outside in the park," recalled Monte Haltiner during Saturday's latest competition. "We were judging in this tiny room and all the winemakers were sitting on the opposite side of the table, watching us all the time. It was nerve wracking."

That was before Winefest outgrew the Town Park and moved to its present location at Riverbend Park.

Haltiner, a well-known figure in the local wine and spirits scene, now is the head judge/coordinator for the amateur competition, which is run under the auspices of CAVE (Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology), the folks who bring us Colorado Mountain Winefest.

No judging for Haltiner, except in case of a tie or question about protocol, but he's busy keeping the actual judges on task.

After the Colorado Legislature this year OK'd a change allowing amateur wines (unlicensed, unbonded) to be opened and served at state-licensed establishments, the recent judging was held in a conference room at the Wine Country Inn.

In past years, the amateur competition has been held in awkward off-site places such as outbuildings, cottages and the like.

This venue change not only made the judging more comfortable and efficient, it opened the door to Palisade hosting some large-scale amateur competition.

"The international competition attracts several thousand winemakers and usually is held in California or Back East," Haltiner said. "We'd love to have that event here in Colorado."

This year's International Amateur Winemaking competition was held in West Dover, Vermont, and attracted 2,497 different wines.

The Colorado Amateur Winemaking Competition had six judges (disclaimer: I was one of them) sipping and spitting their way through 94 wines, 20 flights in all, ranging in size from three wines to seven. Or was it eight wines? Or nine, maybe?

One forgets to count after 
80-some wines.

The results will be announced in January at the annual VinCO Conference and Trade Show at Two Rivers Convention Center on Jan. 15–18.

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