Talkin' about my generation ...

It's unlikely that in October of 1965 Pete Townshend and the rest of the English rock band The Who were overly worried about what forces might be driving the wine business of the early 21st century.

Their versified angst about getting older and suffering the slings and arrows of life has been an integral part of growing up ever since the first Neanderthal teenager stormed angrily out of the family cave.

That, in a very roundabout way, brings me to an art-and-wine opening hosted recently by The Raw Canvas, an eclectic and provocative tattoo studio and art gallery at 521 Main St.

There wasn't any angry storming that night. Instead, a sizable crowd spanning several generations enjoyed local musicians and the work of homegrown artists graced the studio walls.

I'm not about to guess how many of the attendees were there for the art and music and how many were there to sample Carlson Winery's pre-release tasting of its new line of wines with the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) label.

"I think any kind of drink entices people to come out," offered The Raw Canvas owner Justin Nordine as he slowly mingled through the gathering. "But I also think involving the local scene is a huge part of the success of all businesses in Grand Junction."

The local art scene was in high evidence, with much captivating art on the walls as well as on the arms, legs, necks and, one might ponder, various unseen body parts of most of the those in attendance.

And of course, the artistic work, as Nordine expressed it, included that of Carlson's winemaker Robert Padron and owner Garrett Portra.

Winemaking "is an art in itself," Nordine said a few days after the opening. "We're trying to do art events here and trying to bring artisans back together, (both) to create beauty and to make an income."

Padron, an ebullient sort whose outgoing personality matches well with that of Portra, spent much of the gala evening pouring and talking up his new line of NSFW wines.

Perhaps the name itself, a bit of internet slang referring to material for a mature audience, indicates where this is going.

While Padron emphasized the winery will continue to be consistent with Parker Carlson's original vision, he and Portra are extending that vision to a new audience and a generation that now is a major influence in the world of wine.

"Just look at this crowd," Padron motioned with a well-inked right arm toward the growing throng. "Garrett is a young owner, I'm a young winemaker and so with us together we're working to appeal to our generation of wine drinkers."

He hastened to add that Carlson's wines, particularly the ever-popular Sweet Baby Red and fruit-based wines, won't change. The lineup simply is expanding in breadth and offering.

"The idea today is people want a table wine, something clean and easy they can drink and affordably priced," Padron said. "And they are looking for the things that are popular and not traditional, such as the NSFW label."

Several recent studies, including one in 2017 by the research company Wine Opinions, show millennials (defined as anyone born between 1977 and 1994) now buy almost 50 percent of the wine sold in the United States.

A few years ago, the conventional wine industry was bemoaning the belief that millennials weren't going to be wine drinkers, particularly of the less-sweet dry wines.

Today that 22–39 year age group is purchasing nearly $30 billion worth of wine each year.

The corpus callosum of this diverse generation seems to be its adventurous spirit and willingness to explore outside the box.

"I fit outside that box but I'm in the box, too, being a daddy (he and his wife, Ariel, have a 1-year-old daughter, Bella Rose) and I got a tattoo here with my daughter's name," Padron said. "I think there's a bit of a stigma that goes with getting a tattoo and also with being a young winemaker.

"But I'm proud of it. We make really good wine, they make really good art here and we match our talents together," he said.

Cailin Portra, who juggles motherhood, a job as an occupational therapist for St. Mary's Medical Center and the duties of office manager at Carlson Winery, said the NSFW label has roots in research highlighting the generation's adventurous spirit.

"They aren't as driven by the varietal that's on the bottle or the location that its coming from," she said. "They're going more for the taste and trying new things, like the wines that weren't historically the 'cool' ones to drink.

"It's not the Chardonnays and the Merlots, it's the other varietals."

The NSFW wines, which are available in the tasting room, include a red blend (Noiret and Chambourcin), a white blend (mostly Vidal Blanc) and a rosé (Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc). All are dry and all were expected to retail for $10 to $12.

Garrett Portra said he enjoyed the "yin and yang" of serving his new wines at The Raw Canvas.

"We were looking for options for getting this out to people who normally wouldn't come to our tasting room," he said. "I'd already been working with Josh (Niernberg) on a couple of things, and I mentioned that to Justin.

"And The Raw Canvas has been around for many years and has a killer reputation."

Chef Josh Niernberg and some of his staff at Bin 707 FoodBar in Grand Junction were instrumental in developing the blends, Portra said.

The winery also is developing a line of Bin 707 house wines.

The NSFW line has an edgy black-and-white label, which was an intentional move away from the bright Laughing Cat label that will be kept for the traditional Carlson line.

"The labels are really perfect for us, a bit edgy and very trendy," said Krista Young, studio manager at The Raw Canvas.

She said the winery and the studio are a perfect pairing.

"We were so excited, it was like, this sounds great," she said. "But then, it was, like, now how do we make this work?"

There "was a bit of scrambling but this fits with my desire of having a winery as part of the gallery, a wine that's created locally, with the art being created locally and this being a locally owned business," Nordine said.

And there is another parallel between Nordine's uptown tattoo studio and the NSFW line of wines.

After 10 years in business in Grand Junction, Nordine recently undertook a complete re-branding of The Raw Canvas, including the impressive space downtown, the art gallery, a new line of in-house clothing labeled Proudly Marked, and even a proposed bar named The Apothecary.

Similarly, this new line of wines from one of the valley's oldest and best-loved wineries is a bit of re-branding as well, although the familiar rusticity and welcoming atmosphere of the winery and tasting room at 461 35 Road in Palisade won't be going anyplace.

"Parker and Mary (Carlson) built a legacy here and that's going to stay," Portra said. "What we're doing now is making a stand-alone brand that's different from what we've been known for, but still something that appeals to a broad section of wine drinkers."

Cailin Portra said the wine may be focused on millennials but really is for every generation.

"We're looking at making an affordable, more approachable wine that's drinkable for everybody," she said. "Just making a good wine that's good to drink."

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