Archive for July, 2012

Winery Visit – Woody Creek Cellars

Woody Creek Cellars is not your typical winery, nor does it have your typical tasting room, and for owner Kevin Doyle, that’s a good thing! Kevin describes himself as “a hick from Woody Crick” and a “luddite,” a word I had never heard of but means someone who doesn’t use any technology. However he portrays himself, I would describe him as an incredible winemaker. Using his ethos of “leave it alone and less it better,” Kevin is producing some excellent red wines.

For Woody Creek Cellars it is all about the natural approach…hand picking the grapes, using primitive equipment and fermenting in open top vats. Using gravity flow methods, the wine is transferred to French oak barrels where it ages for 30 months, so it can interface and act with the oak. Kevin bottles, corks and labels the wine bottles by hand and then self-distributes. If you take a look at the label (see pictures below) you will see 5 interlocking hands. These represent the philosophy of strength through unity, or as Kevin says “solidarity of the small guys coming together for strength in numbers against the big corporations.”

Woody Creek Cellars’ tasting room is by appointment only, but don’t let that stop you from giving Kevin a call to stop on by. His tasting room, which is also his home, is an eclectic mix of art, furniture and fun kitchen accessories. In fact, when I arrived he was roasting chickens on his newest kitchen appliance! It was difficult to take pictures of everything, but I particularly liked his oak barrel chair and wood carving (see pictures below). The painting that drew my attention was that of the bar at Woody Creek, featuring Hunter S. Thompson. Kevin must have 100 paintings, primarily done by Delta artist, Hillary Glass.

Whether you stop by the tasting room in Cedaredge, visit the tasting room at Palma Cigars on Larimer Street in Denver or purchase a bottle at your neighborhood liquor store, you will be glad you had the opportunity to experience delicious red wines from Woody Creek Cellars.

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Winery Visit – North Fork Cellars & Delicious Orchards

Think fruit. Think Hard Cider. That’s what North Fork Cellars and Delicious Orchards is all about. Owners Jeff and Tracey Schwartz and brother, Seth Schwartz, have created an incredible business utilizing their skills in growing fruit. I have included Hard Ciders in my book, Exploring Colorado Wineries, because it is a fermented beverage. In fact, Jeff tells me its the original alcohol of the United States…think Johnny Appleseed!! Apples ferment easily and produce a beverage that averages 7% alcohol. Its a great alternative to wine or beer, and is very popular in Europe.

So how do you make Hard Cider? Primary fermentation takes about 2 weeks. Secondary fermentation is about letting the juice rest and relax before it is placed in stainless steel containers. Remember…stainless steel is a “neutral” holding tank, unlike oak barrels. Racking (think siphoning  from one container to another) is important in making Hard Cider so that you remove any remaining yeast and sediment as you finalize your product into the tanks. North Fork Cellars uses only apples from the North Fork Valley, and makes straight Hard Apple Cider, as well as blends apple and other fruits to make other fruit flavored Hard Ciders. One unique process they do is add a little straight apple juice into the bottle as they are bottling, which creates a natural carbonation.

The Schwartz’s began their current businesses by making fruit juice. Jeff worked for and then bought Big B’s, which produces 12 different fruit juices and lemonades/teas. They press 3,000 gallons/day of fruit from September through February…that is a LOT of fruit juice! Consumers can purchase these at Delicious Orchards store and at many King Soopers and Whole Foods stores. They also have a 17-acre orchard where they grow cherries, apricots, apples, pears, peaches and table grapes. You can pick your own or purchase them at the store.

The next time you are at Delcious Orchards, stop on in at their tasting room where you can sample their Hard Ciders as well as wine from other Colorado wineries or pick your own  fresh fruit. If you are there on a Saturday afternoon in the summer or early fall, they have a BBQ and live music.


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Winery Visit – Leroux Creek Vineyards

Ever looking for that perfect place that combines tranquility, incredible views, good food, comfortable accommodations and of course, delicious wine?? Look no further than Leroux Creek Vineyards in Hotchkiss! The view from the patio of its vineyards and the West Elk Mountains is spectacular. Imagine yourself sitting there as owner, Yvon Gros, prepares you one of his “culinary adventures.” Yvon is a superb chef who prepares gourmet meals using primarily local products and pairs his wines to accompany the dinner. He says he’s “a winemaker, a chef, a farmer and a B&B owner.” But he doesn’t do it all alone, his wife Joanna is right by his side.

The building that serves as the tasting room and inn, was originally built as a B&B. Yvon and Joanna chose this 54-acre farm because of the inn as well as the slope of the land, which allows the winter frost to travel to the sides of the vineyard and away from the vines. I’ve learned in my travels that frost is the #1 killer of grape vines.

In 2002 Yvon and Joanna planted 4,000 vines of their signature Cayuga and Chambourcin grapes. Their wines are in the French or Provence-style…kind of obvious since that is where Yvon was born.The wines are designed to be paired with food, and you will find them less fruity and with more structure, complexity and acidity. Leroux Creek uses no chemicals in their wine and uses only enough sulfates to stabilize the wine.

If you think I am exaggerating about Leroux Creek, you don’t have to take my word for it. Tom Huber, a professor at University of Colorado-Boulder, was taken with the area and used this inspiration to write his book An American Provence. In fact his dedicatation includes the “people of the North Fork Valley.”

For the most part, Leroux Creek wines are only sold at their tasting room…guess you will have to take a visit there…and you will be glad you did!

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Winery Visit – Terror Creek

I spent 3 days in the Delta/Montrose/West Elks AVA Region last month, and enjoyed touring the 18 wineries that make up the area. As a little background information….the West Elks region is only one of two AVAs in Colorado. AVA stands for American Viticultural Area and is a designated wine-grape growing region distinguishable by its terroir and having met certain standards. The other AVA in Colorado is the Grand Valley.

My first stop was at Terror Creek, which is fitting since they are one of the oldest wineries in the area. They began planting their 7 acres of grapes in 1989 and opened the winery in 1992. Prior to this, owner Joan Mathewson and her husband John had been living in the Middle East for 26 years working in geophysics and geological engineering. They had also spent time volunteering in the vineyards of Switzerland. Wanting to relocate to the US, they headed back to their roots of Colorado and fell in love with the area and mountains near Paonia. You can see why from the pictures below!! One of the things that drew them to this particular plot of land was the fact that CSU, as part of their Four Corners Project, had planted Gewurztraminer in 1972 and the grapes were still there and producing!!

All of Terror Creek’s wines come from their own vineyard. Very occasionally nature will reek havoc and they will have to obtain grapes elsewhere, which is mentioned on their label. They produce a dry Gewurztraminer and a dry Riesling as well as a Pinot Noir. Their Gamay Noir (a Beaujolais, France grape) is considered a Swiss table wine. In fact, their wines are produced in a European style, meaning they are fruity and true to the grape varietal. This makes sense as Joan received her training at Changins, which in the 1980s was a small oenology and viticulture school in Switzerland, and is now a large university.

One of the issues the Mathewsons deal with is elk. Most of the vineyards and orchards in the area have elk fences around their property. They also contend with deer, bobcats, bear and raccoons that like to eat in the vineyards. But who can blame them….the views from the top of Garvin Mesa are spectacular!

At stop at Terror Creek should be at the top of your list, and after spending time with Joan, you will be glad you did!

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Winery Visit – Bonacquisti Wine Company

If you live in metro Denver (or are just visiting) this is a winery you need to stop at! Bonacquisti Wine Company is producing some delicious wines. Their most popular wines (and my favorites as well) are Vinny No Neck, which is a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is named after owners Paul and Judi Bonacquisti’s 7 year old son, Vincent. The other favorite is Bella Risa, a white blend that includes different varietals each year. It is named after their 9 year old daughter, Marisa. Bonacquisiti’s produces other whites and reds (I particularly enjoyed their Zinfandel and Sangiovese) and a port wine. Paul obtains his grapes from Colorado and a few other states, and crushes, ferments and bottles his wine onsite at the tasting room. He says his blends are his specialty.

Paul is a jovial guy, who enjoys talking with people about wine. He grew up making wine as a hobby. He learned the skills from his Dad, who was a jeweler by trade, who learned winemaking from his father, who came from Italy to work in the coal mines near Trinidad, Colorado. About 6 years ago, Paul changed careers, obtained his Level 2 sommelier certificate and launched the winery. Trying to decide where to open up shop, he discovered the Sunnyside neighborhood, as he wanted “to create an urban wine tasting experience.”  He was later joined by Verso Cellars, Garfield Estates and Cottonwood Cellars, and together they market themselves as Colorado Winery Row. The four wineries’ tasting rooms are open afternoons Thursday through Saturday and conduct various events, especially during the summer months. In fact, I will be there this Friday, July 20 signing/selling my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries.

Bonacquisti’s has some of the most beautiful labels I have seen. They began as actual paintings by local artist, Daniel Luna. (see pictures below). When you stop at the tasting room, be sure to view this amazing art work while you are sampling some delicious wines. Paul, and Koda, a weimaraner / yellow lab mix will be there to greet you!



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Winery Visit – D’Vine Wine-Manitou Springs

I can’t say enough about the fun, welcoming atmosphere at D’Vine Wine-Manitou Springs. Not only are owners, Tracy and Dean Fagner, great people, but so are their employees. Obviously D’Vine Wine is located in Manitou Springs, which is a creative, artistic town where you never know what you are going to see. The town’s motto is “Keep Manitou Weird.” If you have never been there, or its been awhile, the town offers shopping, art galleries, restaurants and a HUGE penny arcade. It is also the launching point of the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.  In other words, there is a lot to do in Manitou…but let’s talk wine!!

D’Vine Wine is a little different than most Colorado wineries because they get their grapes from all over the world. Because of that, they are able to offer a wide variety of wines that other Colorado wineries don’t offer. While they receive their grapes from other sources, they blend, ferment and bottle their wines onsite. All their production is done by hand and volunteers from their VIP Club pitch in to help.

One of my favorites is “Tracy’s Chardonnay” which is a dry, crisp, fruit-forward wine. Another differentiation for D’Vine Wine is the water they use to make two of their wines. They use water straight from the mineral springs fountains located through town! Their Raspberry Pinot Noir uses water from Ute Chief Mineral Springs and their Malbec is made with Stratton Spring water.

At D’Vine Wine you can stop in for a taste, attend one of their tasting parties, hold your own tasting party or create your own custom wine blend. If you have never made wine before, its a fun activity. The winery’s staff walks you through the entire process, and you even get to create your own label. In looking through their label scrapbook, wines had been made for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and corporate events.

The next time you are in Manitou Springs, D’Vine Wine is a must stop!


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Wine Festival – Castle Rock Winefest

The 9th Annual Castle Rock Winefest at The Grange is this Saturday, July 21 from noon to 6 p.m.

This is an incredible opportunity to sample some of Colorado’s best wines, all at one location.

Paula Mitchell (me!) will also be there selling/signing my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries-Guidebook & Journal. I’ll also be the presenter at the 4 p.m. Demonstration Tent. You can learn about my winery tour, tasting room etiquette and simple ways to increase your wine knowledge.

Its easy to get to The Grange…take I-25 to the Meadows/Founders Pkwy (near the Castle Rock Outlet Mall), head west on Meadows Pkwy to the intersection of Meadows Pkwy / Morningview Dr /Coachline Rd….. See you there!!

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Winery Visit – Plum Creek Cellars

The last stop on my Grand Valley tour was at Plum Creek Cellars. I had an amazing time with owner, Sue Phillips, and learned about the history of Plum Creek as well as how the Colorado wine industry began. Plus I had the opportunity to taste some of their delicious wines.

Plum Creek holds Colorado winery license #10 and began in 1984. They didn’t start out in the Grand Valley like you would imagine, but in Larkspur where they built their winery and tasting room. Hence the name…Plum Creek, which by the way, flooded in 1965 and that is why Chatfield Resevior was built. In a picture below you can see an etched glass that was the front window of the tasting room and is the only remaining item. Doug and Sue Phillips were pioneers in the early days of Colorado winemaking. In 1980 they leased land in Garvin Mesa near Paonia (which later would become a wine mecca of its own!) and realized they could grow grapes there. Their basic premise was to make estate bottled Colorado wine…something that was new and different for Colorado. And have they succeded!!!

In 1989 they moved their winery and facility to Palisade. Sue says when they chose the land and began planting their vines, there was nothing around them. Its hard for us to imagine all that has happened in the Grand Valley in the past 23 years! In 1994, the Phillips hired current winemaker Jenne Baldwin, who certainly knows her trade. Jenne makes an incredible Chardonnay, something you don’t always find in Colorado. The Palisade Red is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. My favorite was the Grand Mesa.

Plum Creek’s tasting room is a fun experience. You can check out their “mascot” at the entrance – known as the Chardonnay Chicken (see picture below). But if you can’t get to their tasting room in Palisade, their wines are available  in numerous liquor stores across the state.

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Booking Signing at Colorado Winery Row

If you are looking for a fun evening event, stop by Colorado Winery Row this Friday, July 20. Their “Fridays Uncorked” will be featuring Jo Myers and the Mama’s Boys, with food trucks from The Crock Spot, Denver Cupcake Truck and Chocolate Lab Denver. The activities take place from 5 – 8 p.m. And of course, there is plenty of wine to sample or purchase by the glass.

I will be there selling and signing my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries – Guidebook & Journal and offering a 15% discount. The book is an excellent way to discover Colorado’s wineries. It also makes a great gift for the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or corporate thank yous.

See you this Friday!!

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Winery Visit – Two Rivers Winery

When you drive up to Two Rivers Winery in Grand Junction, you might think you were in France rather than next to the Colorado National Monument! The several buildings that incorporate Two Rivers include the tasting room, The Chateau – a country inn, production facility and owners, Billie and Bob Whitam’s personal home, all surrounded by vineyards. Thirteen years ago, the Whitams, who are both Colorado natives, moved back to Colorado from Texas. Using Bob’s construction knowledge and Billie’s accounting skills they bought land to build patio homes. After a little research they decided to grow grapes, made a business plan, and the rest is history!

Two Rivers is a family-owned and operated winery, utilizing the skills of Bob and Billie, their two children and spouses as well as winemaker Tyrel Lawson (who has opened up his own winery – Kahil Winery) and their tasting room manager, who make up the core team. The Whitams operate Two Rivers like a well run business….strategize, implement, track and celebrate. (I think I’d enjoy the “celebrating” part the best!!) They are actually spearheading that philosophy to all of Colorado’s wineries who are interested.

The vineyards consist of 11 acres of grapes in Grand Junction and 6 acres in Palisade. Their estate-bottled wines include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They have a state-of-the-art production facility, which includes a new bottling machine that bottles 36 per minute and uses 3 people instead of 8. You can see from the pictures below their huge barrel storage room and the amount of wine they are producing….about 14,000-16,000 cases per year, making them one of the largest wineries in the state.

After tasting wine you can spend the night in The Chateau. It consists of 10 upscale rooms and includes an outdoor pavilion. If you need a place for a corporate event or meeting, a wedding or a social gathering, this is the place to rent.

When you stop at Two Rivers Winery and sample their delicious wines, make sure to view all the beautiful paintings and murals. The murals are the creative genius of Lee Bowerman.

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