Archive for the ‘Wineries and Travel – Front Range Region’ Category

Ten Bears Winery – A nice “city break”!!!

For me, getting out to the farmlands or the mountains is a relaxing endeavor. There is just something about no rush hour traffic, no city noise, or no hustle / bustle of the city that calms and renews me when I’m in the country or mountains. I had the opportunity to experience that pleasure this week at Ten Bears Winery. Nestled in the foothills just northwest of Ft. Collins, Ten Bears Winery is a great place to stop, enjoy some delicious wines, and sit on the patio listening to nature.

Bill Conkling, owner and winemaker, is expanding his winery in LaPorte. He added an outside patio to his tasting room so you can sit and drink wine while enjoying the mountain views and a new barn to assist with increased production. He is also considering the possibility of conducting small events in the new barn. What most people would find amazing, is the fact that he is also growing his own grapes! These are the cold hardy variety. I’ve blogged about cold hardy grapes before, but to refresh your memory, these are a hybrid grape of Vitis Vinifera and wild American grapes. The Vitis Vinifera grapes provide the flavor and the wild American grapes increase the ability to withstand our colder Colorado winters. Bill grows two types – LaCrescent (a white) and Marquette (a red).

Bill planted these vines in 2009, and as you all know, it’s a 5-7 year process before you have enough grapes for an ample harvest. 2014 was the first year that Bill produced wine with his Marquette grapes and blended that into his delicious Poudre River Red wine. He used the LaCrescent grapes in some of his white blended wines. 2016 is proving to be a good harvest year (all across Colorado actually) and Bill is planning to make a stand alone Marquette wine with his own grapes. I’m looking forward to trying that!!!

Most people don’t expect a winery with a small vineyard to be in Northern Colorado, but Ten Bears is just that….a great place to sample delicious wines while sitting on the patio, looking at the mountains, and listening to the birds. The next time you need a “city break” head to Ten Bears Winery, you will be glad you did!!

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Black Arts Cellars – a new winery in SW Littleton

I’ve heard of winemakers using their geologist knowledge, their engineering skills, and especially their taste buds, but I had not heard of any winemaker using “black magic” until I met the owners of Black Arts Cellars. Okay, so maybe John and Liz Cowperthwaite aren’t exactly using black magic, but John is a little superstitious and “the winery name is a tip of the hat to the magic.”

It is this philosophy that appears in many aspects of Black Arts Cellars. The wine’s names and labels use 16th century tarot card symbols and old French spelling. (see pictures below) Le Toille (Syrah) is the star card, and its bold flavors of cherry and dark fruits with medium body and soft tannins make it definitely a star! La Mort, uses the death card to represent the dark, inky black fruit flavors of Petit Sirah. Opposite that is Le Soleil, representing the sun in their Sauvignon Blanc. The Lover card used on the L’Amoureux label is a blend of Roussanne and Viognier, which I sampled and found it was truly a loving blend of these two grapes. In fact, it won a Silver Medal at the 2015 Denver International Wine Competition. Finishing out the current production is a Cab Franc called La Maison Dieu and is represented by the Tower card.

So how did Liz and John get started in the winemaking business? It began with years of enjoying wine, and then on a vacation in Western Australia they visited a winery with just 3 people overseeing the entire operation. The light bulb went on and they thought they could do that as well. Over the past 10 years John has gone from making wine in small batches in the garage to producing more and more each year, while also taking classes at UC-Davis. He began his business plan 4 years ago, following an urban winery model and just this past June opened Black Arts Cellars in Southwest Littleton.

Since June, they have sold out of their Rosé, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvédre, but plan to make it again soon. The Rosé is aged in oak for 4-5 months and in fact, all their reds are aged in oak as well, but the white wines are stored in stainless steel tanks before bottling. John and Liz are planning to bottle within the next few weeks and will have 8 wines available for tasting (and purchasing!).

Having “art” in their winery name, they have teamed up with the Ken Caryl Art Guild, displaying many works of art on a rotating basis. Watch their website for an event showcasing the art, along with live music, food, and of course, good wine. Black Arts Cellars is just off C-470 at Ken Caryl and a great place to stop, enjoy the view, and sample some delicious wine! You will also get a warm welcome from their Weimaraner, JP!!

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Winery Visit – Colorado Cider Company (part 1)

PART ONE OF MY BLOG ABOUT CIDER:
A little history lesson….Who would ever connect cider with Julius Caesar?? Written history tells us that when the Romans invaded Britain they discovered the locals drinking cider and found the beverage to be quite enjoyable. The first apple seeds from Europe were brought over and planted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600s. Then, as cities expanded, cider (and beer) was considered safer to drink than water. But then Prohibition came along and consumption of any alcoholic beverage was greatly decreased. It’s actually only been in the past few decades that cider has seen a renewed emergence in the USA, although the UK and many parts of Europe never experienced a decline in consumption.

For us in Colorado, we should be glad that owners Brad and Kathe of Colorado Cider Company decided to begin their operation in the metro Denver area! Back in 1988 Brad worked for Wynkoop Brewery (and we all know the history there) and also worked with Coppersmith Brewery of Ft. Collins producing beer and cider. Brad and Kathe actually lived in Buenos Aires for a few years, opening up a brewery there. When they moved back to the USA, it was cider that called them, not beer…we should be glad of that fact, too! Colorado Cider produces delicious ciders that are refreshing and enjoyable, not like the typical, overly sweet national brands you get in liquor stores.

Many people believe cider to be a sweet, apple-juicy beverage, but Colorado Cider disproves that point with their numerous cider options. They produce 9 varieties and a few seasonals. Their “Glider Cider” line offers 3 choices of off-dry, dry, and cherry and comes in a 4-pack. My personal favorite is their “Grasshop-Ah” with notes of citrus and flavors of light hops that also comes in a 4-pack. The other ciders include PomeMel, Ol’Stumpy, Pearsnickety (made with CO Bartlett pears), Uvana (a 50/50 blend of CO wine grapes and apples) and Newtown Pippin (made from American Heirloom apples). A new product to be released soon is a bourbon barrel-aged cider, like an apple port, called Pommeau….I can’t wait to try that one!!

The cidery’s majority of apples, fruit, and wine grapes comes from Colorado. In fact, all the fruit is pressed in Palisade and then a tanker truck delivers about 5500 gallons of juice to their production facility and tasting room in Denver. In addition to sourcing fruit from other orchards, Brad and Kathe are looking forward to the 2016 harvest when they will produce ciders using apples from their own 3000-tree orchard located in Hotchkiss.

Stay tuned for PART TWO of my blog about cider when I discuss apple varieties and production…but in the meantime, visit Colorado Cider Company’s tasting room so you can discover for yourself the tasty selection of ciders available. Explore and Enjoy!

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Winery Visit – The Infinite Monkey Theorem

There is always room for debate when it comes to “Being #1” …whether it’s in sports, cities or international wineries, but if I were a betting person, I would say that The Infinite Monkey Theorem (TIMT) is the #1 largest winery in Colorado. At a production rate of 40,000 cases, that is a substantial amount of wine! Owner and winemaker Ben Parsons has initiated many unique and cutting edge ideas into his winery and wine production, enabling him to garner that #1 spot. First, I would start with the winery’s name….TIMT is not named after the owner or an area, but an interesting theory. Click here if you want more info on that. Second, Ben says his winery doesn’t have a tasting room, but rather a “taproom.” Next is the location….an “urban winery” founded with a sense of community and situated in the RiNo District, currently the hottest and most vibrant area in Denver.

To expand on the innovations at TIMT, one must include what the winery is doing with its wine. At the taproom you can purchase 12 wines on tap and/or purchase growlers to go. Ben is also putting his wine in cans, something he began doing in 2011, and was the second USA winery to use this form of container for wine. (BTW – Francis Ford Coppola’s “Sophie” was the first and there are now 8 wineries using cans). And if you have flown on Frontier Airlines recently you know that you can purchase TIMT’s wine in a can onboard. TIMT cans 4 types of wine….Chardonnay, Merlot, Rosé and Moscato; and for us outdoor enthusiasts having wine in a can is a great idea!

TIMT takes about 220,000 tons of Colorado fruit and puts approximately 3/4 of it in bottles and 1/4 into kegs. They have 50,000 cases of wine in cans from fruit sourced from California. I don’t have room in my blog to discuss all of TIMT’s wines, so here is an overview of a few…. Whites: a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon white, Bordeaux-style blend in a bottle, an off-dry Riesling also in a bottle, and a rich, full-bodied Viognier in kegs. For Reds: the Cab Franc tastes of black currents, green chili, Sorrento peppers, and violets and received a 90 from Wine Enthusiast magazine and the Syrah, with concentrated dark fruits received an 89 in Wine Spectator. Those ratings are a nice testament to any winery, here or abroad!

November 16, 2015 will be another landmark date for TIMT as it opens up another winery in Austin, TX. But for those of us in Colorado, a visit to TIMT in RiNo is a great experience, especially May through October when you can enjoy its wines sitting on the patio with friends and/or family and also partake in dinner from the food trucks. I must admit that I get annoyed with all the articles on Colorado beer, so it was wonderful to see that Ben was named in the top “40 Under 40” article in Wine Enthusiast….way to go!!

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Winery Visit – Kingman Estates Winery

The question is….how do you begin a winery and 3 years later are ranked eighth largest winery in Colorado (according to the Denver Business Journal)? The answer is….ask Doug and Karen, owners of Kingman Estate Winery… for that is exactly what they have done! They will tell you their secret “is one customer at a time to build your reputation.” They also believe it is not about selling wine, but about selling a relationship and experience. And I would also have to interject to say it is also about the winemaking! I first met Doug and Karen at a wine festival back in 2012 and I think they have participated in every wine festival in our state since then!! Festivals, numerous liquor stores, and their Tasting Room (and production facility) near I-25 / 58th are where you can purchase their wonderful wines.

Kingman Winery sources the majority of its grapes from Palisade, as long as it’s a good producing year. As winemaker, Doug prefers Colorado grapes because he believes the grapes aren’t quite as fruity as California’s grapes and provide a more intense flavor due to our soil and climate. The winery will be producing 9 wines for 2015….4 whites, 4 reds and their blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Riesling that is called Marv’ lous 1680. Marv’lous is one of their top sellers and, in my opinion, a delicious wine. While interviewing Doug I also tasted his Viogner and Riesling, both of which I would rate as winners!

Doug is on the Colorado Wine Industry Board and his goal, and that of the CWIB, is to increase the visibility of Colorado wines/wineries. In fact the new logo is “Raise a Local Glass.” This board and that of CAVE (Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology) assist Colorado’s grape growers and winemakers. Many people don’t know that we have a state viticulturist and an enologist to provide assistance to farmers and wineries with growing grapes and making wine. CAVE also organizes the Mountain Wine Festival that is held in Palisade every year. (BTW – mark September 17, 2016 on your calendar for that wine festival!).

Kingman has a great Wine Club that offers “Quarterly Pick-Up Parties” and a “Fall Customer Appreciation Event.” On 11/14/15 and 12/31/15 they are having a Winemaker’s Dinner combining their wines and the skills of Chef Connie Ruel (see picture below for 11/14 menu). Future Winemaker’s Dinners are planned for every two months. This is an incredible opportunity to pair delicious wines with delicious food….what could be better?? So….explore and enjoy!

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Winery Visit – Legacy Vineyards

I’m always telling people to attend some of Colorado’s wine festivals as it’s a perfect way to sample wines from numerous wineries all at one time. Well, I just found out about a “wine festival” that is happening year round…..it’s called Legacy Vineyards! Located at the west end of downtown Littleton, Legacy pours about 50 different wines from over 20 Colorado wineries. Owner Michael and his daughter, Brittany, have done the research for you and sampled wines from all around the state and then picked what they believe to be the best of the best. So Legacy is a great place to sample and purchase Colorado wines!

Legacy Vineyards’ conception began as Michael and wife DeeDee traveled from Denver to Nevada every month stopping in the Grand Valley along the way to sample wines. Michael has always had a passion for gardening and began pursuing the possibility of growing grapes and opening a winery. But as DeeDee pointed out, Michael knew nothing about how to do this! So over the past 3 years he earned an online degree in viticulture (growing grapes) and is almost done with a degree in viniculture (making wine). He has also had the help and support of numerous Colorado grape growers and winemakers.

In addition to offering Colorado wines, Legacy is about to bottle its first wines called Red #1, Red #2 and Autumn Gold. Michael has purchased wine in bulk from many Colorado wineries to create Legacy’s own unique blended wines. Red #1 is a blend of what customers enjoyed the most and is a blend of 4 varietals. Red #2 they call “training wheels” and is a good introduction for white wine drinkers to move into red wines. Autumn Gold is a white, seasonal blend that is crisp, fruit-forward and refreshing.

Legacy uses “vineyard” in their name because they are growing their own grapes in places north and east of metro Denver. Who says you can’t grow grapes anywhere in Colorado!! These are cold-hardy, hybrid grapes….see blog about River Garden Winery for more info on cold-hardy grapes. The name Legacy is biblically inspired as Michael feels vineyard life and the life of a vine is similar to human life – both the struggles and the bearing of fruit. It is also his legacy to pass down something to his children.

A visit to Legacy Vineyards any time of the year is a great way to sample some of the best of Colorado wines! Explore & Enjoy!!

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Winery Visit – Point Blank Winery

Having reached the “it’s hard to believe, but I really am getting old” stage in my life, it was really refreshing to meet with owner Erin of Point Blank Winery. She is young, enthusiastic and pursuing a dream. I visited with Erin at her new winery in Centennial, just off Arapahoe Road, which is close to where she grew up. After attending college in California, she practiced making wine and earned her Level 2 sommelier certification, all with the thought of opening up a “micro-winery.” An embarrassing moment came during her sommelier class when she misspelled Pinot Blanc as Point Blank, which actually gave her the idea for the winery’s name!

Erin’s inspiration comes from all the micro-breweries…..she produces her wines as seasonal craft blends, just like a brewery would do. Her 3 wines called Owl, At Last and Classy Brass are all blends. She sources varietal grape concentrate from Lodi, CA and uses that to make her wines. She is a “one woman shop” and oversees all aspects of the winery herself. That is actually one reason she uses glass “corks.” While these cost a little more than traditional corks it enables her to quickly hand bottle without fear of oxidation.

So a little bit about the wines….Owl is Point Blank’s red blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabs Franc and Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. It is inspired by French wines and is off-dry, and like a Beaujolais has an autumn release. The white wine is called Classy Brass and is a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It has tastes of green apple, tropical fruits and pineapple. The Rosé, called At Last, is a blend of Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc, which is not a typical production combination. It is off-dry and a nice balance for both sweet and dry wine drinkers.

Point Blank Winery is usually open on Saturdays from 1 – 6 p.m. for free tasting, but Erin says it’s always best to check the website. You can bring in your own food or have it delivered, a great way to enjoy Point Blank’s food-friendly wines. The winery is also available for private events, small parties, meetings or classes. Stop by and visit with Erin and enjoy her delicious wines.

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Winery Visit – What We Love, The Winery

I will be the first to admit that I enjoy visiting winery tasting rooms and sampling wine. And I do enjoy sampling and comparing the “standard” grapes / wines at the wineries, but it is always refreshing and interesting to try something new, different and exciting….and that is what I experienced at What We Love, The Winery!! While What We Love does produce many of the standard wines you see at most tasting rooms, it offers a few very unique wines as well. For owner Michael, innovation and creativity are his key words.

Many of us enjoy a good Sangria, and What We Love has put this in a bottle and with a “re-sealable” cap (see picture below). The Sangria comes in both white and red styles and is made with wine, real fruit and spices. And here is great news….it is very high in Vitamin C, so you are actually getting your vitamins while enjoying wine…what could be better!! This beverage is 20.5% alcohol and is produced to be diluted as a 1:2 or 3 ratio. I had the Sangria mixed with varying amounts of seltzer but you could also add a different beverage or serve it over ice cream. Yum!

Another innovative wine being produced at What We Love is Mulled Wine, and as the motto on the label says, it is “a faithful winter rescue.” Mulled Wine is popular in many parts of the USA (what could be more enjoyable after a day on the ski slopes!!) and especially in Germany where it is called Gluewein and in France, where it is called Vinchaud. Michael is producing his Mulled Wine with coffee, chocolate and various spices. And here is the real innovative part…you can take it with you skiing, hiking or anywhere in its own pouch container! It comes with hand warmers that keep it warm for up to 8 hours and is refillable using a special cap called a “dongle” – an Australian term meaning attachment. (see pictures below)

Michael is originally from Australia and was in the wine industry and managed a luxury ski lodge there for many years. When he came to the USA he wasn’t sure what would be his next new business venture, and everyone was asking him, “so what do you love?” and that is how the winery name was created. Michael also loves various other products and businesses and is thinking down the road he may create another What We Love, The ??? but that is still TBD.

What We Love, The Winery is part of the Boulder Wine Studios along with Bookcliff Vineyards and Settembre Cellars, which are all located in the same complex on Lee Hill Road in north Boulder. Stop on by Thursday through Sunday afternoons for a unique wine experience and ask about the St. Bernard influence!

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Winery Visit – Bookcliff Vineyards

People are always asking me, “Paula, where do the Front Range wineries get their grapes?” For Bookcliff Vineyards, located in north Boulder, the answer is simple…you get them from your 37 acres of owned and managed vineyards in Palisade! Owners Ulla and John believe “it is important to know where the grapes come from and to have a connection to agriculture.” Bookcliff is the only Front Range winery that I know of that has its own vineyard and uses 100% Colorado-grown grapes. The winery has been in operation for a while – since 1999 – and has been planting their own grapes since 1997. It all began after a backpacking trip to Moab with a winery stop in Palisade and a visit to the Palisade wine festival. And we should be glad that Ulla and John made that stop because they are producing some delicious wines!

To prove how incredible their wines are…they are the only Colorado winery that has won 4 Jefferson Cups. (Click here for more info.) This is an annual, invitation only, national competition among 700-800 wines and only 20-25 wines receive a cup. Now that is impressive! The owners believe in fruit-forward wines and try to preserve the character of the grape, since each variety has its own distinct taste. As growers, they like Colorado’s high altitude and sunny days to provide more minerality and tannins to the grapes, and feel that grapes grown here do not taste like California grapes…YEAH!!

Bookcliff’s top sellers are Friday Folly White and Red, which are non-vintage, value wines. Their Cab Franc, which I tasted and is delicious, has been in their repertoire since 2002 and has won several gold or double gold medals. Their Malbec is a new kid on the block and actually won the 2014 Jefferson Cup. Another interesting wine is Touch of Red Rosé, which is produced similar to a German-style wine where 75% of the grapes are fermented dry and 25% are kept as grape juice. This mixture is then blended together, which takes a lot of effort and also care to prevent further fermentation in the bottle.

The winery participates in several special events…Bookcliff, as well as the other 2 wineries that make up Boulder Wine StudiosSettembre Cellars and What We Love, The Winery – have teamed up with the First Friday NoBo (North Boulder) Art Walk. Bookcliff also hosts special wine and food pairing dinners with local Boulder chefs. Whether it is stopping by the winery on a Thursday through Sunday afternoon for tasting or at one of their special events, a stop at Bookcliff Vineyards is a must do!

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Winery Visit – Compass Cider

As I mentioned in my previous blog, great things are happening in Old Town Ft. Collins and Compass Cider is one of them! Compass Cider is on the north end of downtown in a 100-year old building that used to be a livery, a car dealership and an arts center. In fact, when owners Bob and Liz were remodeling they found a pitchfork, horseshoes and a 90-year old whiskey bottle! Bob and Liz like to travel so decided “compass” was a good name for their new establishment and many of their ciders reference travel and compass points…although their “11 Stitches” has more to do with a demolition accident than a compass!

In addition to making delicious ciders, one of the goals of Compass Cider is to educate people not only about cider itself but also pairing cider with food. We always hear about wine & food pairing or beer & food pairing but who has heard about food complementing cider?? They have done an incredible job in their kitchen and all of their food is fresh and made in house. An interesting item on their menu is Dukkah, which is an Egyptian dip made with toasted nuts and seeds. Their Asiago Scone Bites and Beer Braised Bratwurst pair deliciously with several of their ciders. You will have to try them out for yourself!!

As we all know, cider is not just a sweet, apple juicy fermented beverage, and Compass confirms that. I had the opportunity to sample several of their ciders. One of my favorites was Lat 40, which is a light, crisp and refreshing dry cider. Compass produces quite a variety of ciders and the menu is always changing. They produce several dry ciders, semi-sweet varieties, like their 11 Stitches, and sweet ciders like their ginger cider and cherry cider. Their cider production takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months, with 6 weeks being the average time. They use a variety of yeasts which I learned plays a big role in the fermenting of the apples. I am no cider-making expert, but Compass is, and if you want to learn more about cider production click here, as Compass’ website does an excellent job explaining the process.

Any time (closed Mondays) is a great time to stop by Compass, where you can sit inside, or outside on their patio. Tuesday night is “service industry night” where its happy hour all day for people in the service industry. Thursday is music night with live music from 7 to 10 p.m. It is always enjoyable to explore different things, so step out of your wine drinking habit and stop by Compass Cider for a change of pace….you will be glad you did!!

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