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Stoney Mesa Winery – Winery of the Year

People are always asking me, “Paula, how do Colorado wines compare to wines from other states and Europe?” And my answer is that Colorado wines are winning both national and international awards, competing against the best of the best. I think many people have the mistaken notion that only wines produced in the western USA and Europe are high quality wines. In my opinion and with all the awards Colorado wineries are winning, that is far from the truth!! If you peruse Colorado wineries’ websites you will see them mentioning their award winning wines. And if you visit a tasting room, you will see all the wine bottles sporting medals.

I would like to acknowledge Stoney Mesa Winery, located in Cedaredge, who won “Colorado Winery of the Year.” Bret Neal is the man behind Stoney Mesa and is the owner, farmer, winemaker, and all-around jack-of-all-trades. The winery is one of the oldest in Colorado, beginning in 1990. The vineyard grows a variety of grapes, with Riesling being the majority. Click Here to link to an article written by the Delta Independent about the winery and the award.

If you haven’t visited the West Elks area in a while, I suggest a road trip soon!! This area and the Grand Valley are Colorado’s two AVA areas (American Viticultural Areas) and grow the majority of grapes and fruit used in Colorado’s wine production. The West Elks has 19 wineries located throughout Paonia, Hotchkiss, Cedaredge and Olathe. Most close their tasting rooms over the winter, so get your road trip planned before November….might I suggest “leaf peeping and wine tasting???”

Congratulations to Bret Neal and Stoney Mesa Winery for winning Colorado Winery of the Year and for producing delicious wines to represent Colorado’s wine industry!!

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Winery Visit – Colorado Cider Company (part 2)

PART TWO OF MY BLOG ON CIDER
As winemakers say, “you can’t make a great wine without starting with great grapes.” The same philosophy holds true for ciders…it’s all about the apples! While we think about making cider from grocery store apples, these dessert or eating apples are not the variety that makes good cider. What actually determines an appropriate cider apple is the amount of tannin, acid, and sugar associated with the apple variety. Here are the 4 major types and a quickie overview of their characteristics:
Sweets – low in tannin, low in acid and high in sugar
Bitter Sweets – high in tannin
Sharpes – high in acid
Bitter Sharpes – mix of tannin and acid

Years ago, dessert apples were primarily limited to a certain geographic region or area, but sophisticated transportation methods and longer shelf life offered wider availability to people. Cider apples were not ever shipped widely and were mostly connected to geographic regions. Then with Prohibition, the cider apples disappeared mainly because of their unpalatable eating flavor. Now though, with the expanding cider industry we are back to seeing a more localized growing and production operation for cider apples.

As I mentioned in Part One, Colorado Cider Company gets the majority of its apples from Colorado, but depending on the harvest may also need to source from Washington, Oregon, Utah and/or Idaho. As with grapes, the two largest areas for apple orchards in Colorado are the Grand Valley and the West Elks area (Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Cedaredge). An interesting fact I learned from Brad is that it takes about ~11 pounds of apples to make 1 gallon of juice, and with Colorado Cider producing the equivalent of 30,000 cases….that is a lot of apples!

In my book, Exploring Colorado Wineries, I discuss how a grape becomes a wine, so here is a brief overview of how Colorado Cider Company turns an apple into cider.
#1. Like grapes, apples are picked or harvested in the fall. BTW – almost all cider is a blend of apples.
#2. The apples are then crushed and pressed, like grapes.
#3. The apples are now in juice form, without the skins.
#4. Fermentation takes place, usually in stainless steel tanks, with yeast being added. The most common yeast used is a white wine yeast that acts as a “workhorse” but imparts no flavor. The juice is fermented completely dry.
#5. The juice goes through a racking and fining process that removes most of the sediments and yeasts.
#6. The juice is then filtered.
#7. A little sugar (usually apple juice) is added back in. This determines whether the cider will be dry, off-dry or sweet.
#8. The cider is bottled and capped with a crown cap (like a beer bottle).
#9. The bottled cider is pasteurized in a water bath, which varies depending on the time in the bath versus the temperature of the water.
#10. The company labels are placed on the bottle.

#11 is the best part….drinking the cider! Ciders are processed to be consumed immediately but have ~1 year shelf life. This is a lower shelf life due to less alcohol, than like wine.

Hopefully I have spiked your interest about ciders and you will venture out to explore and enjoy Colorado Cider Company and other cideries around our state!!

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New Mexico Wineries

Having visited 98% of Colorado’s wineries, I decided to explore some of New Mexico’s wineries and sample their wines. It was an interesting visit and I was impressed with several of them. The state is basically divided into two zones – Northern and Southern. I explored the Northern section visiting wineries around Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque. I also coordinated my visit with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which was absolutely incredible and something that had been on my bucket list!

The NM Wine & Grape Growers Association publishes a nice little pamphlet with a map and listing of the wineries. You can also obtain information from its website….click here for the link. The pamphlet is a very useful tool, although nothing like my Colorado guidebook!! I stopped at 11 wineries, and only 2 did not charge for the tasting. On average it was a $6 fee for 6 tastings of 1 oz pours. The tasting rooms also supplied you with a handout for taking notes….a VERY useful tool and something I recommend anytime you taste wine!!

Like Colorado, grapes are grown all across the state, with the majority coming from Deming (near Las Cruces) in the southern part of NM. What was very interesting to learn is the Spanish influence that permeates their wine industry. In fact, history shows that NM was producing wine for 150 years before California and the first vines were actually planted in 1629 by a Franciscan monk. There are currently over 60 wineries and tasting rooms in the state that produce almost 1 million gallons of wine per year.

Since I don’t have to be “politically correct” regarding NM wineries/wines, I will offer my opinion on the wineries we visited (see pictures for winery names). My favorite for both the wines and the tasting room was Casa Abril Vineyards and Winery. Owner/grape grower/winemaker Raymond Vigil loves to talk and share his enthusiasm for his wines, which I thought were outstanding. My next favorite was Casa Rondeña Winery. Their wines were also outstanding and their tasting room area and grounds offered places to sit and enjoy their wines in a tranquil setting. I would give Don Quixote Winery & Distillery, Estrella del Norte Vineyard, La Chiripada Winery, St. Clair Winery & Bistro, and Vivác Winery a “definitely stop and taste.”

Since the New Mexico wineries are only a 6-8 hour drive, they make for a fun 3 to 4 day adventure to explore and enjoy!

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PBS Show on Colorado Wines

Are you interested in finding out more about the Colorado wine industry? An educational adventure show called Hittin the Road and narrated by Donna Vessey aired an episode on wine. During this segment, Donna met with two grape growers and winemakers….Guy Drew of Guy Drew Vineyards located in Cortez and John Garlich of Bookcliff Vineyards in Boulder. She also interviewed Michelle Cleveland, winemaker at Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Doug Caskey who is the Executive Director of the Colorado Wine Industry Board and myself, who provided information on the history of the Colorado wine industry. It is a very informative segment and an interesting way to improve your knowledge about our state’s grape growing and wine development. Click here for a link to watch the show.

Hittin the Road’s second season will begin in March, 2016 and feature 13 episodes. Click here for more information about the upcoming shows. In the meantime you can view all of first season’s shows on YouTube. Those shows discussed flying, bees, skydiving, rafting and many more fun adventures to experience here in Colorado.

We live in a wonderful state, so explore and enjoy!!

 

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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 – Settembre Cellars

Settembre Cellars isn’t a new winery, they have been around since 2007, but their new tasting room and production facility opened just recently in north Boulder. So what have owners Tracy and Blake been doing during this time? ….focusing on making wine, building up inventory and learning the business (Blake earned a degree from UC Davis), and doing all this out of their home, garage and basement cellar! Tracy is a local “Boulderite” and CU graduate and met Blake while he was earning his PhD in Electrical Engineering. Finding a commonality of Italian food and wine, they fell in love, married in the month of September and honeymooned in Italy – hence the name Settembre.

For Settembre Cellars I think their motto could be summed up in two phrases: “food friendly wines” and “be local.” In fact all their grapes are sourced 100% from Colorado! Before opening the winery they were “localvores” with a connection to 63rd Street Farm that is still in existence today. Additionally Tracy and Blake pour wines at Savory Spice Shop in Boulder as a fun way to experiment with pairing wine and spices.

As winemaker, Blake’s approach is to allow the grapes to speak for themselves. He uses an extended maceration process, averaging 45-60 days versus the usual 10-12 days. The grapes are hand sorted to remove as much of the stems as possible, which reduces the astringency from tannins that could arise from this extended maturation. He use a gentle press method and bottle ages the wines before release. All this gives Blake the Old World elegance, balance and depth he is looking for in his food friendly wines.

Settembre Cellars offers a variety of tasting choices….from flights of mixed or just reds to a flight + a glass of your favorite. I was fortunate enough to taste several of their wines and found them all delicious – a dry Riesling and a stainless steel-aged Chardonnay, a crisp Rosé and impressive Syrah and Sangiovese. The winery is open afternoons from Thursday through Sunday and is actually next door to two other wineries – Bookcliff Vineyards and What We Love, The Winery – so spend an afternoon sampling wines in Boulder…sounds like a lot of fun to me!

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Enjoying Cider

Last night I attended my husband’s beer club meeting since their guest speaker was Brad Page, owner of Colorado Cider Company. It is interesting about cider that it really isn’t a beer, yet its not a wine either….and maybe that is a good thing for cider! Unfortunately for cider I think people do not understand its unique and delicious characteristics and believe all cider is like drinking sweet apple juice. And that is NOT the case!!! Hopefully as more people experience good cider, like those being produced by Colorado Cider Company, cider’s reputation as an enjoyable beverage will grow.

During the presentation we tasted a variety of ciders, some off-dry, some dry and all delicious. Colorado Cider has three trademarked ciders….Glider, Ol’ Stumpy, and Pearsnickety. We also tasted Newtown Pippin named after an apple and one of my favorites. But here is what was REALLY interesting…..first, you need to know that I am not a “hop head” and avoid an IPA beer at all cost, and second,  I loved Grasshop-ah, which has hops in it! During the beer club meeting we learned about “dry hopping” and how if you leave the hops in the beer too long it has a “grassy” taste that isn’t always a good thing. But the type and amount that Colorado Cider puts in its Grasshop-ah is perfect.

After we tasted Colorado Cider’s varieties we tasted a few “commercial” ciders, and to me, they were what people think cider to be…sweet and apple juicy. So how do people get away from the commercial ciders and begin to explore what true cider is all about?? I have two suggestions….first, travel around to the various cideries in our state (by the way we have 7 along the Front Range) and sample a variety of ciders…you will find they are not all sweet and appley. Second, attend the Cider Days festival in Lakewood on October 3 and 4 where you will be able to sample over 50 ciders. Click Here for a link to the festival.

As my slogan says: “Explore and Enjoy” and try some delicious Colorado ciders, I think you will be pleasantly surprised!!

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Ruby Trust Cellars Open House

Ruby Trust Cellars is hosting an open house for the public to taste their delicious wines! This winery doesn’t have a typical tasting room, so this is an incredible opportunity to sample all their wines.

Here is the invitation…..
In celebration of our outstanding 2013 vintage we’re opening our doors and
inviting everyone in! We’ll pour samples of the new vintage and offer
special pricing for this event. Six hundred cases produced and the line-up
consists of: Gunslinger, The Smuggler, Fortune Seeker, Bandit’s Pass and Stranglehold.

The open house is on Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30 from noon to 5 p.m. both days.

The winery is located at 864 W Happy Canyon Road, Suite #120, Castle Rock, 80108. In the shopping center located at the corner of Happy Canyon Road and Santa Fe Drive.

Stop by for a free sampling of some spectacular wines!

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Watch “Hittin’ the Road” to learn about CO wines!

A new PBS show called “Hittin’ the Road” featuring Donna Vessey, has just aired 6 episodes. One of these featured Colorado wines. Segments include: Guy Drew Vineyards, Bookcliff Vineyards and Creekside Cellars. I was fortunate enough to be included in the show and discussed a little about Colorado’s grapes and its history.

Here is the link to view the show…. Click here.

Please help spread the word about the delicious wines being produced in Colorado!

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Tuscan Sun Wines

For anyone who is a “chick flick” aficionado you know about the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” based on Frances Mayes’ book. I was privileged to meet Frances last week (gave her a copy of my book!!) and taste her new line of wines from the Tuscany region. While I have to stay true to my Colorado wines, I did want you to know about these new wines making their debut in the Denver area.

Here is some info….Denver-based Curious Cork Imports has partnered with Frances Mayes, the bestselling author of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” to create Tuscan Sun Wines, which bring Mayes’ magic touch to the world of wine. Comprised of seven exquisite wines produced in Italy and around Tuscany and hand selected by Mayes herself, each Tuscan Sun Wine embodies a different concept that touches on the Tuscan lifestyle. The wines were launched in Cortona, Italy, in July and make their U.S. debut today.

 

“These wines bring to life a sense of wonder through simple joysthat my life in Italy has given me,” said Mayes. “I hope that by bringing them home to the U.S. that everyone can share a taste of the many pleasures I’ve enjoyed in Italy.”

 

The Tuscan Sun Wines include four reds and two whites. A Prosecco is scheduled to join the lineup in 2014. Each wine has an Italian name and an English translation and each showcases the unmistakable vision of Frances Mayes that has become an international phenomenon since the publication of Under the Tuscan Sun:

 

·         Pensiero (A little gift) 100% Pinot Grigio, IGT Vignetti Delle Dolimiti

·         Abbraccio (An embrace) 45% Trebbiano, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Grechetto, IGT Toscana

·         Sentiero alla Casa (Path to the house) 60% Sangiovese, 20% Montepulciano, 20% Ciliegiolo, IGT Toscana

·         Permesso (May I come in?) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Delle Venezie

·         Tondo Tondo (Just perfect) 100% Sangiovese, IGT Toscana

·         Auguri (My best to you) 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, IGT Toscana

·         Toccare le Stelle (Touch the stars) 100% DOC Prosecco – coming in 2014

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