Exploring with Paula

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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Who says Colorado doesn’t make incredible wine!!

I just sampled one of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted! My daughter and I spent a few days touring around the Grand Valley’s wineries…a special mother/daughter weekend as she is now 21 and wants to learn more about wine….guess I did something correct in my parenting!

One of our winery stops was at DeBeque Canyon Winery located in downtown Palisade. Bennett Price is the owner (along with his wife Davy) and winemaker. Bennett’s talents not only encompass his winemaking skills but he has planted more vineyards and grapevines in the state of Colorado than any other person I know. Click here for a link to his accolades and his story – it is very interesting as he is one of Colorado’s pioneers of the present-day wine industry.

But back to the wine!! There we are tasting his wines when he tells us the story of “BLT” and pours us a sample. It seems back in 2005 Bennett made a Pinot Noir varietal and decided to hold back 4 barrels. He wanted to see what would be the effects of further aging the wine in French oak. Somehow the barrels got lost in the shuffle and it wasn’t until recently that he found them and was convinced to open up a barrel and give the wine a try. To Bennett’s delight he discovered a delicious dinner wine! His grandson, Levi, called it “Bennett’s Lost Treasure” and that is why the name “BLT.”

You won’t be able to find this wine at the liquor store, so make a stop at DeBeque Canyon Winery and try a sample….you will then say: Colorado DOES make incredible wine!

Bennett Price

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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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Winery Visit – Black Forest Meadery

What is a fermented beverage that is older than wine and is said to date back to the Vikings? If you answered “mead” you would be correct. Mead is neither a wine nor a beer, but rather its own beverage whose main ingredients are honey, water and yeast. I had the privilege to visit with Adam and Shawna Shapiro, owners of Black Forest Meadery, and they gave me the 411 on mead production. (By the way, if you haven’t visited the Black Forest area since the fire, its amazing to see the devastation!!)

Since honey is the critical ingredient in mead, lets start there. The Shapiros are proud that their honey is 100% Colorado and obtain it from 2 local producers. Honey, and therefore the eventual mead, is totally affected by where the bees gather their pollen. Clover-based honey is actually lighter and makes sweeter meads. Bees “hanging out” in wildflowers provide a different flavor in the honey and usually a dryer style mead. Adam said his mead “is a local drink, from local producers and offers a taste of Colorado in each bottle.”

There are two fermentation cycles. The first is the primary fermentation where yeast is added to the water and honey. In addition to the type of honey used, the type of yeast used also influences the mead’s taste. Secondary fermentation occurs as the mead sits in stainless steel tanks for 2-3 weeks. The Shapiro’s do not filter their meads so they “re-rack” the mead (changing it from one tank to another) to remove the sediment. Black Forest ages their meads for about 9 months, although you can age it for 3-4 months and then bottle it.

Black Forest makes 4 different meads… Their “Forest” and “Woods” are dry and their “Merry Chokeberry” and “Melody” are sweet. Over the next few years they plan to incorporate fruit meads into their line, using peaches, plums and cherries from their own orchards. Black Forest is a family owned and operated meadery as well as a small farm where they raise animals and have an orchard and vineyard. Their label depicts their property and includes their sentiments of “enjoy [their meads] with friends and quality sunsets.”

To taste and enjoy their meads you basically have 3 options….stop by their tasting room, which originally was a church, Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. (they ask you to call ahead), at the Colorado Farm & Arts Market in Colorado Springs and at various wine festivals. So open up your mind and palate to a different taste experience and try a mead soon!

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Winery Visit – Sweetheart City Wines

During my sommelier class I found it interesting that winemaking is often passed down from generation to generation in Europe, something we really don’t see much of here in the United States. So its exciting to hear that a nephew of Clyde and June Spero (Spero Winery) has opened his own winery in Loveland.  Nephew Jack Cantley, his wife Lindsay and partners David and Kathy Burks are the owners of Sweetheart City Wines. Jack and David “have been making beer and wine for years and decided to turn their hobby into something they could pass down to their kids.” In fact one of Jack’s earliest memories is making wine with his great grandfather.

Since the partners have lived in the area for over 25 years, and wanted to add that “romantic flare” to their wines, Loveland was the ideal location. I also learned that Loveland is a good place for growing certain grapes as the area used to have cherry, peach and apricot orchards.

Currently the winery operation is located at 6295 Bluff Lane, but by spring/summer of 2014 a new facility and tasting room will be located just west of town on Hwy 34 by Glade Road. See picture below for an architect’s rendering of the entire project which will also include executive offices, a private residence, venue for weddings as well as acres and acres of vineyards. Next spring 690 vines, primarily muscat, frontenac and maricot, will be planted and in the future the partners are hoping to plant cab franc and tempranillo grapes.

Currently Sweetheart City is sourcing their grapes from California, as they’ve done since their first production in 2009. They are currently working with vineyards in Colorado for a 2013 vintage. But we will have to wait until at least 2015 for those wines as Sweetheart City ages all their reds in barrel for 2 years.  The best way to view all their wines is on their website….click here for the link.

Most liquor stores in Loveland are carrying Sweetheart City wines and if you would like to taste or purchase wines at the current location just set up an appointment by calling 970-593-8563 or 970-214-3948.  They are specializing in red wines and are “committed to deliver hand-crafted wine with a romantic flare…and [their wines] are made to pair with good friends, good food  and of course someone special.” As their label says “Nel vino c e amoré” (In wine there is love)…so stop on by the winery for a taste of wine and a little love!





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Winery Visit – Ryker’s Cellars

Owner and winemaker Ryker Brandt of Ryker’s Cellars may be the newest winery in Colorado, but his wines don’t taste like someone just starting out, as they reflect his years of cellar experience. Ryker’s wine career began in 2002 in California’s Santa Cruz Valley where he spent 6 years beginning as a volunteer during crush season and leaving as cellar master. It was there that he fell in love with white wines produced with Austrian and German varietals. Meeting up with a friend during a high school reunion Ryker packed up his bags and moved back to Colorado.

Sticking with the wine business he worked for several wineries and wine stores in the area, all the while obtaining his winery license, warehouse space and producing wine. In June he joined the wineries of Colorado Winery Row, and it is here that he is producing his delicious wines.

He gets his grapes from both CA and CO, but I must point out that he gets GRAPES, not just juice from these areas to make his wine. I must admit I was unaware that actual grapes came in from other states as opposed to just juice. Ryker receives CA grapes in 1,000 lb boxes that were picked one morning, chilled to 30 degrees, put on a truck, and within 24 hours arrive at his production facility. His American Red Wine is currently made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Syrah all from CA. He feels the Cab provides the body, the Merlot the fruitiness, and the Petit Syrah an incredible inky purple color with spice.

Ryker’s Cellars’ whites include an American Chardonnay (CA grapes) and a Viognier and Riesling, both using Colorado grapes. Ryker says his “whites never see an oak barrel” and that is why his Chardonnay is light, fruity and unoaked tasting. The Viognier is rich and fruity with hints of caramel and butterscotch, and his Riesling is dry and filled with green apple and citrus, and is a perfect pairing with spicy food.

Ryker’s Cellar’s label (see pic below) incorporates both Colorado and Denver in particular. His future plans are to incorporate more and more CO grapes in his wines and plans to add a Mead and a fruit wine into his offerings. Stop by his tasting room / production facility Thursday-Saturday (or call for an appointment other times), say hi to mascot Ushi, and enjoy some delicious wines.

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Winery Visit – Allis Ranch Winery

Allis Ranch Winery (and Ruby Trust Cellars) are the only two wineries in Colorado that can boast famed wine author and critic Robert Parker has tasted their wines.  So how did owner and winemaker of Allis Ranch, David Rhyne, get him to do the tasting?? Through a fund-raising event, David bought a ticket to enjoy dinner with Parker in September 2012 and boldly brought along his wine. Parker said he would taste the wine, but would be very honest about his findings. He was pleasantly surprised, impressed with a Colorado wine and actually tweeted about his thoughts! Yeah, Colorado and Allis Ranch!!

So what impressive wines is Allis Ranch producing?? Viognier, Grenache, Syrah and Rosé…all Rhone varietals and in the Rhone style of wine production. David believes that Colorado’s hot days, cool nights and altitude are similar to the Southern Rhone area of France. He cold soaks his grapes for 3 days (which extracts color) and uses a long maceration process to produce deep, inky dark red wines. He also believes his wines do best aging a long time in oak. He likes the French oak to bring out the vanilla and sweetness of the grapes and likes American oak to enhance the black pepper spice in his Syrah.

David uses Old World techniques to produce his wines, making big wines and then taming them down in oak. His philosophy is to “have the grapes’ express themselves naturally and believes in producing only high quality wine.”  All his grapes are sourced from the Western Slope of Colorado, and primarily from 3 vineyards. Viognier is the only white; his Margaret’s Rosé is dry; 2 Husky Syrah is named after his dogs – Allis and Strider; his Reserve Syrah is incredible; and the Grenache is top of the line and only 1 barrel is produced per year when the grapes are available.

What’s really cool about visiting Allis Ranch is the drive there from Sedalia and winding up at the tasting room, which is a 1910 Sears Roebuck “kit” home. It was brought by train to the area and then built in 1923. Allis Ranch is named after Pat Allis, who was the latest land owner. When she died in 1995 she sold the land to Colorado Open Lands, a non-profit, who divided the ranch into 10 – 35 acre lots with 440 acres of open space. David and his wife Margaret (who by the way is the wine labels’ creator) did some “swapping” for the kit home, totally refurbished it and now use it for the winery’s production facility and tasting room.

Allis Ranch Winery is by appointment only for groups of 10 or more, so get a group together and head out for a tasting of some incredibly delicious Colorado wines!!



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Winery Visit – Water2Wine-Centennial

Its the old question of “how does one buy a winery?” The joke is if you want to make $1 million operating a winery you start with $2 million!” In the case of the Sample family, they were purchasing bottles of wine thinking that their favorite winery was about to close its doors. After enjoying a few glasses of wine one of the family members came up with the idea of buying the winery themselves, and well, the rest is history. The family is comprised of Chip and Deb (mom and dad), their four children (Melissa, Jessica, Scott and Elizabeth) and their significant others (Kevin, Jason and Josh). Everyone helps out including a few grandkids, but its Josh that acts as general manager and Chip is there full-time. Having taken over Water2Wine-Centennial, the family couldn’t be happier!

Water2Wine is a franchised operation that acts as an independent corporation. Their grapes are sourced from 14 different countries and 2 USA states – California and Washington.  The “grapes” come as grape juice and Water2Wine then begins the fermentation process in 6 gallon batches. After 1.5 months and a variety of steps the wine is ready for bottling. The wines are processed to be drunk within 3 years because only a minimal amount of sulfites is added to the wine. Water2Wine boasts lower sulfites in their wine as well as no histamines. Currently they offer ~90 different wines and soon are hoping to have that number closer to 100. Their wines include whites, reds, regular and flavored port-style wines and ice-style wines.

One of the cool things about Water2Wine is that you can make your own wine there! Spouses, families, organizations and about-to-be-marrieds find this a great idea as they can make their own custom label for their own wine, plus be able to learn the entire process of making wine. From your own 6 gallon carboy you get 28 bottles, and the cost ranges from $240-$480 total. You can also just make your own custom label and place it on one of Water2Wine’s bottles (or a case!). This is another great idea for gifts, weddings and for businesses to give to their clients.

In addition to the winery, the tasting room is available for special events. During regular business hours there is no charge to use the facility for your meetings, events, etc. For after hours events there is a small charge. Water2Wine also has several regularly scheduled and special events. “Grapes and Graffiti” involves drinking wine while painting on canvas or a wine glass. Executive sommelier Lauryn offers wine and food pairing classes and 1 Wednesday per month is their “Uncork & Unwine” event.  They are currently toying with the idea of a “Dance Night” with instructional dancing and wine sampling.

Water2Wine is a great place to stop on by for wine tasting or one of their events!


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