Exploring with Paula

All about Arizona Wineries

Would you answer this question “true” or “false”…..There are wineries in Arizona and they are growing their own grapes. I suspect most people would answer “false” given the hot climate of Arizona, but the answer is actually “true.” Recently I had the opportunity to explore the Sedona area, and while there learned about nearby wineries. So, of course, I had to visit and sample!! Here is what I discovered….

There are over 50 wineries throughout Arizona. The wineries are located in 4 areas….Verde Valley (near Sedona), Sonoita / Elgin Wine Country and Willcox Wine Country (both near Tucson) and Phoenix. All but Phoenix are grape growing regions. The regions all grow a variety of grapes….from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel. Similar to Colorado, the wine regions are at a higher elevation and have that hot day and cool night temperature change.

What is interesting to note, is that Arizona was going grapes and making wine before it was a USA state. Unfortunately all the grape vines were destroyed in order for Arizona to become the 48th state in 1912.  Because of this, winemaking is only a few decades into the process.

In the Verde Valley wine region there are 4 wineries just a ½ hour drive west of Sedona, near Cornville and very close to I-17. Three of these wineries have their own tasting rooms that are open for sampling. All of them are growing their own grapes.

Since I don’t have to be “politically correct” regarding my comments on AZ wineries, here is my review…..My first stop was at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery. Tastings are $2 each or $3 for premium wines. Of the 4 wines I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel received a very good rating. Their bottle prices range between $28 and $44. My next stop was at Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery. They received the best ratings for not only their wines, but also the friendless of the tasting room staff and cost of tastings….$10 for 5. In my ratings, only 1 wine received less than a very good or higher. Their bottle prices range from $24 to $35. My last stop was at Page Springs Cellars. It was packed with people, had a waiting list for both the tasting room and its restaurant, and I felt like I was in Napa versus Arizona. The winery has chosen the wines for your tasting in 3 categories….chilled, reds, or a combination. Most of their wines were blends and rated a good or lower score. I don’t know what their bottle prices are and could only sample a small selection of the wines they produce. Tasting price was $11 for 5 samples and you got to keep the glass.

Visiting the wineries in Arizona was a fun and educational experience. I hope the next time you are in the state you take the opportunity to explore a winery or two!!

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Update on Phylloxera in Colorado

Here is a press release from the Colorado Wine Industry Board on the discovered Phylloxera in Colorado’s vineyards…..

April 17, 2017 — Last November, The Colorado Wine Industry became aware of the presence of grape phylloxera (Daktulsphaira vitifoliae) in Colorado’s Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which is home to three-quarters of the state’s grape acreage stretching between Palisade and Grand Junction. This insect, capable of damaging Colorado’s wine grape crop by feeding on roots of grape plants and disrupting water and nutrient flow, has been found in many other wine regions including California’s Napa Valley.  After several months of assessing the situation, Colorado State University and Colorado Department of Agriculture scientists have identified about eight isolated vineyard locations infested with grape phylloxera. Those growers are taking the necessary steps to restrict the further spread of the pest, to eradicate the affected vines and remain positive about this year’s wine production.

“The presence of phylloxera to Colorado is not a reason to panic,” explains Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and owner of Arcadia Vineyards in the Napa Valley. “We in California have successfully dealt with phylloxera over a relatively short period of time, but I would expect the movement of the bug between Colorado vineyards would be a relatively slow process, like that experienced by Oregon and Washington according to Mark Chien (Oregon Wine Research Institute). The difference in these states seems to have been the cold winters. The cold winters that sometimes prove problematic to Colorado’s vines should, along with other factors, also help slow the spread of phylloxera.”

One impacted grower, John Behrs of Whitewater Hill Vineyards in Grand Junction, mentions he is following tried and proven techniques to manage their Phylloxera starting with a sampling survey and destroying infected vines. “We have and will continue to frequently sample for this pest to determine the extent of infection.  At this point it is localized to a small area,” explains Behrs.  “Initially, we will destroy all vines that test positive.   We have destroyed 300 vines thus far.   Currently, the infected area has been removed and Phylloxera is no longer detectable in our vineyards. We have over 20,000 vines, so the percentage of infection is small at this point, and impact on overall crop yield is negligible.”

More aggressive options are also available to help curtail the infestation. Behrs describes adding some sprays to slow the pest down, along with more cautious sanitation techniques to reduce spread.  Behrs states, “These techniques are proven to reduce the rate of infection by over 90%.”

“Over time, as the problem spreads (and it spreads slowly) we will have to gradually replace the infected vines with those grafted onto resistant stock, such as those used extensively in California and France,” acknowledges Behrs.  “Since the spread of phylloxera will likely be gradual, it will not impact the quantity or quality of the wines available to our Colorado wine fans.”

Colorado has approximately 150 grape growers tending nearly 1,000 acres of vineyards and more than 140 licensed commercial wineries.  These vintners produced 166,000 cases of wine during the 2016 fiscal year, which equaled more than $33 million in sales.

The latest evaluation of the phylloxera outbreak is a relief for the burgeoning Colorado wine industry which has seen a 40 percent growth over the last five years and hopes to continue on this trajectory. Market share by volume hit an all-time high last year, with nearly one dollar of every twenty dollars spent on wine in Colorado going to the purchase of a wine made here in the state – a notable sign that people are beginning to support the local wine industry with their purchasing decisions.

“While this makes things more complicated for local grape growers, it is unlikely to result in any long-term effects or a reduction in the state’s overall production,” remarked Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “The Colorado wine industry continues to expand its market share in the state, thanks to the tremendous quality of the wines, improved growing conditions and the efforts of so many who are successfully shining a light on this burgeoning industry.”

Today, Colorado’s 140 wineries are recognized nationally for their high quality. A recent story focusing on Colorado’s wineries was featured on renowned wine critic Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate website. Author R.H. Drexel found Colorado’s wines “capture the magic of Colorado’s high-elevation terroir.” Colorado wines are a reflection of the state’s unique and sometimes harrowing growing conditions, producing world-class grapes grown on nearly 1,000 acres of vineyards at the highest elevations in the country. The industry continues to expand and adapt to meet the demands of consumers as well as the unique high-elevation environment. Many of the state’s wineries have been able to increase production over the last two years thanks to extremely productive growing seasons in succession.

“Phylloxera has affected so many regions around the world, yet every one of them has bounced back from this little pest,” said Sally Mohr, Master Sommelier and Boulder resident. “It will take time and, yes dollars spent, to replace vines that are affected and also to replant vineyards with phylloxera-resistant rootstock.”

 

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Jacob Helleckson of Stone Cottage Cellars

I would like to introduce you to Jacob Helleckson, who is the son of Stone Cottage Cellars’ owners Karen and Brent. The winery is located in Paonia and has been in operation since 2003.

Jacob is a senior at CU-Boulder in the Leeds School of Business. He is combining his talents of photography and marketing, and his experience growing up with a winery and vineyard in his back door into a blog. In fact, it is Jacob’s picture that appears on the back cover of my book!! Jacob’s blog (click here for link) is about his “winery life” that I think might be of interest to you.

If you are interested in learning more wine info and/or would like to view some exceptional photography, I suggest you connect with Jacob’s blog site!!

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Phylloxera disease and what it means to Colorado’s vineyards

Adapted from a Bookcliff Vineyard email…..

I thought you may want to know. Many of you asked me about phylloxera in Colorado’s vineyards, as you heard the news on television and on the radio. I thought I give you some more detail so you hear it from the horse’s mouth what phylloxera means for the Colorado grape industry and Bookcliff Vineyards.

For a grape grower to hear the word phylloxera is like receiving a death sentence.
What is phylloxera and why is there a deathly fear in the farming community? Phylloxera is a root louse, so tiny that it is only visible under the microscope. This tiny animal feeds on the roots and leaves of the vine, causing deformation of the roots that prevent water and nutrients being taken up by the roots. The progression of the disease is similar to cancer, most of the time the symptoms are detected late, several years after the infection, when the disease has reached stage II or stage III leaving only one alternative to remove and burn all vines. Early symptoms are similar to many other possible issues in the vineyard, such as iron deficiency, high salt content in the soil or lack of water.
Phylloxera is common in almost all grape growing regions in the world. There is no cure and no spray to control phylloxera, except for planting grafted rootstock rather than self-rooted vines. In Colorado we have had the luxury of planting self-rooted vines, meaning that the roots and the trunk are from the same species, for example Merlot. With grafted vines, the root stock is a particular clone of American native grapes and the actual plant is vinifera, such as Chardonnay or Merlot.
There are no nurseries in Colorado that raise vines. The rootstock planted in Colorado comes from nurseries in other grape growing region, that all have phylloxera. One possible source is the rootstock brought in to Colorado, especially rootstock of hybrid grapes raised in nurseries on the East coast of the United States. American hybrid grapes are resistant to phylloxera and can live with the root louse without any damage. With an increase in planting hybrid grapes, that are more frost and freeze resistant, since we experienced high damage in 2013 and 2014 in Colorado vineyards, the probability increases that phylloxera will be brought to Colorado. This root louse also can travel on people’s boots as they walk through the vineyard or get transported on our farming equipment, such as tractors, mowers and sprayers.
What does the arrival of phylloxera in Colorado mean? We all need to be vigilant. When buying rootstock we need to dip the roots in hot water before planting. We need to vet the nursery before buying rootstock. We cannot share equipment among farmers, unless we have a strict protocol of sanitizing the equipment. When walking into a vineyard, we need to sanitize the boots. We need to test the roots randomly for phylloxera and when detecting the presence take actions to remove and burn the plants. And we need to experiment with planting grafted vines. So far there was no need to figure out which rootstock will work in alkaline soil and an arid climate as Colorado. California soil is high in acid, for example.
But there is also the good news. We do not have the winged version of the louse in Colorado, which spreads much faster than the crawling version. The crawlers do not like sandy soil, which we have in Colorado, but prefer clay to crawl in the soil cracks to go from plant to plant. And we have much colder winters than other grape growing regions making it more difficult for the louse to survive the winter. Hopefully this means that the spread of phylloxera is slow and can be controlled in Colorado. Even better news. At Bookcliff we tested randomly roots from 40 different vines in different vineyards and all tested negative for phylloxera. Most of our vineyards have sandy soil except the Hawkridge vineyard. So when we plant some more acreage this spring we decided to plant 50% grafted vines and 50% self-rooted as a measure of insurance.
The arrival of phylloxera in Colorado created some additional challenges for grape growers in Colorado. But, between climate, soil, the research at the Western Research Station and precaution from the farmer we hopefully can keep the problem under control.
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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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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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A winery with a craft brewery feel??!!

A new winery in Palisade is growing exponentially, and the reason may be connected to their attitude of utilizing a craft brewery model instead of a winery strategy. Red Fox Cellars’ motto of “respectful, but unbound by tradition” emphasizes this unique approach. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the Hamilton family and learning about their interesting journey into the wine business.  It began when parents Sherrie and Scott were looking to move from Denver to the Grand Valley area. Their objective was to find a fruit or vineyard agri-property, and they accomplished that goal by purchasing 7 acres of vineyards. Then came the idea of a winery!

It is son Chad who is utilizing his home brewing background to create the unique wines and ciders that Red Fox produces. Have you ever sampled a bourbon barrel-aged Merlot? It is the winery’s best-selling wine, and I can attest that it is absolutely delicious!! Their “Bourbeaux Blend” is a spin on the classic Bordeaux-style blends, but uses a rye whiskey barrel-aged Cab Franc in the mix, along with some of that delicious Bourbon Barrel Merlot. Red Fox produces 2 Rosés. One is a traditional, dry-style Rosé, using a cold soak method and their estate grown Tempranillo grapes and the other is a Saignee style Rosé. Click here to learn more about Saignee and why the French usually discard this. Red Fox uses the sometimes discarded bled off juice as a vehicle for experimentation, aging this Rosé lightly in a rye whiskey barrel that was also used to age tart cherry wine. I’m personally looking forward to tasting a 2013 Estate “field blend” of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto that were all fermented together (as opposed to blending the wine after fermentation). The winery is waiting to release it until it reaches perfection!

Again using Chad’s beer background, the winery also produces 8 ciders, 7 of which are dry. I had the privilege of sampling their Roasted Chile Cider, which has a nice apple taste with a subtle chili taste (not like some where you are overpowered by chili pepper spice!). In addition to making several varieties of apple cider, Red Fox also makes a “champagne-like” cider called Cidre Grand Cru that is spiced with orange peel and coriander, like in a Belgian Wit beer.

What can we look forward to from Red Fox Cellars?? Ask daughter-in-law Kelly, who heads the marketing for the winery. She says to check out their website for details on their new patio events, which will include movie nights and Friday Food Truck Night. Son Kyle, who is a jack-of-all-trades around the winery says to look forward to “Beer de Champagne,” which is a collaboration with Black Project Spontaneous Ales using just over 50% Riesling and the balance a Lambic wort (similar to a sour type beer). Also coming soon to the menu are a “bourbon barrel-aged, sparkling, tart cherry wine” and a “rye whiskey barrel-aged, sparkling, peach wine” (wow, that was a mouthful!), which will be made from the Palisade peaches growing just outside the tasting room. Obviously a stop at Red Fox Cellars offers some delicious and unique tasting experiences, so stop on by soon!!

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My Incredible Wine Weekend!!

What an incredible “wine weekend” I just experienced!! It all centered around the Grand Valley Winery Association’s Barreling into Spring event. This annual happening is held in April and repeats again in May. Unfortunately tickets for 2016 are sold out, so mark your calendars for 2017. A piece of advice….purchase your tickets early!! The weekend includes unlimited tastings at 7 wineries and tons of food paired with the wineries’ wines. What is really special about the event is the opportunity to talk with the winery owners/winemakers as well as sample wine right out of the barrel, hence the name of the event.

The 7 wineries that encompass the Grand Valley Winery Association are Carlson, DeBeque Canyon, Garfield Estates, Grande River, Graystone, Plum Creek, and Two Rivers. Click on their name for a link to each winery’s website.

I had the privilege of being at DeBeque Canyon Winery for the weekend selling my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries. For many years DeBeque was located on Kluge Street in downtown Palisade, but 2 weeks ago moved their tasting room and production facility to 351 West 8th Street (aka Hwy 6 or G Road) in Palisade. This new facility, housed in a former restaurant, offers them a much larger tasting room (see pictures below). The production facility is currently under construction and will be located right next door.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about DeBeque’s owners….Davy and Bennett Price and their daughter, Theresa, as well as the tasting room staff. In my opinion and not to offend anyone, Bennett knows more about growing grapes and making wine than anyone else in our state…plus he’s a really nice man! He was part of the original group that created Rocky Mountain Vineyards back in 1978, which helped launch Colorado’s present day wine industry. He has helped numerous other grape growers plant vines and has provided helpful insights and information to new wineries.

As we all know, visiting Palisade / the Grand Valley is a fun experience, and it is convenient that the 27 wineries are in close proximity to each other. I love driving into the valley and seeing all the vineyards and fruit trees as well as the beautiful Book Cliff Mountains. Plan a weekend get-a-way to the area soon….you will be glad you did!!

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A New Tasting Room in Colorado

There is a new tasting room that just opened up in Colorado!! It’s called Two Brothers Vineyards Tasting Room and is located in Black Forest. For those of you not familiar with Black Forest or remember the devastating fire that ravaged the area, it is located between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs. The exact address is 6755 Shoup Road 80908. Hours are Thursday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Other times, please call ahead at 719-495-7340.

Owners of Black Forest Meadery, Adam and Shawna Shapiro, have created this tasting room enabling you to sample meads, ciders, and wines all at the same location. What a great idea! I have been encouraging people to sample meads and ciders from Colorado as they are NOT the sweet, fermented beverages you find sold commercially in liquor stores. Black Forest Meadery has available 4 of their meads…..Forest Mead, Mead in the Woods, Melody in the Woods, and Wildfire, which vary from semi-sweet to dry.

Colorado Cider Company, whose production facility and tasting room are located at 2650 W. 2nd Avenue in Denver and Ten Bears Winery, located in LaPorte just northwest of Ft. Collins, round out your experience at the tasting room. They are offering 5 flights for $6, which includes your choice of 2 meads, 2 wines, and 1 cider. You can also purchase any of these beverages by the glass or bottle. For my Facebook and website friends, the tasting room is offering a special “buy one, get one free” offer. Just tell them Paula or Exploring Colorado Wineries sent you to receive the discount.

The tasting room has patio seating where you can watch the sun set over the mountains while enjoying your beverage. You can also bring in your own food or order food from a nearby restaurant. I encourage you to stop by Two Brothers Vineyards Tasting Room soon!! As their theme says….”Buzz by for a taste in the trees.”

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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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