Women and wine: Can you think of a better combination?
By Kimberly Dean
The League of Women Voters of Adams County and the Spero Winery in Denver made for a perfect pairing on a recent Saturday night this summer when I attended their joint event. Not only did I get to taste some of the best wine made in Colorado, but I met some very nice people as well.
For those of you who do not know, The League, which was founded in 1920, “promotes political responsibility through informed and active participation in local, state and national government.” You’ve probably seen some of their members monitoring legislation at the state capitol or serving as sponsors of a candidate forum. The organization is non-partisan.
The local chapter of The League held its fourth wine tasting and buffet fundraiser on June 12. Cost of the event was $35, of which $10 of which went to the League to keep things running smoothly.
Spero Winery is a family owned and operated Denver urban winery. They do grow some of their own grapes, but largely they are purchased from a relative’s vineyard out in Grand Junction, and some are even brought in from California. About 85-90 percent of their wine is sold straight out of their winery, and the rest goes through about 90 independent liquor stores around the state.
I began at the bar (where else?) and followed the advice of Clyde Spero, “You have to drink your wines to find out about wine.” I started with the whites, going right down the bar to the dessert wines. Since I was driving, I couldn’t taste them all, so I went with the taste recommendations of others.
Rep. Judy Solano attended the June League of Women Voters of Adams County event at Spero Winery.
Photo by Karen Enenkel
Spero’s destemmer, where the berries are separated from the stems.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Plastic wine barrels in the fermentation process at Spero’s 6,000-square-foot basement.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Most of the white wines were decent. I particularly liked the Riesling, though I must agree with Clyde that he has yet to perfect it. “It’s not as crispy as it should be,” he acknowledged. The grapes for the Riesling are grown in Grand Junction at his wife June’s cousin’s vineyard. Clyde says his white wines are kept in plastic barrels at low temperatures.
The Muscat, which was in the white category, had been fermented as a red wine. That means it is kept in oak barrels for six months. It is high in sugars naturally, but it is fermented out, giving the wine an alcohol content of 17 percent. June Spero says, “It is almost a brandy. Very unusual.” (I didn’t care for it, as apparently it is an acquired taste.)
Clyde Spero, however, has been drinking it all his life. He says, “You either like it or you don’t. I was raised on it.” If you don’t love it at first, he recommends trying it with brunch as a spritzer with either club soda or a lemon-lime soda like 7-Up.
Just as Clyde was finishing describing the process of making white wine, a pleasant, and I might say, jolly young lady approached the bar asking for another glass of the Zinfandel, saying that she’d just had a taste of some “hot cheese” and needed to wash it down.
The food, by the way was fantastic. Prepared by June Spero, the spread included some of my Italian favorites of stuffed mushrooms, a sausage, peppers and onions dish, bruschetta, marinated fresh mozzarella and olives antipasto, tomato oregano salad with garlic crostini, a cheese table with various Italian cheeses with wine jelly and grapes and a dessert table with homemade Italian cookies and fresh strawberries with chocolate and ambrosia dips. And the list just went on!
My hostess, Shirley Mrochek, treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Adams County, came back for seconds of the 2007 Barbera, a red that is irresistible, for herself and her husband. Though she stated, “But I haven’t tried them all yet!” I tried it and loved the essences of raspberry and blackberry I picked up. It is a California grape that is very light and could easily be served with fish or chicken. I put a check mark on the list next to that one and later bought a bottle.
For the other reds, I did taste the Zinfandel, a bit spicy for my taste, but very good. The Sangiovese was even better, which is made from the Chianti grape, but as Clyde told me, Chianti is a trademarked name, meaning that it must be made in that region of Italy, so they call it a Sangiovese, which refers to the grape used.
The Cabernet Franc is apparently the most popular grape in Colorado, grown on the Western slope. I tried both his Cabernets, one of which consisted of 25 percent Merlot grapes, and is labeled as a blend, which cuts the sweetness just enough. If you don’t like the full Cab, you should love the other. Clyde says the Colorado Merlots are quite heavy on their own, so he likes to do the blend. I bought the full Cabernet, which is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. June Spero and I seem to have similar tastes, as she likes the lighter wines as well.
Last but not least, were the dessert wines. The Muscat dessert wine, which is much sweeter than the white Muscat I tried earlier, was more to my taste. It is pure Muscat grape, and like the other dessert wines, there is no other wine base. The plum and cherry wines were delightful. Apparently, if you dip the rim of a wine glass in chocolate and pour in some cherry wine, it makes for a really nice presentation!
When I sat down to eat, I found an available spot beside Councilwoman Lynne Fox of Thornton. Also at the table was Rep. Judy Solano, who reminded me very much of Meryl Streep, and was seated next to her charming husband, Manuel. Rep. Solano continually complimented me on my shoes. “I saw you in those heels and said, ‘I have to talk to her.’” I was indeed, wearing some loud shoes: Red and purple (some might say wine-colored) Stuart Weitzman 4-inch platform peekpumps. Say that five times fast. It was suggested these be my signature shoes for wine tastings while on assignment for The Statesman. I may do that just to compliment the Representative.
State Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, sat quietly socializing all evening at the next table. I’ll get to him later.
The Solanos were very funny, telling a story of how they once happened upon a wine festival while on a bicycle ride. They attempted to ride there, but Mr. Solano got a flat tire, making the trip to the winery seem like 4 or 5 miles, while Judy protested that he was exaggerating. Ultimately they decided to go back for the car, but changed their plans and decided to forgo the winery. Driving past it again later that day, they discovered a police check point at the exit to the winery, which was much to their relief that they didn’t quite make it to the event.
Councilwoman Fox told a tale of her husband buying into wine futures around their 10th anniversary. Though Fox was nervous about the $100-200 investment, it ultimately paid off. The couple drank the first bottle, and gave the second as a gift for a relative’s wedding, thinking that if it was worth something it could be a very good gift. When they checked the value of the wine a few years later, one bottle Mr. Fox purchased was worth about $350 in 1999. Ten years later, they opened the last of the three, looked it up and it was worth about $750. They drank it for their 20th wedding anniversary. “It was the best wine I’d ever had,” she said. Back then they didn’t realize that Rothschild was such a well known, acclaimed wine.
I asked Fox what she thought about the possibility of wine eventually being sold in grocery stores, although she doesn’t get involved in that issue politically. “I have a favorite liquor store near my home that I would hate to see lose their family business,” she admitted. In general Fox felt that “It would be like changing the rules in the middle of the game in Colorado.” Nevertheless, I enjoyed all their stories, which could only have been heard whilst drinking wine.
At my table, Rep. Solano commented that you could tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans by how much they spent on wine. Good to know for future events. Sounds like a challenge to me. I must compare at some point.
After dessert, we were all invited to the basement of the Spero home, where they actually make and store the wine in both wood and plastic barrels. This is not just any basement, though. In 6,000 square feet, a whole lot of love is born. I opted out of the tour that evening, as I had gone previously at Spero while on a tour of Denver wineries, which you will no doubt read about here eventually.
When I asked June which wine was her favorite, she said, “That would be like choosing between your children!” With 20 wines to choose from, the only one she said she didn’t care for was the Chancellor, a red that is high in tannins, heavy and bold. June says it is too dry, but Clyde loves it. “It’s really good,” he said, reaching for the bottle to pour into my glass. Not wanting to take sides, you will have to try it for yourself.
I approached Sen. Steadman toward the end of the evening. He admitted that although he does serve wine at events, it’s not usually Colorado wine. He did mention that his favorite wine of the evening was the Zinfandel. “I like spicy reds,” he said. I assume he was referring to the wine, but I did invite him to join me at any of the wine tastings around town to see if I could turn his head toward local wine. We’ll see if he takes me up on it. He did say he would keep me in mind.
Three bottles of wine were purchased by yours truly in the end for about $65 in total, one of which was the iced dessert wine, the Vino Ghiacciato Merlot, my choice after dinner instead of the strawberries and a mixture of chocolate chips and Nutella melted together (which I did try at home the next evening and were amazing). The dessert Merlot has an initial ‘bite’ that wakes you up to enjoy the rest of the flavor.
I’m like a retail clerk who spends their paycheck on the clothes because of the discount. Though, I wish that were the case so I could’ve bought a case of wine! Alas, you must do what you love simply for the love of doing it, right? Since I love drinking wine and writing, I consider buying three bottles on the job just part of it.
You can find Spero Winery at 3316 W. 64th Ave., Denver. Spero hosts free wine tastings on Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. You can also call 720-519-1506 for more information on private tasting parties and the winery’s Case a Year Club.
Until next time, salute!