Third Annual Colorado Wine Week and Urban Winefest

The Colorado Statesman

In keeping with my intention to update and inform you on local beverage-based happenings, I’m dedicating this column to the upcoming Colorado Wine Week (CWW) and Colorado Urban Winefest (CUW), which return to our fine state on June 2-8, 2013.

In 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper, former beer magnate and a huge supporter of local production and manufacturing, declared the first week of June, which coincided with the first Colorado Urban Winefest in Denver, as Colorado Wine Week. “Having the governor on board has given the Colorado wine movement credibility,” says Jacob Harkins, the Colorado-based founder and editorial director of Local Winos Media. “People respect his business and brewing history.”

A humble beginning has grown into an annual, seven-day celebration of Colorado wine with small plate specials and pairings at top restaurants, wine-focused events almost every night of the week and, of course, the CUW. Everything supports the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE) and member wineries.


When CAVE first launched CUW, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board (CWIDB) was a willing participant. Executive Director Doug Caskey is now even more excited about helping Front Range consumers experience Colorado wines in their own backyards. “This year the CWIDB is not only a sponsor for CUQ but is also supporting the festival and Colorado Wine Week with advertising.”

Colorado’s wine industry is still young and, as a result, there is a lot of room for growth. “Wine styles vary across the state,” says Tracy Eliasson, one of the owners of Settembre Cellars in Boulder. “I think this variety is one thing that makes Colorado wines pair well with innovative cuisine, especially as local chefs learn more about what our wineries have to offer.”

Harkins agrees that the local food movement is finally starting to embrace wine. “Colorado chefs love to feature local meats and produce that originated in our soil. When you mix in wine featuring grapes from the same land, good things happen.”

The Lineup

Many of Colorado’s best restaurants will feature a week of appetizer-size snacks alongside local wines suggested by CAVE member wineries, the combo to be served at happy hour-style pricing. Participating EatDenver restaurants include the Corner House, Jonesy’s EatBar, Lou’s Food Bar, Mizuna, Row 14, the Squeaky Bean, Ghost Plate, and The Universal, as well as The Warehouse in Colorado Springs. CWIDB’s Caskey is psyched that there are CWW opportunities occurring in Boulder, as well. “That’s where I live so I will be actively seeking out those restaurants.”

Sunday, June 2, brings a Farm-to-Turntable Kickoff Party, where farm-to-table dining adds a DJ to the mix. This event is limited to 100 attendees from 7-10 p.m. at The Universal, with tickets available for $15 per person in advance ($20 at the door, go to www.winecolorado.org/events/colorado-wine-week/2013-colorado-wine-week-s...).

Tuesday, June 4, features the Colorado Wine Cocktail Celebration II, where four of the city’s top bartenders compete to create the best terroir-inspired cocktails using Colorado wine.

Colorado Wine Industry Development Board’s Doug Caskey and Nancy James, owner of Whitewater Hill Vineyards in Grand Junction, promote Colorado wines at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion two years ago.

Caskey is particularly intrigued by this sort of novel event. “Cocktail competitions and small plate pairings bring extreme creativity to the mix. My goal is to try two or three different creations each and every night.” This party is also limited to 100 attendees from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Green Russell, with tickets available for $12 at
www.winecolorado.org.

Finally, the Governor’s Cup Awards Presentation and Reception, celebrating the top wines in Colorado released in 2012, takes place from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on June 7 at the Hospitality Learning Center for Metropolitan State University of Denver, $55 per person or $100 per couple.

Colorado Urban Wine Fest

Famed chef Hosea Rosenberg, who prepared lobster and mascarpone raviol for the VIP dinner kicking off Colorado Winefest in 2011, raises his wine glass for a toast.

June 8’s centerpiece event, the Colorado Urban Winefest in Denver, is the culminating spectacle of Colorado Wine Week and offers a celebration of Colorado wine and food. Top Denver restaurants will join dozens of Colorado wineries in creating the ultimate in local wine drinking and eating experiences. Attendees can receive free samples, appreciate cooking demonstrations with awesome restaurant chefs, enjoy live entertainment, and take advantage of the chance to purchase wine directly from our state’s talented winemakers.

To Harkins, two things stand out about CUW. “First is the ability to sample wines from Cortez, Palisade, Denver, Boulder and Paonia all in one place. Many of these wines are only available in Denver during the festival. Second is the chef’s demonstration stage. We have a sweet setup from Wolf and several great chefs lined up including the always inventive Ian Kleinman.”

More than three dozen wineries will participate in the Grand Tasting where they’ll serve samples alongside the Denver restaurant scene’s best dishes. This gala starts at 1 p.m. at Festival Plaza in Infinity Park, Glendale. “This is such a cool venue,” says Harkins. “I mean, we are taking over a rugby stadium. We’ll have shaded picnic areas in the stands, a kitchen stadium set up in the concourse. How awesome is that? Who knew rugby and wine worked so well together?”

General admission tickets are available for $40 ($20 for nondrinkers, $120 VIP) at www.winecolorado.org and in person at Total Beverage Westminster, Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Canyon Wind Cellars (Tasting Room in Georgetown and winery in Palisade), and Bonacquisti Wine Company in Denver. Use promo code “Statesman” on the website to get 20 percent off your tickets in advance.

The Wines Are Good!

To get my taste buds ready for all that this special week entails, I recently held a Colorado-only wine tasting dinner. Convened at Osteria Marco in downtown Denver’s Larimer Square were Jacob Harkins of Local Winos Media, Tracy Eliasson of Settembre Cellars, and myself.

The results, which were often excellent, didn’t surprise me. In my opinion, one of the main reasons is the increasing use by Colorado wineries of professionally trained viticulturalists and winemakers such as Tracy’s husband Blake. As many of the world’s greatest winemakers have repeatedly told me, anyone can make wine in good conditions. It is when things go wrong that a professional education is most valuable, and things often go wrong in our state’s marginal viticultural climate.

Settembre’s wines are made in a residential house on Grape St. in Boulder, if you can believe it. “Starting next year,” Eliasson said, “we’ll also be commercially vinifying grapes grown in Boulder for a wine called ‘80304’ in honor of our zip code!” And, as if that weren’t enough, they deliver by bicycle in the Boulder area. “Our Dry Riesling will also be featured at A Cafe, a creperie in Boulder, the entire week of CWW.”

Colorado wines are better than they’ve ever been. This is a tribute to the energy, dedication and spirit of our state’s winemaking professionals. The proof is in the bottle, so don’t just take my word for it. Go buy a bottle of Colorado wine, munch on a Colorado inspired pairing at an EatDenver restaurant during CWW, and be sure to attend CUW. You won’t be disappointed.

Colorado Wine Dinner Tasting Notes
(750mL bottles unless otherwise indicated)

White

Settembre Cellars Riesling 2010 (Colorado, U.S.A.) $27
Blake and Tracy pick their grapes three-to-four weeks earlier than most to retain high acidity, much like the Italian wines that they love and emulate. This wine is sunshine in a bottle, with a sunflower hue, aromas of peach and lime, and a taste of ginger and ash. The finish is high-toned and very long.

Rosé

Canyon Wind Cellars 47-Ten 2012 Rosé (Colorado, U.S.A.) $12
Orange-pink in color and smelling of salmon mousse and pink peppercorn. Sweet orange and cranberry line the palate, which is rich and bright.

Red

Boulder Creek Cellars Claret 2009 (Colorado, U.S.A.) $26
A Bordeaux-style blend that shows deep purple. Blackberry and caramel aromas meld into flavors of dark chocolate and black cherry. Very fine indeed.

Sutcliffe Vineyards Trawsfynnyd 2008 (Colorado, U.S.A.) $35
Another Bordeaux blend, this time with an unintelligible name, made by Colorado wine legend John Sutcliffe. Black in tone with aromas of lavender and blackberry, this cola- and smoke-infused beauty has a long life ahead of it.

Anemoi Wines Notus 2011 (Colorado, U.S.A.) $42
A mixture of petit verdot and syrah, which explains the black-purple color. Black pepper, black licorice, black plum, all black. But delicious.

Holy Cross Syrah 2008 (Colorado, U.S.A.) $22
Brownish red in tone, with aromas of red cherry and blackberry and tastes of mocha, cola, and more red cherry. Very long in the mouth.

Certified sommelier and unfilteredunfined.com editor-in-chief Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, pens Weinberg’s Wine Tech in Sommelier Journal and has writtenfor the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and The Tasting Panel Magazine, where he is the Rocky Mountain Editor. He also leads luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world’s most famous wine regions via WineOnTheRoad.com.
Ben can be reached at BentheWineBerg@coloradostatesman.com