High Altitude Grapes
Four years ago while exploring the Rocky Mountains and visiting family, we had a chance to visit some Colorado wineries. The trip was eye opening.
The winemaking in Colorado is quite sensational, thanks to the high desert climate and unique soil. Even though Colorado’s grape growing regions range in elevation from 4,000 to 7,000 feet, the highest in the Northern Hemisphere, their wine still flies under the radar.
We recently hosted a Colorado wine dinner with the assistance of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, giving our group a chance to dig into the wines of this mountainous state.
Bordeaux Varieties Take Root In Colorado
- Bookcliff Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc
- Creekside Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot
- Canyon Wind Cellars 2013 Petit Verdot
- Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
We began our meal with an assortment of puff pastries accompanied by the Creekside Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot. We also had some mild cheddar cheese, that paired well. Petit Verdot is a grape most often used for blending in Bordeaux style reds. For a single varietal wine it can be spectacular – but Petit Verdot is much more commonly a bit player (3% to 5%) in a blend.
For our guests, who were unfamiliar with Colorado wine, the Creekside Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot was a revelation. It was an instant favorite with deep, rich flavors of cranberry and raspberry. The wine spends 22 months in French oak and can age from five to seven years.
The Ultimate Test – Beef Bourguignon
My wife, the Green Dragon, determined that this special dining event called for a special dish. Once before she had made Beef Bourguignon and she decided this was time for an encore. This was more than a 24 hour process that involved marinating overnight with a full bottle of Pinot Noir. Her challenge was cooking the dish – mine was figuring out how to spell it!
Our next dish was a lovely Kale Cauliflower Salad by our friend Maria. There must have been a dozen different ingredients all topped by a honey mustard dressing.
The Bookcliff Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc led off our dinner wines. This is smooth with cherry flavors a a subtle flick of white pepper. The wine has 3% Merlot.
It is aged for 18 months in French oak and the tannins are nicely integrated. Tasting Team Member the Cabinator ranked this as his favorite of the tasting. Bookcliff operates on 37 acres and has 14 different varieties of grapes.
Getting Our Francais On
The Beef Bourguignon arrived with a flourish from the kitchen and settled at each place among a sea of glassware and wine. The dish is a beef stew marinated in a wine-based sauce. In short, it is an ideal match for red wine.
Next in progression was the Canyon Wind Cellars 2013 Petit Verdot. The contrast between this take on PV and the Creekside Cellars version was immense. While the Creekside PV was lush, the Canyon Wind had smoky flavors of tobacco and vanilla. The nose was distinctive and the tannins made it a very structured wine. It was a more rustic take on Petit Verdot.
Last in the quartet was the Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab is a challenging wine to produce in Colorado – but this version satisfied. The flavors of black cherry were concentrated and woven together with herbal notes. It was a knockout combination with the dark chocolate truffles (thanks, Stephanie!).
The consensus? Colorado wines are high in quality and the Bordeaux varieties combine elements of Old World rusticity with fresh fruit of New World wines.
The Colorado wine industry is showing annual growth of about 16%. While we don’t mind visiting the wineries in beautiful Colorado, wine lovers would love to see greater distribution outside the state. If the grape crop can keep pace with the demand, the brilliant blue sky is the limit.
Full disclosure: Thanks to the wineries and Colorado Wine Industry Development Board for these marketing samples.