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Winners Of The DLW 2012 Colorado Wine Taste-Off (And Why CO Wine Might Already Have World-Class Potential)

The conclusion of the recent 2012 Drink Local Wine Conference in Denver was a “taste-off” competition of sorts in which twenty-plus Colorado wine producers each poured two of their offerings, with the media and attendees voting on which of those offerings were the “best” on hand (technically, one producer wasn’t pouring wine, in terms of grape wine, but showcased their Mead – Redstone Meadery, who took the “people’s choice” award for their intriguing Nectar Of The Hops).

As a competition, it was fun but given the levity and structure of the proceedings, it shouldn’t be taken as a be-all, end-all statement on CO wine hierarchy (we are talking about a competition with a quarter of the state’s producers, only pouring two wines each); but gems are gems no matter how or where you happen to uncover them.

I will get to my thoughts on the gems – the winners on the wine side of that taste-off – in just a minute (or three), but first I want to tell you about the clearest winner of the Taste-Off:

Colorado wine.

While I maintain my stance (firmly, I should add) that the region is a “nascent” producer in that Colorado has not fully cracked the code of what grapes to plant where to consistently produce world-class wines, and while the quality levels between (and even among the offerings within each of the) producers is still way too broad (there’s plenty of mediocre wine to be had), I can also tell you emphatically that there seems to be no ceiling for Colorado wine’s quality potential.

Colorado is already making world-class wines – it just happens to be in tiny quantities and can’t be made consistently enough (quite a bit of that being due to extreme vintage variation brought on by the intensity of its continental, high-elevation climate). And while you’re certainly likely to find some real clunkers in CO (its bad wines are epic in their terribleness), the best ones really are gems worth wading through the muck to unearth; in some cases – particularly in the case of one of the DLW Taste-Off winners – CO wine has already arrived

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Why Do Local Wine And Local Food Hate Each Other? (A Late Dispatch From DLW 2012)

Vinted on May 8, 2012 binned in on the road, wine industry events

As you know… I live in Tuscaaaaaaaaaaaaaany

Oh, wait, that’s some other guy who critiques wines and makes videos.

Let’s try this again… As some of you know, I was in Colorado recently, touring the Western Slopes wine regions of Grand Valley and (the really high elevation of) West Elks, and finishing up by attending Drink Local Wine 2012 in Denver, courtesy of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

During DLW 2012, one of the panels, titled “Local Food, Local Wine, and Why They Don’t Like Each Other” (manned by Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post and co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com; Rene Chazottes from Pacific Club in Newport Beach; Evan Faber of Salt in Boulder; and Jensen Cummings from the stellar Row 14 in downtown Denver), explored the sometimes rocky relationship between local wines and local restaurants – namely exploring the open question (I’m paraphrasing here):

“Why don’t more local restaurants stock local wines, when they almost always stock local produce without much hesitation?”

This was a discussion I found timely and poignant, seeing only a day earlier how tightly Western Slopes business like the rugged-turned-luxury (and stellar) Smith Fork Ranch incorporate their local wine producers into their wine lists and menus.

Answers varied, but there was no shortage of heated debate about whether or not local restaurants should or should not be stacking the deck in favor of local wines. To understand why this isn’t such a no-brainer, I think we need to first look at local restaurants as not actually being that local…

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Going Local: Is Colorado Wine Ready For DLW 2012?

Vinted on April 25, 2012 binned in wine industry events

Many wine geeks realize that American wine is made in every state in the Union (though not always from grapes).

Far fewer of those geeky imbibers have actually tried a U.S. wine that hails from any states other than CA, OR, WA, or NY.

While I’ve certainly had my share of wine from “alternative” winemaking states, the majority of that experience has been with juice made in my home state Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There have been some exceptions, of course – most recently a deeper dive into the mixed-bag of Virginia wine country as part of the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference.

That’s a situation I’m going to change imminently, as this week I’ll be a media guest at the 2012 Drink Local Wine Conference in Colorado.

What do I think of Colorado wine? You’ll find out as soon as I do.

Do I have high hopes about the overall quality of CO juice? Not really.

But before all of you locavores flame me for selling out to the states with the already well-established production histories – or before the snobbier of you jump to any conclusions about all U.S. wine made outside of the Big Four states sucking donkey bong and want to lump me into your malformed opinions – please hear out the reasoning behind those limited expectations…

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Merlot-Bashing Is For Douchebags (A Restrained And Tempered Report From The #PNV12 Vintage Perspective Tasting)

Vinted on March 13, 2012 binned in commentary, on the road, wine industry events, wine review

[ Editor’s note: While the following article contains a serious view on – and producer recommendations regarding – recent Napa Valley Merlot vintages, it employs a facetious style that may or may not offend you, depending primarily on whether or not you posses a sense of humor. If you are easily offended and/or have misplaced your sense of humor, please take care in reading the article. Also, if you’re a Merlot-hater who disagrees with anything that you find in this post, then you are wrong. And probably a jerk. Oh, crap… did I just offend you? Sorry… ]

Last year, I had a run-in with Napa Valley Pinot Noir at a multi-vintage perspective tasting held by the Napa Valley Vintners Association at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. It was… not a fun experience. In fact, it was sort of like having your palate beat up in a bar fight, with cigarette ashes poured over it for spite afterward, only slightly more dignified.

So it’s with much relief that I tell you the 2012 version of the NVV perspective tasting was substantially more pleasant, and gave me the opportunity to go through a blind tasting of three different vintages (2007, 2008 & 2009) from nine different producers. I skipped the overly-crowded Cabernet tasting entirely (hey, the Premiere Napa Valley auction was the following morning, and there’s only so much big-ass Cab I can handle in a 24-hour period) and went straight for the substantially less-well-attended tasting of that most-maligned of reds, Merlot.

After that short PNV Merlot immersion, I’m here to tell you a few things… but I want to start with this:

Merlot-bashing is for douchebags.

Seriously… over-generalizing to the point of hating on anything in the wine world is just plain stupid, because nothing contains more exceptions to prove the rules than the wine world. Hating on Merlot because a fictional character in a movie that is eight friggin’ years old (the movie, I mean, not the character… an 8-year-old bitching about wine in a major motion picture wouldn’t even be funny, it would just be weird) said that it makes sucky wine (and this is a character who actually drinks Merlot at the end of the same damn film)…? Well, that move is just so douchebaggy that we’d need to farm out design work to third-world sweat tech shops (hey Apple… are you listening??) in order to raise the manpower required to create enough instrumentation to measure the enormity of the douchbaggy-ness…

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