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…

The reason my expectations are low is that the modern CO wine biz is nascent. If the modern VA winemaking scene is just coming out of its infancy, than states like CO are still vinous embryos.

I’ll certainly get a chance to put all of that reasoning to the test (and expose any subconscious biases!) during the conference’s very cool lineup of activities, which include (to the tape):

“A Colorado Twitter Taste-off, featuring two dozen of the state’s best wineries, on April 28, plus three seminars featuring some of the top names in Colorado and regional wine. In addition, DLW 20102 will host the Colorado Wine Challenge, where contestants will get a chance to blind taste Colorado and California wines and see if they can tell the difference.”

Now, the results of those blind tastings are just going to be damn fun no matter which way they turn out!

Do I hope to be pleasantly surprised by CO wine? Absolutely – I’ll be the first one singing the praises here of CO’s best juice, if that juice can stand toe-to-toe with the best stuff coming out of VA, NY, OR, etc. But to expect that CO’s industry is there yet would be wishful thinking bordering on the absurd based solely on the amount of time that CO has been making wine in a modern way (yes, I know they’ve been doing it on and off since the late 1800s, and in some cases in a modern way since the late 1960s – but even in that sense, they’re still behind VA!).

I want CO to bring the A game, just as I want all local wineries to bring their A games to anything (particularly to their consumers!). I certainly wouldn’t downplay a wine’s quality just because it came from CO, or VA, or anywhere else. I’m only saying that if/when it happens on this trip, it will fall into the “awesomely and pleasantly surprising” category of critical wine experiences for me.

My expectations are a matter of time and resources, people – nothing more. And while I certainly think we should encourage winemaking efforts in every U.S. state, I firmly believe that part of that encouragement is being brutally honest about the quality of each individual wine that crosses my lips when I’m in critic mode. Not an easy position to balance, but I’d rather take difficult and ultimately more rewarding road of keeping an open mind and juding every bottle by its own merit, than travel the easier but less rewarding paths of lambasting – or lionizing – any wine solely based on its location of origin.

More to come from CO, from where I hope to be sharing many surprises with you! In the meantime, got a view on CO wine that you want to share? Shout it out!






  • Jason Phelps


    You better get going. I've enjoyed wine from more than 25 US states, and counting! I have found some not to be my style and some not drinkable (mostly in my home region of New England) but overall the long traditions of many of these local winemaking regions comes through. While I would agree that many of those regions are not on the national radar I see that as a cop out for wine lovers. People will flock to a new restaurant without any prior experience with the chef, so why not wine?

    Thanks for covering the story, I can't wait to read your reviews. I would have been there with you if it weren't for the fact that I am going to be on a cruise ship in the Bahamas with Kid Rock!


    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Jason – enjoy that cruise (some good stories in the making there, I imagine!). I should note that, just mentioning off the top of my head here, I’ve had wine from PA, VA, CT, VT, AZ, WA, OR, CA, NY, WI, MI, FL (though that one wasn’t made from grapes)… so I’m working on catching up to you! ;-)

      • Jason Phelps

        I've got some pineapple wine from Hawaii on the rack. I'm assuming that will be a stretch for most. Fruit wines from Alaska were interesting but not so easy to get now that most of the producers are not in operation. This quest is one of the most exciting for me because as you know the wine shipping laws in this country suck, so I have to travel to find them.

        Come up to New England and quite a few of us can share our local wines, good and bad!

        • 1WineDude

          Jason – it's a date!

  • @wineywomen

    Hey Joe,

    I look forward to meeting you in person this weekend at the conference. I find your blogs pretty entertaining.
    I do agree that not all Colorado Wines are worth drinking… but that is true for any state.. There are those that shine brighter than others… We will have some of those on the list that we will taste.
    I am anxious to put my taste buds to the test!


    • 1WineDude

      Winey – right back at ya.

  • Joel Ohmart

    Hey Joe…
    Where you going with that (vino critic) gun in your hand!? You’re going way (down?) west, way down to Colorado!

    Glad to hear you will be covering DLW CO, should be an interesting experience at the very least! I have not had too much experience with the other 46, but the Unified Wine grape Symposium is always interesting due to the many states and lesser known CA wine regions represented there. I have had my fair share of Norton and Vignoles, and I have to say (all biases aside) for my pallet they strayed far from the mark. That being said, I have had wines from IA, VA, PA, CO and AZ that pleasantly surprised me and some that were downright delectable. As I begin my fledgling "career" in the wine industry I realize that there is no more room or pre conceived notions or snobbery, although every once and a while some sneaks its way into the overcrowded hall.

    • 1WineDude

      Joel – well-said. The more we generalize, the more exceptions we encounter in the wine world, it seems!

  • Mary

    My husband and I will be at the Twitter taste-off. Can't wait and hope to bump into you!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Mary – come say hi!

  • @winecompass

    Joe, I will be interested to hear your comments on Carlson Vineyards after we visit Friday. I accidentally stumbled on the winery during my only other trip to Grand Junction about five years ago. Been buying their Lemberger and Riesling online ever since. Not only tasty, but $13.

    • 1WineDude

      @winecompass – looking fwd to it!

  • Nick

    I love coverage of "the other 46" as someone said. It's probably "the other 49" if you look at the stats.

    Just as with foods, there's not much value in comparing the pizza of Rome to the pizza of Boston, even though you can discern them. People like to eat + drink local–it's part of a cultural tribalism. Part of that whole movement is a rejection of objective international standards.

    If our age is an accelerated global world, the point of that globalism is not to homogenize or compare, but to relish the variety in the sense of place.

    My hope for you in CO is that you find the wines not comparable, but incomparable. I'm eager for your assessments and jealous of your chance to indulge.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Nick – context is king, and that goes for wine too. Cheers!

  • WenWAWino

    Just finished hosting a tasting of Colorado wines for our wine society here in Wenatchee WA. Fascinating to find that the Grand Valley has more Growing Degree Days than any AVA in WA. We particularly liked the Petite Verdot from Grande River. Keep an eye out for wines from Balistreri, Two Rivers, Canyon Winds & Reeder Mesa. Have fun!

    • 1WineDude

      WenWAWino – Will do. Thanks!

  • Evie

    I'm curious as to where you'll be doing your Colorado tastings and which labels you'll be tasting. Are you possibly going to the Barrel Tasting in Palisade? I hope that you don't miss out on some of my favorite Colorado wines from IMT, Mesa Park, Colterris, 5680, Blackbridge, Canyon Wind and Plum Creek.

    • 1WineDude

      Evie – I think Canyon Wind might be on the itinerary…

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