As I gear up for the 2023 Wine Future Conference, here’s a quick-hit post to highlight my favorites from the recent 2023 Colorado Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, at which I once again had the pleasure of judging this year. After just two stints judging this event, it’s become a highlight of my year—the staff, the wines, the fellow judges, I can tell you from the perspective of having been on the judging circuit for decades that it’s all top-notch there. I’m already looking forward to 2024.
The Colorado wine industry has had a spate of recent challenges, mostly from extreme weather, and based on this year’s competition it appears that industry is bouncing back stronger than ever. The upper ceiling of the wines in this year’s competition was excellent, and shows that the best players in the Colorado fine wine scene are not messing around; not even close.
Here are a smattering of my favorites from the event, all of which found their way into the final sweepstakes round of judging, all of which are exemplars of Colorado’s pioneering winemaking spirit, and all of which are well worth seeking out if you find yourself lucky enough to be spending time in the wine country of the Centennial State:
Probably the biggest surprise white of the competition for me; as much CO wine as I’ve had (which is, Id’ wager, a lot for someone not directly involved in the state’s wine business), I can count the CO SBs I’ve tasted on one hand. This one marries tropical opulence and citric zest in a nicely balanced, refreshing sipper.
The Mosel this is not, but what this is is a tantalizingly delectable off-dry white that pays equal respects to the variety’s mineral, floral, and exotic fruit sides. It’s almost ludicrously delicious, and very well crafted.
Just when we thought that Teroldego was going to assert itself as the next CO red wine grape, along comes this inbred bastard of a red. And it really is an inbred bastard in the literal senses; as described in Wine Grapes, Carmine is “an F2-7 × MERLOT cross, where F2-7 is a MAZUELO × CABERNET SAUVIGNON cross, bred by Harold P Olmo in 1946 at the University of California at Davis and introduced onto the market in 1976 (Walker 2000). At that time, the recently discovered parentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were unknown and Olmo was obviously not aware that he was crossing two half-siblings.” This is one of the VERY few commercial varietal Carmines I’ve ever had, and it’s a dark, throaty, spicy, grippy delight. The geek factor is just off the charts on this one.
Speaking of Teroldego… you just knew, based on last year’s competition, that something like this red was going to show up and wow all of us judges. This ancient Italian variety is hitting full stride in Colorado’s Grand Valley, as this tangy, colorful, and and charmingly chewy rendition shows.
This blend of 42% Syrah, 33% Petite Sirah, and 25% Mourvèdre does indeed, like its namesake, elevate above the ordinary “kitchen sink” style red blend. I found plenty of harmony in this red’s mouthfeel, and plenty of complexity in its floral and spicy nose.
For all my talk about Carmine and Teroldego in Colorado, Syrah would kindly like to have a word… Peppery, full, and complete, most of us judging seemed to love this red, especially at its more-than-fair price-point.
Aptly named, this delicate and flavorful sipper is crafted from a 50/50 blend of apples and pears. F–k you, haters… Rarely are fruit wines this good, and this one is good. Not only are the fruit flavors pure and distinctive, they are complex and inviting as well. A stellar little achievement here.