Harvest Fest at Colorado’s Holy Cross Abbey Winery

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey sits on the property of the Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

City, Colorado.  A history of winemaking by the Abbey has now turned into a modern winery (owned by Larry Oddo) that honors the traditions of the past.  Each Harvest Fest is blessed by a Father of the Roman Catholic Church and this year’s event set a record at approximately 4000 in attendance for the two-day event.

This was a great opportunity to experience the way Colorado celebrates the vine.  A surprise (and “truly Colorado”) was the churning of home made ice cream, powered by a donkey on a “treadmill.”

 

This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

The winery’s  new winemaker, Jeff Stultz, produced 2011 Revelation that won “Best New World Generic Proprietary Red Wine” in March of 2014 at the Jerry Mead International competition.

I tasted a vertical of their Cabernet Sauvignons and could clearly see the skill and experience of the winemaking.  Here are the notes from the evaluations of the current reds created by their current winemaker, Jeff Stultz.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2012  A strong blackcurrant aroma, with light herbal edges and underlined with blackberry, greets you boldly.  The herbaceousness for which Cabernet is known is controlled.  While still juicy and fresh, the wine’s attack is very much like a young Bordeaux.  Its medium weight on the palate is supported by a strong structure.  The wine should develop more complexity as it ages, although it would dress a grilled steak very well as it is.  This is a wine to lay down for 2-3 years with a longevity of 10 or more, depending on how it develops.  It should reward wonderfully.  Allow it to breathe in the glass for an hour to smooth its power a little.  The wine is a quality wine with a food friendly medium finish.

A small portion of the 2014  record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

A small portion of the 2014 record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

Syrah, 2012:  Bluish red in color (sporting its youth), this Syrah is abundant with raspberry and pepper notes on the nose that lead to even more spice on the palate.  Notice that the fruit does not display its full power on the nose but increases through the palate to the finish like a grand crescendo.  The acids are racy and razor edged and the bite remains to the end for a real cleansing effect.

Cabernet Franc, 2012:  Beautifully graduated from the core to the rim with a youthful red color.  Dark fruits flood the aroma and a brightness gives indication of a lively wine.  A sleek balanced palate, medium in weight, is a platform for the brightness and blackness of the blackcurrant and raspberry fruit.  This is another excellent wine and it finishes with a balance of acid, fruit and tannin that leave you feeling like “more.”  Also, it displays a medium length on the finish with acid that refreshes but does not bite.  This is a very good Colorado expression of the grape.  Colorado is defining its expression of Cabernet Franc as having more of the richness of the new world, but still with hints of the stoniness of the soils in which it is grown.  Science can make no connection between soil and the flavors of the grape, but tasters can tell.  See if you can get hints of stone and dry rock.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012:  Deep ruby, the nose displays more of the fruit than the reserve wine and less of the herbs.  In fact, they are almost hidden.  No indication of VA tingles in your nose and you are quickly introduced to a rich mouthful of fruit.  The tannins are a little more pronounced than the reserve wine, but fine and mainly oak derived.  This is a good buy.  There is plenty of acid to make it a food-friendly wine and to suggest, like the reserve, that it can do with a year or more maturing in the bottle for even more rewarding flavors.

Merlot Reserve, 2012:   This is a Merlot worthy of a close examination.  Deep ruby and with acids that expand in the mouth, its strong tannins for a Merlot will please the Cab drinkers and its black fruit, led by blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum notes, create an aroma and palate that is plush.  The plum enriches the sensual delight that Merlot is expected to provide.  Silky sensations smooth out a strong structure.  This is another wine that can do with a little time and would love some food.  It is powerful for a Merlot and should enhance a steak meal and entertain the big and bold wine drinker.

Ratings:  All wines would rate in the 86-90 range.

Emotional rating:  Very good — will improve with age as the tertiary flavors develop.

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Tasting Old Tawny Ports Is a Great Experience!

Yalumba 50-Year Tawny Reserve

Yalumba 50-Year Tawny Reserve

Yalumba’s 50-year-old Rare Tawny, Museum Reserve

From the famous wines of Portugal we now go to the Barossa Valley in Australia and we taste a port with very different characteristics.  Made from Shiraz, Grenache, Dolcetto, Mourvedre, and Muscadelle, this wine has lost to the angels about 85% of its volume.

Its fruit is more pronounced due, I think, to its regularly being topped up with Amontillado to lessen the concentration of sugar and maintain a dry finish, as they tell us.  It has a greater attack on the nose, yet is again very, very soft and silky.  A pleasant musty aroma of old dry oak is yet another surprise, lending it a character like no other wine.  Burnt caramel and clove with cinnamon and coconut add to its depth and complexity.  The rich tawny color is edged with green and is an indication of very long oak aging.  A buttery, nutty, aldehyde note jumps at you from the first whiff.

It’s a little sweeter than the Graham’s 40-year Tawny Port.  They truly cannot be compared as they are so different and are made from such different grapes.  Tasting old tawny ports is an education in what an amazing elixir wine is and how it ages and changes to reward like no other drink.

Don’t let your education in wine be void of the wonders of port and especially of tawny ports.

Rating: 95

Emotional rating: If you want a rich port, the sky is the limit!

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40 Years Old, Tawny, and Awesome!

Graham's 40-Year Tawny Port

Graham’s 40-Year Tawny Port

Graham’s 40-year-old Tawny Port

For the average wine lover, the names of the Portuguese grapes — Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tourriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cao — are a foreign wine language.  But oh do they produce a rich and appealing wine!

In tawny ports that are 40 years old, the age is an approximation.  Legislation for these old ports is deliberately vague.  However, you can be assured they have spent around 40 years (or more for some of the wine) in small oak barrels.

Now, if you have been fortunate enough to taste one, note the strong oak aromas of vanilla, chocolate, and caramel together with a nutty character, which is a tawny’s signature.  The fruit is still there, but all flavors meld into one impression of generalized fruit character.

Rating: 94

Emotional rating: VERY HIGH!

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“Lonely Heart” Packs a Punch You’ll Welcome!

Mark Ryan is becoming a Columbia Valley Cult winery.  If ratings have anything to say

Mark Ryan "Lonely Heart" Cabernet Sauvignon

Mark Ryan “Lonely Heart” Cabernet Sauvignon

about it, this is an outstanding wine.  And they do, in my opinion, since tasting it has confirmed that it is a wine that packs a punch with velvet gloves.  I am waiting to see what it will offer, after a few years, beyond its glorious youthful depth and finesse.

Dark and opaque, it reminds one of ink, but tastes like glorious Cabernet Sauvignon.  Blackberry and blackcurrant fruit dominate the fruit characteristics and vanilla, with a touch of smoke, coffee, and clove rise above its mysterious depth.  Its a big wine, but the tannins are very fine and, even though it has been fully extracted, present no bitterness on its very long finish.  No need to talk of balance and structure, this is a very well made wine and offers us all we could expect from its rich Red Mountain fruit.  It is not Napa, nor does it remind you of the New World fruit bombs.  Rather, it rests between the Old and New World, as many Washington State wines have shown us.

My suggestion is: watch this winery and why not join its club and savor its development.  Nothing but good things to come from this kind of winemaking when blessed with powerful fruit.

Rating: 91

Emotional rating: It will increase as the wine ages!

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You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

Experiencing Colorado Red Print Ready

Book entertains, educates, and entices readers to experience Colorado wine

GET YOUR COPY NOW!  We are extending our “Colorado Mountain Winefest” Sale through this week.  You can get your copy at SQUARE MARKET FOR $20!

C. S. Vin, who was trained in French, German and Italian wines, has relied on his  background as a state wine retail manager and 30 years as a wine enthusiast to produce a valuable asset to those interested in wine in Colorado.  Written in a warm, entertaining and conversational style, Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1 (SRP $24.95, 5.5 x 8.5, 396 pages, ISBN 978-0-9835718-6-5) is available from “Experiencing Wine” on Square Market.

Horse Thief? What Kind of Wine Would That Be?

Horse ThiefWell, that’s its name, and not too surprising in this world of eclectic labeling.  Ruby Trust Winery has put yet more power on our tables.  It’s a potent offering that is made from 100% Colorado grapes.  Featuring 50% Petite Sirah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Syrah, this is indeed a black (deep purple-red shade) wine, fully extracted, and if you love big, rich, full, and powerful wines, you simply must not pass this wine (or any of their wines) up.  I tasted each of these wines (Petite Sirah, Cabernet, and Syrah) before blending in their barrels and was eagerly awaiting their debut in the heavy bottle that is now their appropriate sturdy home.

A perfect complement to Petite Sirah is a good white Cheddar from England.  The cheddar is strong enough not to be lost in the match and rich enough to soften the wine so that you are tasting two wines, one straight and another completely different experience with the cheddar.  Try it!

Petite Sirah and its old slogan “P. S., I love you” is seeing a revival of interest in California as winemakers are seeking its best expressions.  The Horse Thief comes in at 15.4% alcohol with high aromatics, showing blackberry, raspberry and blackcurrant reminders that form a fruity foundation for notes of vanilla, spice, leather, dark chocolate, and earthy tones, creating a very complex nose.  All of these play in the shadow of the Petite Sirah’s firm structure.  The Cabernet and Syrah only deepen the effect and add their own characteristics for further interest.

This is a wine to sit and watch as the tears/legs fall.  They form slowly and the wicking effect on the glass forms repeated displays of these tears, one after another.  Fascinating!  The wine has a rich mid palate and the flavors follow through to the finish.  Tannins from the oak dominate — fine ones that are felt mainly on the checks, while some fruit tannins can be detected on the inside of the lips as well.  These tannins will soften more as age takes its effect and the result is a wine to lay down or enjoy now if you must.  (I succumbed.)

Rating: 90

Emotional rating for those who love a big wine: 98!

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You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

GET YOUR COPY during our “Colorado Mountain Winefest” Sale at SQUARE MARKET FOR $20!

C. S. Vin, who was trained in French, German and Italian wines, has relied on his  background as a state wine retail manager and 30 years as a wine enthusiast to produce a valuable asset to those interested in wine in Colorado.  Written in a warm, entertaining and conversational style, Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1 (SRP $24.95, 5.5 x 8.5, 396 pages, ISBN 978-0-9835718-6-5) is available from “Experiencing Wine” on Square Market.

 

Find the Colorado Wines You’ll Love and Learn About Them!

Though few Colorado residents are aware of it, Experiencing Colorado Red Print ReadyColorado wines have won awards for “Best in the World” and even Robert M. Parker, Jr. said in a Tweet last October that his taste of two Colorado wines “opened his eyes to Colorado wine.”  We’ve come a long way in this industry, yet relatively few of us are aware of the pleasures that are available in our own backyards.

However, one Denver-area wine writer and wine enthusiast has set out to reveal the vinifera treasures that are tucked away all over the state and just waiting to be discovered.  In his new book, C. S. Vin (a pseudonym), an Amazon bestselling author in another genre, provides nearly 400 pages to “entertain, educate, and entice readers to enjoy experiencing the exceptional elixirs” (as one reader puts it) produced by the winemakers of Colorado.

The book provides a guide to quality and styles of dry red wines available in Colorado that are made entirely from Colorado grown Vitis vinifera grapes.  (Fruits wines and and wines made from hybrid grape varieties are not included.  The white, rosé and sweet wines will be covered in Volume 2, scheduled for release in 2014.)  Here’s a look at some of the information readers will receive from Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1:

  • What grape varieties are currently being grown and vinified in Colorado?
  • What distinguishes Colorado wine from those of other regions?
  • Who are the winemakers? Where are the wineries?  Where can we taste samples of the wines?
  • I’m new to drinking wine.  Teach me how to appreciate it and find the best value.
  • What challenges do grape growers face in Colorado and how are they meeting these challenges?
  • Strikingly, we do not enjoy wines with our tastebuds and olfactory senses, as we commonly think, but with our emotions!
  • How do chefs arrive at their decisions about what foods to pair with a wine.  Surprisingly, they do not pair wine with food, but food with wine.  Learn the difference and why.
  • Chefs from eleven top Colorado restaurants (think Broadmoor, Flagstaff House, The Fort, Kelly Liken, LaTour, etc.) have paired foods with selected Colorado wines and provided the recipes that are included in the book.

A year of research and writing, including the “difficult tasks” of tasting all the dry red wines currently available in Colorado (and some that only exists as library wines in the winemakers’ cellars) and sampling  extraordinary cuisine created by some outstanding Colorado Executive Chefs, has produced the first-of-its-kind book on Colorado wines.  If you are a wine lover or want to learn about wine, this book must be in your library.  If you love this state and want to know more about it, you’ll find some interesting tidbits here about that too.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

GET YOUR COPY during our “Colorado Mountain Winefest” Sale at SQUARE MARKET FOR $20!

C. S. Vin, who was trained in French, German and Italian wines, has relied on his  background as a state wine retail manager and 30 years as a wine enthusiast to produce a valuable asset to those interested in wine in Colorado.  Written in a warm, entertaining and conversational style, Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1 (SRP $24.95, 5.5 x 8.5, 396 pages, ISBN 978-0-9835718-6-5) is available from “Experiencing Wine” on Square Market, at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and wherever fine books are sold.  For more information, visit http://www.experiencingwine.com or call 720-271-1221.

 

From the Grand Valley AVA — A Nice Pinot Noir!

Creekside Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir Creekside 2010 Pinot Noir

Brian Cox (the grower) and Michelle Cleveland (winemaker at Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Colorado) have presented us with a light Ruby wine — clear and brilliant, with a great balance of fruit and oak.  This delicate wine allows the nose to flag you of the influence of the fine wine lees, even if it is light.  Strawberry flavors coated in vanilla and spice notes together with the wine lees make for more complexity in what would otherwise be a simple wine.

Even a short rest on its lees (the fine lees not the gross lees) can add more complexity to a wine.  Semi-stable, colloidal phenolics (ultramicroscopic in size) settle and, even in small quantities, offer their aroma to the wine.  Each grape variety will change the aroma of the fine lees, so the fine lees for a Pinot Noir are different in character from that of another kind of red grape.  Is the complex nose showing us this delicate aroma along with all its other smells?  What do you discover?

The mouthfeel is typical of Michelle’s winemaking: soft, perfectly balanced, but with refreshing acid that does not dominate but emerges a little more on the finish.  The medium finish is clean and the fruit and oak carry through from sniff to swallow with persistence.

The Grand Valley AVA in Colorado is not known for Pinot Noir.  In fact the opposite is what we can normally expect from its Pinots: namely, the influence of too much intense heat that can turn a Pinot to jam.  Congratulations to Michelle for producing a fine Pinot Noir from what many say is not Pinot country.

Rating 85

Emotional rating is best made with Mozzarella and wine in hand.  You will be delighted.

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You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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Salentein Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir, 2010

IMG_1133Every wine is destined for a special dish.  It’s a summer evening in Colorado and we have just been driven off the spectacular deck at Willow Creek Restaurant in Evergreen, west of Denver, by a typical evening storm.  Inside, with the same spectacular view over the lake, we’ve ordered a wine from Argentina.

What peaks my interest is the note that the vineyards from which this Salentein wine comes  are at 4,265 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Andes.  Palisade vineyards in the Grand Valley AVA are around 4,600 feet.  Conditions are similar.  The soil in the Mendoza vineyard is stoney, much like those you can also find in the river benches of the Grand Valley.  However, the Argentinian season is long, as opposed to the short season in Colorado.  The differences, not the similarities, will be educational.  I will write about Creekside Cellars’ Pinot Noir (from the Grand Valley AVA in Colorado) next to explore these differences in these two examples of Pinot Noir.

The special dish?  Master Chef Curtis Lincoln has created a dish, which occurs regularly on the menu at Willow Creek, called Braised Rabbit Pappardelle.  It features the rabbit and pappardelle pasta with seasonal vegetables macedoine and a Pinot Noir sauce — absolutely delicious.  I tried it with the Salentein Pinot Noir and it was a match from heaven.  Here’s why…

The wine is a medium, bright ruby red — 100% Pinot Noir — featuring dark cherries, plums, blackberry, black tea, and (surprisingly) a touch of prune.  Cocoa and coffee with vanilla are on the nose and the finish.  The mid palate is fresh, with medium-soft tannins, and the balance is the outstanding feature of this inexpensive wine (which retails in stores at around $15).  The texture is light, but the dark fruit blends exceptionally well with the rich dark sauce of the dish.  Many Pinot’s would go well with this dish, but one with dark fruit and reminders of its oak residence (cocoa, coffee, vanilla) will go best.

What does this wine tell us about its location and terroir?  It seems to have been picked late and ripe, hence the darker fruit flavors.  The long season and intense heat of a high altitude sun would have contributed to the ripeness and darker fruit.  It is not your average Pinot Noir, being much darker in flavors, though still light and refreshing in structure.  Thicker skins are inevitable at higher altitudes — thats’ where the color comes from — and the long warm season is where the dark flavors originate.  When choosing a Pinot Noir, bear in mind the features of the location.

The winemakers of Sassicaia, a noteworthy Supertuscan in Italy, are behind this effort to make premium wines in Argentina.  See next week’s comparison to the Pinot Noir from the Grand Valley AVA in Colorado.

Details: 14.5% alcohol, 10 months in French oak, unfiltered.  

Rating:  85

Emotional rating with the dish, 90.

 

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You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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Book entertains, educates, and entices readers to experience Colorado wine