Tag Archives: Bookcliff Vineyards

A Library Tasting at Bookcliff — Part Two

Dustiness, Earthiness and WineReading room

“People are like wine.  Age sours the bad and improves the good.” ~Anonymous

While enjoying the wines at a Bookcliff Library Tasting recently, another feature stood out that furthers our wine education.  We refer to it as dustiness, earthiness, and sometimes we also detect a dry rock minerality that gives the impression of warm dry dust.

Dustiness is a quality listed on the aroma wheel in the “earthy” section.

We might also note that dustiness is not mentioned in the majority of glossaries that list the terms for wine evaluation and tasting.  Why?  It is hard to understand why this characteristic is not mentioned since dustiness is also a very special feature of some red wines.  Earthiness is also seldom mentioned.  Solid, complex reds feature a dusty, earthy nose at times that is quite appealing and helps trace their origins.  The 2007 Cabernet Franc from Bookcliff is a perfect example of this pleasing dusty, earthy feature.

There is no mineral section on the aroma wheel and perhaps the aroma wheel is inadequate at this point.  It is less concerned with minerality than earthiness.  Yet minerality is a major factor in determining which are Old World wines and which are New World wines.  It’s also a feature that adds complexity to a wine and some would say it is a mark of quality.

Minerality, dustiness, and earthiness are well known characteristics of fine reds, and I have noticed it repeatedly in some wines made from Colorado fruit.  It is not objectionable in a wine; rather,  it is intriguing.  It wants to pair with food that is rich and it adds a sensation that contrasts with the fruit in the wine, again increasing its complexity.  The wine advocates its relation to the soil and, perhaps, also to the oak in which it has resided.  Both grape and oak tree are nurtured in soil, of course.


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.  Order your autographed copyExperiencing Colorado Wine at Square Market.

A Bookcliff Library Tasting — Part One

Wine and Consistency – The Winemaker’s TouchRipe Red Wine Grapes In Harvest Bins One Fall Morning.

It is true that a winemaker is limited by the quality and characteristics of the fruit he/she is given by nature.  It is also not true that a winemaker is bound by what the fruit offers.  A winemaker has many variables at his/her fingertips.  Yeast strains, which are numerous, each bringing a characteristic to the wine; oak varieties and nature’s fingerprint on the development and characteristics of each individual forest from which the barrels are made.  A good winemaker knows their barrels and what they bring to the wine.  Then, there is the application or non-application of oxygen, the understanding of chemical transformation in fermentation, the control of temperatures from pre fermentation to post fermentation, and the influence of other factors such as acids and sugar, tannins and alcoholic strength.

Consistencies that appear in winemaking are hard to nail down to any technique, particularly in bottling of a single-variety.  John Garlich’s wines at Bookcliff, tasted in a small library sample, evidenced a consistent style and quality.  His 2007 Cabernet Franc, and the 2008 Tempranillo and Merlot all showed the same balance of wood and fruit.  Nothing is overdone and the wines were maturing with grace.  If the winemaker is struggling with the identity of his wines, the product is extremely variable.

Supposing the consistency not to be by chance, it originates in the mind of the winemaker and is controlled by his or her taste and standards for the market.  Each of us has our own tasting profile and so does the winemaker.  Each of us also favors a certain style.  The important thing to know is which winemaker creates the style and taste profile for your grape of choice.  Justin Meyer once wrote:

“The key to wine enjoyment is having confidence in your choices.”

A confident winemaker will also help because they believe in their methods and themselves.  The search for pleasing wines is then, as well, the search for a winemaker.


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.  Order your autographed copyExperiencing Colorado Wine at Square Market.

Colorado — It’s Challenges Make for Great Wines!

DSC01154Two special places on the face of this earth where the vitis vinifera vine has found a home rich in flavor-giving minerals and bathed in an intense high altitude sun lie in Western Colorado: the Grand Valley AVA at the mouth of the DeBeque Canyon and the slopes and mesas of the West Elks Valley AVA. Trip Advisor, in an October 2012 article, names Colorado number nine among the top ten wine destinations in the United States.  (I am on a mission with the hope to upgrade that rating.)  The wineries where this surprisingly rich fruit is made into wine are on both the Western Slope and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, from Colorado’s northern to its southern border, and they are not to be missed by any ardent lover of wine, unless they suffer from the degrading disease called bias.  If you have wondered which wine to buy, I may be able to help you find Colorado’s red gold. Great wine regions are often found in challenging terroirs.  Colorado is not alone with its challenges of severe winter cold and spring frosts.  Bordeaux is challenged by the lack of sunshine to ripen the grapes sufficiently in some years — discouragingly so, and for the smaller chateaux, this can be a serious economic setback.  (In 1991, seventy percent of the crop was lost.)  Germany’s Rhine and Mosel River valleys lie on a northern extreme for vinifera vines and struggle to reach a Brix level (sugar content of the grape) that will produce a mere nine percent alcohol at times.  They even have to resort to chaptalization (adding sugar) — named after Jean-Antonine Chaptal who promoted the practice for practical reasons.  Burgundy’s rains can seriously dilute a harvest in some years, IMG_0337disappointing both winemaker and consumer, while the southern hemisphere also has places where it demonstrates that grapes struggle on the edge of too much heat or too much cold, and yet they produce some of the world’s great wines.  Special places are often found on the edge of acceptable growing conditions, and Colorado is one such place. Colorado wines have largely gone unheralded. That’s because some of the wines made before the recent surge in quality  were (well, let’s admit it) “awful plonk.”  One bad wine will be remembered more than a dozen good ones.  However, the wines are not that way any longer since great progress has been made.  Many of the wineries you will read about are creating excellent wines that are winning international medals, and one Colorado wine (from Carlson Vineyards) has even won the title of “Best Semi-sweet Riesling” in the World!   Another (from The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey) has won best Merlot in the world in its price range.  Bookcliff Vineyards’ 2010 Cab Franc was named the best Cab Franc in the $15-$20 range at a recent Los Angeles International Wine Competition, competing against wines from all around the World.  We could mention others. Colorado wine has come of age, as I hope to convince you, and if you have an open mind and a mouth that hinges, it should not be difficult.  As you read, you may also learn more about wine because we will discuss how conditions affect the grapes that are grown here in this special place.  You will be able to pick your favorite wineries from the descriptions and you may find many.  So follow future posts to mine the rich “red gold” and join the “rush!”

The above article is an excerpt from my book, Experiencing Colorado Wine.  You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in it and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.  Order your autographed copyExperiencing Colorado Wine at Square Market.