Tag Archives: Colorado Wine

Unusual, Well Made, and a Colorado Wine Worth a Try

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Counoise, 2014— From the Grand Valley of Colorado

Something unusual and very well made is always worth the try.  In Colorado where the wine industry is still finding what grows and develops best in its AVAs, the unusual can pop up.  Counoise is used mainly in blends in Chateauneuf du Pape and the lower Rhone Valley in France.  When I was asked to identify this grape from the barrel at Creekside Cellars, I could not.  It is seldom produced as a varietal wine, although you will find some examples from the south of France and a few from California.  Maybe you could identify it, but the experience alone peaked my interest.  Here’s a good question, how much Counoise have you tasted as a single variety?

Counoise is valued for its contribution of acid and a spice in the form of a pepperiness, but otherwise it does not have a dominant distinctive note.   The excellent Creekside example made by winemaker Michelle Cleveland offered aromas of red currant, rose, and the expected lively acid and peppery notes for which this wine is well known.  Oak aromas of vanilla and cedar add to its complexity and what was so noticeable was its long peppery aftertaste.  The palate is light and fresh and the tannins are not obtrusive.  The wine needs a little time to air, so open it 30 minutes before you consume.  Its full contribution is experiences as a delayed reaction.

Thank’s to winemaker, Michelle Cleveland, for the experience of a Counoise from the Grand Valley and a confirmation of this grape’s ability to show its colors in such a different terroir.  A must adventure!

Rating:  89

Emotional rating: It has to be high for the wonderful experience it offers.

Available from the winery.

A Vineyard to Watch — Is Malbec a Natural for Colorado?

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Malbec shows promise in Colorado, but its real possibilities are still to be revealed with the maturing of Colterris’ idilic vineyard that falls south to southwest off the highest irrigated site on the East Orchid Mesa.

The grapes are now in their fourth year free from winter kill (thankfully) and the long wait is almost over.  It can be a winemaker’s and vineyard manager’s culmination of a dream or the slow burn of a long-term anxiety as they wait all those years from planting to the first full harvest, particularly if the site is new, as this one is.  In my opinion, expectations run very high for this Malbec vineyard, which to all indications fits the profile of a prime Argentinian site: impoverished, dry, stoney soil with irrigation control and cool nights to hold acidity and giving a promise of delicate fruit flavors.  Also, the warm days and intense high altitude sunlight to ripen the tannins and deepen the phenolics provide dense colors and all those tantalizing palate sensations.

September 2015

In mid September of 2015, I visited this vineyard.  The grapes, luscious and rich with burgeoning flavors, were at 21.5 brix.  The skins, when chewed, were beginning to give up their flavors.  It’s been a long wait, as usual, from planting to the first full harvest, but at Colterris’ idyllic vineyard, as everywhere, nature moves at its own pace.  As we examined the vineyard for what only taste can tell, expectations increased.  The fruit will be at its youthful best this year and the last weeks of this ripening season have turned out just right.  Colterris has three Malbec clones planted in two vineyards, offering distinct characteristics.  Spice from one clone, depth and fullness from another, and the addition of a firm structure from the third.  Still hidden are the full mix of flavors that will give the winemaker just what he wants: lots of potential to work with.

Three Weeks Later

At last harvest has arrived and the grapes are picked at 25-26 prix, depending on the precise location, and the hopes for a great wine are further confirmed.  I’m tasting a Malbec wine as I write, not from this vineyard but from the 2013 harvest in Argentina, and a delightful aroma of violets and spices greets me, served up on a palate of dark fruits.  All this rests in a firm yet juicy acid structure.  The tannins are soft and ripe, exactly what we have come to expect from an Argentinian Malbec.  Most of the vines in Colterris’ new vineyard are cuttings from this same place:  Mendoza, the jewel of Argentinian Malbec and the recognized Mecca for Malbec world-wide, producing wines that are soft, velvety and powerful.

Colterris’ vines are healthy and so obviously in love with their new location.  Their searching roots, now deep in the arid, stoney soil, have hopefully found the mineral riches grapes love and the Grand Valley AVA offers.  Colorado Malbecs that I have tasted so far are somewhere between the dark savoriness (some would say harshness) of a Cahors and the lushness and velvety texture of the Argentinian fruit.  I’m waiting to see if this vineyard is going to show more of the delicate fruit and lush character found in the Argentinian Malbec I’m tasting as I write, and I expect it will.  As the vines age, more will become evident, but some great Malbecs for Colorado could be forthcoming.

Why do wine grapes generate such promise and stir such hope?  How is it that wine yet to be ushered into existence can create such warm feelings of anticipation?  Is it the way our imaginations overtake our senses, stimulating our memories for a drink we have learned to love?  Yes, and the more we respond to its promises, the more we salivate.  Experiencing wine is experiencing it first in anticipation, then in the moment of physical pleasure, and finally, many times again in memory.  It’s the experience of awaiting the unknown because wine does not promote in advance its secrets and pleasures.  Teasing us, it makes us guess and predict, which is the fun of expectation that begins long before the grape transforms itself into wine.

We came from the soil as the ancient text reads, “formed out of the dust of the ground.”  So, as we walk the rows, we feel that bond with all that is natural around us.  There is life in the soil, the vines, the wine to be, and in us.  Is the magic in the bond we feel or in the hope that seemingly enters us with each breath we take?  Life itself is a mystery and all these emotions of promise await the moment when at last we drink the transformed juice and mystery vanishes into exciting reality.

From vineyard to bottle

This is a Malbec vineyard to be envied for its potential.  Will the potential translate into an exceptional wine?  Again, I think so.  We’ll know soon enough though, and I hope you will explore the results with me.  Colorado needs investments like this that will determine its potential and define its stature among winemaking regions.


2012 – A Great Year for Wine in Colorado Too!

Creekside Cellars 2012 Cab Sauv

Creekside Cellars 2012 Cab Sauv

For most of the world, including Colorado, 2012 was a good year.  The fruit was full and rounded.  Cabernet Sauvignon ripened well in the Grand Valley and this wine will serve to demonstrate how, even when it is vinified at a less than knock-your-socks-off alcohol (13.9%), it holds its fullness and typical profile, displaying all the flavors and structure you expect in a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cab is not just a wine of power, as those familiar with New World Cabs are accustomed to.  Richness is not lost with finesse.

Cabernet can be a wine that on one end of the spectrum is distinctly herbaceous, lean, and supple, or a wine that is rich, fully showing its depth with dark flavors and reserved but polished refinement.  And then it can be big, powerful, a fruit packed bomb ready to fill your mouth with ripe denseness.  In all of its presentations it does not lose its character unless it is badly vinified.

This wine from Creekside Cellars follows the second description of finesse: rich and full, yet reserved and polished.  Dark cherry greets you on the nose dressed in oak flavors of clove, cedar, leather, and the whole cigar box scenario.  A little toast and allspice polish off its well integrated flavors.

All are held together by firm tannins and it keeps its pleasant balance from the start to its long, rich finish.  An excellent example of the noble grape and a wine not to miss.  At the wineries restaurant, it pairs very well with the beef sandwich.

In bottle now, it awaits its release and will be something to tempt you strongly.  I have no problem in recommending this wine to wine lovers and those who favor a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon of subtle elegance and yet enough power to satisfy the potency lovers.  The PH is 3.49 and the TA is 7.3 grams per liter, which bodes well for a wine with a fresh backbone but, as you will find, also has a perfect balance while its viscosity and saturated flavors coat the mouth.

Rating 91+

Emotional rating:  Deeply satisfying without being over the top.  For me, a solid 95 points of pleasure.

Available from the winery, Creekside Cellars, Colorado.

Balance and Liveliness in a Cabernet Sauvignon from Colorado

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, from Creekside Cellars, Colorado

Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon (“king of the red wines”) is a grape that adapts well to various climes but not with the same presentation.  You will notice a distinct difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon grown in a warm climate and one from a cool climate.  Brix at picking is a key factor, too.

The perk that Cabernet’s herbaceousness can give to the fully rounded flavors of the wine can be very attractive and are what some Cabernet lovers look for.  It is not pronounced in this sample from Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Colorado.  Guess why.  Black current has a bright edge to its deep, warm, black fruit flavors and it is noticeable on the nose of this wine when first opened.  The flavors in this wine are further rounded by the caramel and cedar notes imparted by the oak.

Announcing to us the style of this wine is its bright edge — the liveliness of its acids.  Against a deep, dark background, such as Cabernet can present, acids show up readily and often seem stronger than they really are.  In this Cabernet the acid level is not extremely high, but certainly high enough to lighten the finish of the wine, making the wine a perfect fit with a grilled steak and salad meal.  Here’s why:  the rich savory meatiness of the steak is matched to the blackcurrant and oak flavors and the light green flavors of the salad are highlighted by the acids and slight herbaceousness in the wine.  The wine holds them together nicely.

Ninety minutes later the wine opens up with more of the cedar note dominant in the aroma and the tannins are a little more prominent.  It is a young wine.  The color is an appealing, deep ruby, clean and bright, and the body is medium weight.  What the wine exhibits is a lovely balance that does not obliterate its character.  Taste a Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon with this wine and you will see Cabernet in two easily distinct styles.  Which one do you prefer and with what food or on what occasion?

From an emotional perspective, this wine leans to the side of elegance for a Cab and promises some very interesting days ahead in its development as the wine lives on and the flavors marry and develop.  Aging potential?  Ten years.

Congratulations to winemaker Michelle Cleveland, for a well made Colorado Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rating: 90

Emotional rating:  High, for an invigorating lively Cabernet with a promising future.

Available from the winery.

Colterris “Coral” 2014 — Made with a Purpose

Colterris “Coral” from the Grand Valley AVA, Colorado

Colterris "Coral" 2014

Colterris “Coral” 2014

A wine has to be made with a purpose or it’s just another wine.  What purpose do we find in this wine from Colterris in the Grand Valley AVA?  First, it sports a very attractive coral color with an appealing, light effervescence (first indication of the purpose the winemaker had in mind).  Floral notes dominate on the nose and many of the fruits border on white wine fruits:  pear, guava, apple, as well as light strawberry notes; some tasters get peach and a light touch of honey that coats the mouth and does not want to let go in the finish.

The effervescence on the palate, the richness of its mouthfeel (which provides a weight that is not expected), the floral notes on the nose, and the smoothness and balance of the alcohol, acids, and flavors make it a very exciting wine to sip and enjoy in a meditative moment or with a pleasant conversation with friends.  I would recommend this rosé as a must for your cellar.  A touch of sweetness (residual sugar at 6.1 g/l) is not too much and would make it a pleasant match with a light curry dish, something spicy.  It may pair well with tilapia, tuna salad, ahi tuna, shrimp with cocktail sauce, parmesan cheese, and I loved it with a simple garden salad.

Rating: 89

Emotional rating:  Stimulates the happy neurotransmitters — a pleasure — with a little complexity that all good rosés should offer.

Available:  Distributed by Classic Wines.  You can contact them to find a retailer near you.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.


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These books entertain, educate, and entice readers to experience Colorado wine!Experiencing Colorado Red Print ReadyExperiencing-Colorado-White-Cover-Web