Tag Archives: The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

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.


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.

GET YOUR COPY  at SQUARE MARKET!Experiencing Colorado Red Print Ready

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


Experience Colorado When Experiencing Colorado Wine!

IMG_0344As I have said, emotion and wine are inseparable. We taste with our emotions, so what does that mean to us?  Trying to separate a wine from your emotional responses robs wine, or any food for that matter, of its magical touch.  S’mores, for example, toasted over a campfire in the forest, taste so much better than the same treat at home in front of the fireplace.  Candlelight improves a wine too.  Colorado wine consumed in Colorado’s scenic wonders will go down in your memory as one of your greatest wine experiences.

When in Grand Junction, you should take time to experience wine in this way.  You might visit the Tilman Bishop State Wildlife Area on the East Orchard Mesa for a similar site or drink wine on the edge of the Mesa at the Avant Vineyards, their wine of course.

Try this.  Driving to Terror Creek and Stone Cottage is an experience that will test your nerve and thrill your senses, but you will discover world-class views of the massive West Elks Mountains that are akin in drama to the Alps of Switzerland.  Artfully sculpted wines from these two wineries make it all the more exhilarating.  Step outside the tasting room and soak up the drama of the landscape.  You will be entertained with emotions that a dinner table will never be able to emulate.

Tasting Colterris Wines’ full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or their Cabernet Franc, with their lush fruit and balancing acids, in their famous peach orchard, replete with the aromas of both, will not leave you without a sense of connectedness to nature and its mutual harmonies.  Vineyards and orchards unite to emulate a taster’s dream at Colterris.  Experience both — peaches and wine.

The clear blue skies, the bulk of the mountains, and the canyon’s breezes will make Canyon Wind’s wines exhibit a real sense of place.  Slow down at their simple picnic spot and sip their wines.

Stop at Maison la Belle Vie’s for their wine and cheese.  The pairing is ancient, but sitting under the trees at the winery is relaxation at its best.  The owner is French; the winemaker is an Aussie; the place is Colorado, and the wine, satisfying.  If you know what to look for, you’ll find reminders of both France and Australia in the way the wine is made, while the brogues will make you wonder where you are.  Perhaps soon you can expect a restaurant, as John wants to flesh out the experience of wine with more food.

Stay in luxury at the Two Rivers Chateau in Grand Junction.  Waste away the last hours of the day on the balcony of the Chateau, overlooking the vineyard and the Grand Valley with a bottle of wine selected from the display in your room or purchased at the tasting room.  While the sun bids farewell, kissing the tops of the Book Cliffs, your experience will be complete.

Is it lunchtime and are you on the front range of Colorado?  Then don’t miss Creekside Cellar’s winery and restaurant in Evergreen, where the wines at the table are the same price as the wines you purchase at the counter — no markup.  A fabulous chef and an outside balcony suspended over Bear Creek will surely hit the spot and make a memory you could want to make a habit.  Yes, bears and elk visit here too.  There are photos to prove it.  You may be lucky and have a sighting while you are there!

It’s a small, self-guided tour, but with glass in hand you can learn the basics of winemaking at Boulder Creek’s winery, and those wines are among the very best in Colorado.  Tour the winery and sip.

In medieval days, the monks made wine and grew the grapes on the land surrounding their Monastery.  Holy Cross is a spectacular Abbey that reminds you of wine’s Christian heritage.  It is the pride of Cañon City and The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey offers a large and well-stocked gift store.  Indulge in their great wines at a table under the trees beside a small vineyard and think of those days when the monks made detailed notes of their vintages, viticulture, and winemaking, handing down to us the secrets of wine and terroir.  Think also of the wine.  It’s great!

And there are more (many more) sites, sounds, and tastes to return wine to its rightful place — stirring or calming our emotions.  Create your own Colorado wine experience.

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.

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.