Tag Archives: winemaker

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.

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.


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 during our “Colorado Mountain Winefest” Sale at SQUARE MARKET FOR $20!Experiencing Colorado Red Print Ready

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


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.

Another Look at Ruby Trust — Age-Worthy?

wine cellarClaudius Galenus (commonly known as Galen) was a Greek turned Roman.  He lived c130-201 AD.  He was not only a noted physician, having compiled the medical wisdom of his time, being also referenced for centuries as a source of medical information, he was an expert observer of the temperaments of people.  Add to this his interest in wine, and we have a person to remember.

Galen talked about, among other things, the aging of wines.  Wine was known to undergo remarkable changes as it aged.  Even Luke, the Gospel writer, realized that wines can age and that their age improved them.  The ancients were very much aware of wine’s improvements with age — not in a bottle, but in amphora.

Galen also draws out attention to the ancients’ knowledge of aging wines prematurely by smoking or heating them.  Smoky aromas were all the rage at one time in Greece and Rome.  Today we want them aged by the winemaker to save us time and patience.  Some wines are made to drink now, while some with tannic bite to await development in the bottle, and others to drink now but appreciate more as the years pass.

The 2010 Gunslinger, about which I have written in Experiencing Colorado Wine, Vol. 1:The Dry Red Wines, is worth another look.  What has the winemaker done in regard to preparing this wine to age and what are the results?  This wine is 47% Syrah, 20% Petit Verdot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon — made totally from Colorado grapes.  At 14.9% alcohol, he has given it plenty of this vital aging ingredient.  Without adequate alcohol, it doesn’t have much chance of a long life.  The grapes were ripe and the fruit is solid and foundational.  Tannic acid is firm, already integrated, and the other acids are in place.  It is dry, so no sugar adds to the aging potential.

On tasting this wine for aging, I find it is still vibrant and full of power — a monster.  Its fleshy fruit is balanced beautifully with the acids, oak and tannin promising an exciting marriage in the bottle.  Just a glance at its depth of color — a true red-black — and I ruminate as I drink it of its decadent maturity.  I see this wine as a wine to drink young, but one that is also made to age, and it will do so nobly.  No smoking or heating necessary, just a glass and an appreciative palate.

Enjoy this wine with substantial food and ponder the coming of age of Colorado wine.


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.

Matthaiasson Wines, Napa Valley California

Matthiasson, Steve

“If one person stands to rewrite the trajectory of California wine — in Napa’s luxurious heart, no less — it is Steve Matthiasson,” says the San Francisco Chronicle, while calling him Winemaker of the year.  Food and Wine followed suit.

I was at a wine dinner, featuring his wines, in Colorado recently.  What impresses me is the ingenuity of the winemaker, who also takes care of the vineyards he sources fruit from.  His Napa Valley White Wine is Steve’s idea of a mythical, ideal, Old World white.  It is creative and will fascinate the wine lover.  There is nothing else like this blend: 59% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Ribolla gialla, 16% Semillon, and 5% Tocai friulano.

Listening to Steve tell of how he came to blend this wine and produce it clearly demonstrates an ingenuity in his winemaking procedures and concepts.  It departs from the image of Napa Valley.  Oak adds a luscious but not overpowering creaminess and the wine, having rested on its lees, offers the aroma of the lees.  A delicate spiciness, clean acidity, and slight nuttiness is held together in a structure enhanced by 10 months bottle aging that is not usually found in a white wine.

Eighty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot fashions a cab that is truly Old World, sporting the herbaceousness of the Cabernet, and it is impeccably made.  At 13.5% alcohol it has been picked earlier than most Napa Valley cabs and shows it.  If the herbaceous elements of the Cabernet family are tastes you appreciate, this is a winner hands down.  It is a great wine with steak and prime rib and, especially, a rich lamb dish.

You should try these wines.  They may well become a Napa trend of the future, so go to winesearcher.com and find where they are available near you.

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.