Best known for a dizzying array of craft breweries, Colorado also produces more and more wine. And if a recent tasting is any indication, some of these wines are quite good.
Wine is likely not the first (or second, or fifth) thing you think of when you hear Colorado, but winemakers in this state are hoping to change that. Colorado definitely has some quality ingredients for winegrowing: 300+ days of sun per year, low humidity, cool mountain breezes, high elevation sites (with vineyards planted between 4,000 and 7,000 feet).
More than 125 wineries crush grapes from more than 1,000 acres of grapes. And the state’s wine industry is growing. In 2009, Colorado wineries sold about 100,000 cases. By 2015, that number had jumped to almost 150,000 cases, according to Colorado Wine. Riesling is the state’s top wine grape, accounting for almost a quarter of Colorado wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot round out the top five. But despite the size of the state, wine production is relatively small. Colorado doesn’t scratch the top ten states in terms of wine production. For example, Pennsylvania, the 10th largest wine-producing state, churns out about 800,000 cases of wine per year, according to Wine Vines Analytics.
Still, I love the idea of exploring wine from new regions and different states. And considering the incredible natural beauty and tourist attractions the state has to offer, I’d love to taste some local vino while taking in the mountain views.
Like Virginia’s renowned Governor’s Cup, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board kicked off a similar program in 2011. The Colorado Governor’s Cup Wine Competition saw 241 entries from 37 wineries in 2015. The Governor’s Case, which includes the top 12 wines, is a snapshot of the cream of the crop from that competition.
To be honest, I found some of the wines a bit odd. It took a lot of swirling, spitting and head-scratching to figure some of them out. Some wines were too heavily oaked (I found a similar trend in tasting through a case of Idaho wines last year). But the adventurous palate has a whole lot to explore in Colorado. And if your palate is anything like mine, you’re bound to find some wines that get you excited.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
Review: 2012 Guy Drew Vineyards Sweet Riesling - Colorado
Slight spritz in the glass with a light golden color. Smells like sliced white peaches and canned peaches, along with honeysuckle, but I also get this slightly strange goat cheese note. On the palate this wine tastes like sweet tarts, lime peel and canned peaches, along with notes of honeysuckle and quinine. A hint of that funkiness from the nose, but not too much. Sweet but the acidity is bright. Overall, it’s not bad, but it’s a bit odd.
Review: 2014 Bookcliff Vineyards Viognier - Colorado
Medium yellow color. Jumps out of the glass with aromas of white peaches, juicy cantaloupe, kiwi, topped with floral perfume and honey. On the palate, this is full-bodied and waxy, the acid fails to keep the wine fresh in the face of gobs of tropical fruit (pineapple, papaya, juicy white peaches). Notes of yellow flowers, honeycomb, a real sense of creamy lees and nougat as well. Fun flavors, very tasty, but it’s a bit hot and unbalanced.
Review: 2012 Bookcliff Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve - Colorado, Grand Valley
Medium ruby colored. Smells of spicy red cherries and currants, topped with a significant dose of pepper, celery seed, leather and roasted coffee. Full-bodied, silky-smooth tannins, some moderate acid holds it up. Juicy red and black cherries on the palate, the fruit is plenty ripe but shows some crunchy freshness. The fruit’s laced with black pepper, sage, leather and clove. Medium-length finish with a kiss of vanilla and oak. Well-done.
Review: 2013 Turquoise Mesa Winery Colorado Crimson - Colorado
Vibrant ruby color. More candied berry and jammy aromas than the Syrah, still some underlying green and black pepper, violets, herbal liqueur and menthol. Medium-bodied, some dusty tannic structured, medium acid. Juicy and tart black and red fruits, this wine has a significant amount of violets, potting soil, black pepper and campfire elements. Tart and a bit weird, but an interesting blend of 53% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre and 17% Viognier.
Review: 2013 Turquoise Mesa Winery Syrah - Colorado, Grand Valley
Vibrant ruby color. Interesting aromas of red apple peel, tart black currant fruit, mixed in with wet leaves, soy sauce and green peppercorn notes, a note that reminds me of a sour red ale. Medium-bodied, silky tannins, moderate acid, this is a bright wine with tart but approachable fruit (black cherry, tart blueberry, red apple peel, a unique blend of fruit elements), but also some roasted chestnut, green pepper, black tea and an herbal cough drop note. A tart and spicy wine that requires an adventurous palate. A bit strange, a unique approach, but I find it fun.
Review: 2012 Boulder Creek Winery Syrah - Colorado
Vibrant purple color. Smells of bright plums, blackberries, violets and some light roast coffee. Full-bodied but marked by refreshing acidity and moderately fleshy tannin structure. A tart black cherry and currant jam fruit signature, underlined by cola, coffee, black pepper and loamy earth. Rich but stays fresh, this is put together quite well.
Review: 2013 Anemoi Syrah Lips - Colorado, Grand Valley
Deep ruby color. Smells of rich blackberries and blueberries, with lots of smoke, pepper and a spicy meat note that reminds me of really good chorizo (seriously). Full-bodied, such a chewy texture, with some fleshy tannins and light acid that helps hold it together. The black cherry, blackberry and blueberry fruit is rich and mouth-filling but it’s not too extracted or roasted. Flavors of black pepper glaze, campfire smoke, rich loam, graphite, vanilla, roasted coffee, some grilled herbs and violet notes come out with air. Big and burly but shows some serious complexity, depth, and it’s actually quite balanced and finishes fresh. My favorite wine of the tasting — and a wine that really got me excited about Syrah in Colorado.
Review: 2012 Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - Colorado, Grand Valley
Medium purple color. Wonderful aromas here, I’m actually quite surprised at all the nuance I get: black and red currant, black cherries, sweet coffee, violets, pipe tobacco and cola. Bold structure with seriously firm tannic grip, medium acid helps keep it fresh, this is a dense wine but opens up a bit with air (and will much more so with time in the cellar). The fruit is compact but tart as well (black currant and cherries), and slathered in coffee, sweet vanilla coffee and toasty oak, perhaps a bit too much of the latter, but it’s got quite a lot going for it. Freshness and nuances of spice and tobacco on the finish. So, yeah, I dig this. I’d love to retaste in two or three years to see what else emerges. Nice but so damn tannic.
Review: 2012 Creekside Cellars Petit Verdot - Colorado, Grand Valley
Rich purple color. A bit closed down at first, but it opens up and shows some tart red currant and blueberry, along with campfire smoke, violets and black licorice candy. Medium-to-full-bodied with a grippy tannic structure, but smooth around the edges, some moderately tart acid. I get black cherries, currants and blueberries, the fruit is juicy and ripe but doused with heavy vanilla and roasted coffee. Some underlying floral and earthy tones try to peek out. Finishes with some anise and oak. 13.8% alcohol.
Review: 2013 Canyon Wind Petit Verdot - Colorado, Grand Valley
Light purple color. Rich and saucy on the nose, like blueberry pie and black currant jam, also some coffee, loamy soil, vanilla and cola. Full-bodied and full-throttled, the tannins are quite strong here, the acid a bit low. But I really like the quality of the fruit (blueberries, black currants, blackberry), which is rich but not overdone. Significant coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla and toasted oak, but also some leafy, peppery, loamy notes. Structured very well for the cellar. I’m really impressed by this wine and would love to retaste it in four or five years. 15% alcohol.
Review: 2014 Whitewater Hill Sweetheart Red - Colorado, Grand Valley
Light purple color. Smells like currant, raspberry and strawberry jams, very confectionary with sweet purple candies and some cough drop notes. Light tannins, medium-low acidity, moderate sweetness, the balance isn’t great but it’s not terrible. Flavors of raspberry and strawberry jams along with caramel apple and some cough drop flavors. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this, but it’s better than I thought. Grape juice is added to the finished wine to raise the residual sugar.