Most wineries can’t claim the overwhelming landscape of colossal mountains and miles of desert as a backdrop. That is what makes Colorado wine country so different.
For far too long, however, the Centennial State’s vintages have received little credit for anything more than the stunning scenery. Take a side trip off I-70 and you’re liable to find out something: The local vineyards are actually producing decent vino these days.
“Every new area has growing pains,” says Duane Johnson of Longmont’s La Cavasita Wine Boutique. There has been an “improvement in quality over the last 10 years.”
Sure, it’s not as impressive as Napa, but the underdog of the West is continually growing and it’s about time you checked it out. That’s why the Colorado Mountain Winefest comes in handy.
The September event is the perfect opportunity to be introduced to a sweet and floral scented Plum Creek 2004 Riesling. It also offers complete immersion into the region, including an epic 25-mile bike tour around the wineries, samplings from 45 in-state winemakers, live jazz and quirky artisan booths.
The idea behind the festival is that if you enjoy a few days in the Grand Junction sun, you’ll likely want to return and buy local wine. The region has the distinct advantage of being a heck of a lot closer and cheaper to get to than, say, Napa or Piedmont.
“As more people come over to the area to tour the wineries, their expectations are exceeded,” says Brittany Crowell, Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Winery tasting room manager.
Two Rivers, one of the largest vineyards in the region, has seen extreme growth, because, as Crowell says, there’s an increased interest in wanting to buy local. The vineyard produces 14,000 cases annually, a huge spike from 10 years ago.
Crowell and virtually every wine festival participant will tell you it’s time to ditch the assumption that Colorado grapes cannot produce a fine cabernet franc. Your reward will be enjoying all those beautiful mesas in a wine region that now produces more than 99,000 cases of wine annually.
Plus you can gain a greater appreciation for the amount of passion and effort that goes into making a good wine by meeting the people behind the vintages.
The totality of the wine festival is likely not enough to get many wine snobs to consider a trip out west or even try a local wine when they swing into the neighborhood wine shop. It takes marketing, research, education, seminars and great equipment to help change perception.
It’s a good thing festival proceeds goes toward all that—it’s a non-profit for the Rocky Mountain Association of Vintners and Viticulturists.
“The wines are a lot better than they used to be,” says Doug Caskey, head of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “The Colorado Mountain Winefest is a real quality event that represents the growth of the industry and shows that we can do it a lot better than people give us credit for.”
COLORADO MOUNTAIN WINEFEST
Sept 19-21, Grand Junction