Delta County residents, we cannot take for granted the beautiful North Fork Valley of Paonia. As I travel familiar roads, I am continuously amazed at the beauty of where we live. This trip was to Qutori winery where the views did not disappoint. As I turned off CO-133 into Qutori winery, I was greeted by the owner, Julie Bennett. We moved to the beautiful garden patio facing the West Elk mountains. Julie told me she feels like she lives in the middle of a painting. We then entered into the Root and Vine Market as I learned how Julie and her family became farmers and wine makers. Kyle Bennett, Julie’s son is the primary winemaker. Wine has become his passion.
Previously, Julie and her family lived in Arvada, Colorado, she was a creative designer. One day, in a breakout moment, something in her soul told her she needed to grow something. Like vegetables or fruit. She began to educate herself about the industry and researched what type of land was needed.
The quest to locate land in Colorado accelerated. Land on the Front Range seemed to be cost prohibitive until one day a friend asked if they had looked on the Western Slope, specifically Paonia. Julie began inquires in the area and found a vineyard that seemed to check all the boxes.
The vineyard was located along the North Fork of the Gunnison. The temperature variations and the soil conditions were ideal for growing produce, including grapes. To make the property even more inviting, it came with excellent water rights. The Bennett family knew water rights could be the difference between a successful or non-successful vineyard, it seemed perfect.
Julie and her family purchased the vineyard in 2016 and had been fortunate to locate an area with exceptional terroir. Terroir is a French term that refers to the unique characteristics of an area and the effect they have on the flavor of wine. The Bennett family embraces the Paonia terroir and all of the environmental and cultural influences. They have successfully used the concept of terroir to make their wine, promote Colorado tourism and obtain a competitive advantage for West Elks Wine Country.
Speaking of competitive advantage, our story about Qutori winery would not be complete without highlighting the winery winning the 2019 Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup for their 2017 Syrah. This competition is the only one exclusively for Colorado wineries. In this prestigious competition, the judges are comprised of sommeliers, wine makers and wine writers from across the country. This group gathers each year to sample upwards of 250 Colorado wines. They won double gold! The Qutori wine may team was, “shocked to be named the winner of the competition.” Their 2019 Syrah was described as a wine with exceptional depth and drinkability beyond any other wine in the competition. The Qutori clan felt validated by this distinguished panel of wine experts. This recognition brought many wine enthusiasts from across the state to Paonia.
The judges point out that the Qutori 2017 Syrah and the other medalists of the Governor’s Cup provide us with insight into the paradigm shift, of Colorado wines. The qualities of Colorado wines are hitting a home run. Clara Klein, sommelier for Frasca in Boulder, said, “Colorado is no longer just a region to have on your radar but on your table.”
Qutori wines are a family-owned vineyard, as well as wine makers, they actually grow primarily Pinot Noir. Pinot is a fickle grape as it likes cool mornings, long warm afternoons and cool evenings. Paonia fits that profile really well. Pinot Noir is a thin skinned grape which makes it susceptible to sunburn. The high altitude estate Pinot Noir is grown in the vineyard across the street from the winery. These vines were planted on what was a 100 year old cherry tree orchard. The terroir produces sublet hints of cherry that stands out in their wine. This wine is semi-translucent with a light ruby red color and medium body with hints of cherry, raspberry and plum. Qutori Pinot Noir is subtle with good acidity and crisp, clear fruit flavors.
If you are like me, I love food. Wine often needs food and the Qutori tasting room features a delicious menu consisting of a Greek platter and homemade hummus plate, a charcuterie board and a bruschetta board for fantastic wine parings.
In the West Elk Wine Country series, a common theme amongst the wine owners is it appears they all are on an adventure to derive more purpose in their lives, compared to their former corporate careers. In every case, the journey has provided more meaning into their lives than the actual destination.
Julie savors and enjoys each day. She believes and accepts that her life is filled with lessons, challenges, joys and celebrations that lead us in our purpose.
On Friday, Aug. 6, and Saturday, Aug. 7, Qutori will be serving up more than wine. They are hosting two comedy nights. This comedy tour features a lineup of TV and major club comedians. These evenings you will be learning what wines pare with hysterical laughter. For more information, go to Eventbrite.com and search Qutori comedy tour.