One hundred fifty and growing.
No matter what you’re counting, which in this case is the estimated number of wineries in Colorado, 150 is an awfully nice round number.
It’s not really round, however, because there likely are another eight or nine additional wineries in the state since the last unofficial census, but you get the idea: Colorado’s wine industry is doing quite well, thank you.
There are two major events each year that celebrate the health of grape growing and winemaking in Colorado.
One is the late-summer Colorado Mountain Winefest, deservedly named the “Best Wine Festival in the Nation” by USA Today, and another is the late-summer, almost-winter Colorado Uncorked, perhaps equally well-known as the Colorado Governor’s Cup.
The Governor’s Cup this year went down Nov. 15 at the History Colorado Center, a magnificent building (opened in 2012) at 12th and Broadway in Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood.
The Governor’s Cup is really that, a handsome silver chalice awarded to the wine voted Best of Show from the 14 finalists in the annual Governor’s Cup Wine Competition.
For many of the 600 or so Colorado-wine enthusiasts present, one highlight this year was the range of wineries represented in those 14 wines.
“It was great to see that we had some of the state’s oldest wineries and some of the state’s newest wineries,” remarked Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “We also saw some new varieties and hybrids, which is what we want to see as winemakers continue to hone their skills in the search for Colorado’s perfect grape.”
Among the 14 finalists for the (actual) Governor’s Cup were several wineries with more than one wine.
Carlson Winery was pouring its Cherry wine and the 2018 NSFW White, a Vidal Blanc blend; The Storm Cellar (founded in 2017 in the North Fork Valley) poured its 2018 Dry Riesling and 2018 Riesling; and BookCliff Vineyards (Boulder but coming soon to the Grand Valley) served its 2016 Ensemble and its 2016 Graciano, one of the newer (to Colorado) grape varieties on display.
The Best of Show went to Qutori Winery’s 2017 Syrah, a double-gold medal winner made from grapes grown by Nancy Janes at Whitewater Hill Vineyards in Grand Junction.
Qutori, located on Colorado Highway 133 north of Paonia at the Root & Vine Market, is another of the fresh-cheeked wineries Caskey mentioned.
The list also included Jayme Henderson and Steve Steese of The Storm Cellar, who had two wines make it to the Governor’s Cup case.
In only its second vintage and its first appearance at the Governor’s Cup, Qutori received not only the top prize, but also racked up silver medals with its 2017 Estate Pinot Noir, 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir and 2018 Chardonnay.
A fifth entry, a 2017 bourbon barrel-aged Pinot Noir, garnered a bronze.
“We were pretty excited,” said an understated Julie Bennett, who does much of the heavy lifting at Qutori, along with her husband, Rich, and son/winemaker, Kyle. “Kyle’s 27 and this was his first wine, so he was particularly excited. Winemaking has been a real passion for him.”
Julie Bennett kindly added her thanks to the many North Fork winemakers who gave Qutori advice and support, including Rob Kimball from 5680 Winery.
Among the veteran winemakers making a welcome return appearance this year at the Governor’s Cup was Sue Phillips of Plum Creek Cellars (founded by Doug and Sue Phillips in 1984), who poured her winery’s 2016 Cabernet Franc.
Phillips’ presence gave the Governor’s Cup finale a reach of 35 years, which in many circles would be considered maturing gracefully.
A complete list of the 2019 Governor’s Cup wines can be found at coloradowine.com/uncorked/.
On the subject of new wineries, we may see two more wineries open this year or next in the North Fork Valley, plus Kaibab Sauvage’s emergent enterprise, Sauvage Spectrum Estate Winery and Vineyards, in the Grand Valley.
Sauvage has cultivated grapes in the valley for 20 years and after watching winemakers garner awards with his fruit, he recently decided to jump into the fray with his own line of wines.
Grape growers rarely receive accolades for growing excellent fruit, although you can’t squeeze a winemaker without him or her uttering some iteration of the timeless phrase, “I let the fruit talk for itself.”
Sauvage offers two white sparkling wines, one extra dry and another off-dry under his Sparklet label, and he plans to release a sparkling rosé and a still white wine under the Domaine Sauvage label.
Sauvage Spectrum wines are available at select restaurants and liquor stores in the Grand Valley.