There’s a new kid on the wine block. Deemed best among the fourteen wines selected for the 2019 Governor’s Cup Collection, Qutori Wines’ 2017 Syrah placed Best in Show at this year’s Colorado Uncorked wine tasting event at the History Colorado Center on November 15.

Kate Greenberg, Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, congratulates Qutori Wines owner Julie Bennett, vintner Tyler Bennett, and husband Richard Bennett.
Kate Greenberg, Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, congratulates Qutori Wines owner Julie Bennett, vintner Tyler Bennett, and husband Richard Bennett.Krista Kafer

Remarkably, Paonia-based Qutori Wines is only two years old and a first-time participant in the Governor’s Cup competition. Vintner Kyle Bennett, the 27-year-old son of Qutori Wines owner Julie Bennett, credits the support of the community for the winery’s early success. “I had a lot of help from the people of Paonia,” he says. “It’s a special place.”

Bold and full-bodied, Qutori’s Syrah is eminently drinkable with or without food.

“We are truly honored and humbled to be recognized as the Best in Show winner at Colorado Uncorked and featured alongside all these wonderful Colorado Wines,” adds Julie Bennett, “We are proud to bring this trophy back to Paonia and the West Elks AVA.”

Governor’s Cup Collection wines were selected by a panel of national and Colorado wine experts from among 251 Colorado wines crafted by 43 wineries. The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board (CWIDB) will showcase the Collection in marketing and education efforts over the next twelve months. Six winning wineries from last year’s competition made this year’s list, joined by three first-time entrants: Qutori, The Storm Cellar in Hotchkiss, and Vino Salida Wine Cellars in Poncha Springs.

A lively crowd packed the History Colorado Center at the public tasting event, which offered a taste of all the Governor’s Cup wines, paired with small plates from thirteen of the state’s outstanding chefs. “Each year it gets bigger and better,” noted Doug Caskey, executive director of the board. Five years ago, the event drew just 100 people, while this year’s drew 650 wine drinkers.

The 2019 Governor’s Cup Collection boasts some truly exceptional red and white wines. Denver-based Bonacquisti Wine Company’s 2018 Tempranillo, with its berry notes and chocolately finish, is one of the winery’s best. One of the state’s oldest wineries, Plum Creek Winery in Palisade, also made the list with its exceptional 2016 Cabernet Franc. In addition to having the coolest label, Red Fox Cellars’ 2017 Nebbiolo, a robust Palisade wine made from Grand Valley grapes, is an excellent choice for winter dining.

BookCliff Vineyards fielded two superb reds this year: 2016 Ensemble Red Blend and 2016 Graciano, both made from grapes grown on BookCliff’s Palisade vineyards. The latter, a dark, robust Spanish wine, paired beautifully with a mini-dish of roasted beets and pork terrine from Black Cat Bistro.

Likewise, the sous vide braised lamb shoulder from chef Christopher Moore of Degree Metropolitan Food + Drink paired well with the 2016 Petite Sirah from Snowy Peaks Winery. Dark in color and complex in taste, this wine was one of my favorites. Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel chef Scott Skomal’s tender lamb cut like butter and was the perfect complement to the Colterris 2017 Petit Verdot, a wine with raspberry notes and a velvety finish.

The 2019 Colorado UnCorked Public Tasting Event hosted 650 guests.
The 2019 Colorado UnCorked Public Tasting Event hosted 650 guests. Photographer Mel Hill

Another standout was Ocean Prime chef Roman Rodriguez’s tender ahi tuna tartare and the crisp Vidal Blanc-based 2018 NSFW White Blend made by Carlson Vineyards. NSFW stands for “Not Safe For Work,” but I’d be willing to take the risk. Carlson Vineyards’ second Governor’s Cup contender, a cherry wine made with 100 percent Grand Valley Montmorency cherries, is worth a pour. The slightly sweet, slightly tart wine is the perfect dessert drink for anyone who finds most dessert wines too cloying. It paired well with a streusel pizza bite from Sazza Pizza + Salads, but would be even better with chocolate.

Other fantastic white wines in the collection include two luscious 2018 Rieslings from the Storm Cellar in Paonia, one dry and one off-dry, and a succulent 2018 Moscato made by Grand Junction’s Whitewater Hill Vineyards.

One of the few Colorado wineries making vermouth, Vino Salida Wine Cellars, presented its Vino Vermouth di Salida – Rosso. Vino Salida’s red vermouth tastes like Christmas in a bottle; thr holiday spice-infused elixir would make a dazzling dinner aperitif or dessert wine or add zest to a Manhattan, mulled wine or Christmas spritzer.