Soiree at the Governor’s Mansion

By Kimberly Dean
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

POLITICS UNCORKED

On a warm summer evening at the Boettcher Mansion, recent award-winning Colorado winemakers showcased and poured their best wines in the garden of the beautiful century-old Colorado home. On Wednesday, August 25, Jody and I were invited to attend ‘A Celebration of Premier Colorado Wines’ at the Governor’s Residence. The event was hosted by The American Wine Society and the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, as well as The Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, which was founded by Colorado First Lady Jeannie Ritter in 2007.


Gov. Ritter enters the garden for ‘A Celebration of Premier Colorado Wines’ at the Governor’s Residence.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
First lady Jeannie Ritter and friend.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
A winemaker pours for a guest.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Laurie Budgar and friend at the Spero Winery tasting table.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Gov. Ritter with winemakers from Colorado Cellars.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
The event was hosted by The Amer­ican Wine Society and the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, as well as The Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, which was founded by Colorado First Lady Jeannie Ritter in 2007.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Awards won by Plum Creek Cellars.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
The writer’s four favorites of the evening from Talon Winery.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

Though the home is owned by the state of Colorado, there are no funds set aside for the preservation of the historic landmark. This task primarily fell to First Ladies Frances Owens, Ann Love and of course Jeannie Ritter. Mrs. Ritter founded The Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund in order to “preserve the Residence in perpetuity for the people of Colorado and to provide programs from the Residence that are statewide, inclusive and nonpartisan.”

Invited well in advance of the event by Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, we could not resist, and had been looking forward to this event all summer, bugging Doug with emails every other week.

As soon as Jody and myself arrived at the Mansion, we were greeted by several hosts at the front gate, the front door, and all through the grand house until we made it to a large atrium-like room that had a table set up containing our name tags.

It was at that table where we ran into Governor Ritter. Jody introduced me and thanked him for having us. A gracious host, the Governor later posed for a couple of photos at the request of a couple of winemakers who were obviously proud to be there and wanted a record of it. All too happy to oblige, easy-going Ritter put his smile and his jacket on for the photo opportunity.

We also came upon a long-time acquaintance of Jody’s, Bruce Janda, president of the Denver Chapter of the American Wine Society, who seemed pleased to hear of the addition of a wine column to our paper. We took his card and promised to stay in touch.

Once outside, Jody and I split up with our respective cameras to explore, taste wine, and mingle. While I recognized and socialized with winemakers, Jody no doubt did the same with some of Colorado’s politicos in attendance. It seemed we were both in our element that evening.

As sun-glassed guests sauntered around the garden fountain, dressed as the invitation stipulated in either “business casual or garden attire” with a souvenir wine glass in one hand and wine list in the other, they marked off their favorites for purchase at the end of the evening.

I bumped into Julie Balistreri of Balistreri Vineyards, whom I’d met several times. While we chatted about the current events at her family winery and the weather we had for such an amazing turnout, we made our way over to the Bookcliff Vineyards table to taste their Riesling, which we both agreed was excellent.

While Julie spoke to John Garlich, winemaker, about technical the details such as what the ‘finish’ on the wine was, I met Tom Lipetzky of the Department of Agriculture, who recognized me by my nametag and commented on Politics Uncorked. Among other compliments I’m too modest to mention, he did say that he hoped to see more articles on the topic of wine and politics in future editions of the paper, and I couldn’t agree more. Mr. Lipetzky oversees the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board as the current markets division director and works with Doug Caskey. Lipetzky is also the Department’s chief financial & operations officer.

One wine brand that is worth mentioning is actually new to me and came from Talon Winery. They were pouring four wines for tasting, and though I skipped many that evening, I tried all of theirs: Wingspan White, Wingspan Red, Riesling, and Rosato. The 2008 Wingspan White is a blended white wine of Chardonnay and Viognier that was sent to us by Doug Caskey a while back, though I had not yet had the pleasure of tasting it. To me, they were all very drinkable food wines. It is rare that I like everything at a tasting table, but this was a delightful experience that I hope will be repeated.

Other popular and award-winning wineries were also there including Colorado Cellars, Spero Winery, Snowy Peaks Winery, Creekside Cellars, Plum Creek Winery, and the list goes on. There was live jazz playing outside, which complimented the ambiance. Out in the carriage house, The Inventing Room’s Ian Kleinman, aka the ‘Nitrogen Chef’, was making raspberry, cherry and other wine-flavored sorbets out of some of the wines presented in the garden using liquid nitrogen. Kleinman hand-mixed the ice-wine sorbet which seemed to be a big hit with Jody and some of the other guests fortunate enough to make it past all the wine tables and the food, which was excellent, to the dessert table.

Early on, Jeannie Ritter welcomed guests and friends graciously and with enthusiasm. She seemed very excited to be having this event at her home. Addressing the crowd later in the evening she told a short story about how the event got started. Last October, the Ritters hosted a beer fest at the mansion with about 16 breweries from Colorado. “And the winery folks heard of that and said ‘Hold it’!” The wine event on this evening had triple the attendance.

Jeannie Ritter also complimented her favorite “cheese folks,” who provided some great cheeses and crackers to go with the wine. She said, “We were kind of pushing and shoving around the cheese up there.” I know she was right. I was one of them. It was a bit difficult carrying a purse, a camera, a glass half-full with wine and trying to shove a bit of Camembert in my mouth at the same time while trying to catch the best photo ops. This job isn’t always glamorous, let alone graceful.

I actually bought some of the creamy Camembert the following week from Colorado’s MouCo Cheese Company, Inc. Toward the end of her brief speech, Ritter mentioned that “vintners” is a great Scrabble word. “Great consonants,” she said. You can never have too many helpful board game tips for those rare rainy Colorado days.

After visiting with as many people as I could, I ducked inside to take a sneak peak at the Mansion itself, which seemed more like a museum than a real home, though it is stunning. I certainly understand why the First Lady would set up a Preservation Fund to maintain the historic integrity of its time. Walking up the main hall and seeing the different rooms on either side, I pictured gubernatorial families feasting on a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner in the dining room and having cocktail parties around the piano.

As the last guest to leave from the front gate, a State Trooper locked it behind me as I slipped my complimentary wine glass into my purse and headed home.