Wine tasting at ‘Colorado’s Home’ hasn’t lost its charm

The Colorado Statesman

The second annual event benefitting the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund took place the evening of June 9, over two months earlier than before.

I had such a great time meeting Colorado winemakers last year, I felt the need to make a second appearance. Unfortunately, Governor Hickenlooper wasn’t able to attend, but he graciously opened his home to guests and winners of a recent competition of Colorado wine.

Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, is hosted by Nancy Janes of Whitewater Hill Winery with a taste of award-winning wine at her table on the second level of the “First Gardens.”
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
The lovely view of the Boettcher Mansion from the garden.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, second from left, and Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, second from right, presented awards to Colorado’s favorite winemakers.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

A Celebration of Premier Colorado Wines was presented by the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and the American Wine Society. The event was also sponsored by Laszlo Law, LLC and M3 Solutions for Business. Reportedly, 220 people tasted wine for two days to come up with the winners. What a terrible job that must be!

Cindy Starks of the Preservation Fund made a few announcements introducing the sponsors while enthusiasts perused the wines, the grounds and the mansion itself, which contained staff in every room to give a historical background in the interest of fundraising for the upkeep of the mansion’s historical integrity. A quartet played beautiful background music in front of the property’s carriage house and drew the crowd toward the food. I made a beeline for it since last year I missed out completely, distracted by the ambiance. Let’s be honest, the wine.

The weather was perfect, and it was almost like déjà vu from 2010, though the crowd wasn’t as large. There are around 100 winemakers in the state of Colorado, and I recognized many of the same winners from the previous year, so I stopped by to say hello to those I knew and tasted their award-winning wines once again. Among them were Desert Moon Vineyards (you must try Shiver, their dessert wine), Balistreri (if you can elbow your way to the front of the line) and Two Rivers Winery (they don’t make a bad bottle).

Whitewater Hill’s Riesling is one of the best in Colorado, and Nancy Janes won Best in Show for her 2009. Bonacquisti Winery’s Delagua Red is meant to be good with leftover meatloaf, and Paul Bonacquisti is a genuinely nice guy. John Garlich, owner and winemaker for Bookcliff Vineyards won two awards for Best Red Wine from Spanish or Miscellaneous Varietals and Best Red Wine from Rhone Valley Varietals. (Try the Cabernet Franc as well!)

As I made my way down to the second level of the gardens, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of John Salazar, recently appointed by Gov. Hickenlooper as Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, as well as Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who let us all know that he actually lives in the carriage house on the property. That must be pretty convenient for Hickenlooper, I would imagine, having such easy access to Garcia. I picture them sitting together and drinking wine on the garden level between their houses as they discuss the future of Colorado.

I met up with our editor, Jody Strogoff, and The Colorado Statesman’s own Sara Truax, director of advertising & development, with glasses in hand and waiting for the speakers to begin. One by one, the photographers starting gathering around and I was glad to have a front row spot. I think I’ve mentioned before the difficulties of juggling a purse, camera, notepad and wine glass. A bit more sensible now, the only thing that made it easier was that I wore flat shoes. Yes, this task used to include 3-4 inch heels as well. I was like an Olympian wine journalist; never spilled a drop.

Both Salazar and Garcia made remarks on behalf of Gov. Hickenlooper. Salazar revealed that Hickenlooper wanted to see a 40 percent increase in exports produced in the state this year, and this being June, Salazar was happy to report a 32 percent rise so far. This includes the grape growers of Colorado, who occupy about 1200 acres of vineyards at the moment. Not a bad place to be mid-year.

Garcia read aloud Hickenlooper’s proclamation of Colorado Wine Week becoming June 5 through 11. He made this proclamation during his recent visit to Palisade touring the wineries. Apparently Hickenlooper also vowed to “eat and drink at establishments that serve Colorado wine,” and Garcia joked that shortly thereafter the governor put together a comprehensive list of such businesses.

Apart from the usual cheese and crackers, Sara and I found ham and cheese sandwiches on croissants, chocolate brownie bites, veggies and dip and some other fancy-looking hors d’oeuvres. I made a dinner out of the sandwiches and dessert.

Another lesson I’ve learned recently is that you need to have protein before consuming wine. On our way back up the hill and through the mansion gardens we tasted a few more wines and took some photos inside the mansion before heading back down to the exit.

These events can be a little intimidating, but coming from someone who only drank wine for enjoyment prior to the start of this column, I can tell you that they truly are not. Winemakers love talking about their wine and educating those who have a vague interest in learning more. There is less and less pretence as it becomes a growing interest. Just like novice wine drinkers, most Colorado winemakers are fairly new at their trade, many coming from years in another industry, so they are learning along with you.

The art and science of winemaking has existed a very long time, but in Colorado, as the wines are maturing, so are the palates of its consumers. This can only benefit the winemakers as well as hold them accountable for making quality wines as time goes on, and they are doing just that.

At $65 per person events like this one will not only broaden your horizons with regard to wine, but will continue to be enjoyable as you learn about where your money goes, be it the preservation of a historical landmark, or another local charity benefit. It doesn’t cost a lot to do a lot of good and have fun in the process.