This week Charles Court sommelier David York gives credit to the young, yet sophisticated Colorado wine industry.
When I think about the popularity that Argentine wine is enjoying these days, it’s hard not to wonder why Colorado wine is met with so much apprehension. We have a strikingly similar environment to the trendy South American country. Both climates range from temperate to semi-arid with relatively mild winters. Little precipitation means that growers form both places are using pristine mountain run-off to irrigate their vineyards.
Some of the best wines produced in the two areas come from high altitude mountains that produce a large diurnal shift and a great diversity of micro-climates giving wines ripeness, balance and character. Salta, Argentina boasts the southern hemisphere’s highest elevation vineyard, while West Elks, Colorado has the highest in the northern hemisphere. The parallels seem to be undeniable.
But while Argentine Malbec imports in the US have increased 300% over the past five years, I have to convince some guests to overcome their reluctance and try, what I feel is exceptionally good home-grown juice. How did this happen? How did two nearly mirror images end up on opposite ends of the fashionable scale? The difference is simply that Argentina has been making wine longer; European grapes were introduced there in the middle of the 16th century. Since that time Argentina’s progress has continued unimpeded to where they are today.
Colorado’s wine history is brief by any comparison. The first Colorado grapes were planted in what is now the Grand Valley AVA in 1883. By the turn of the century, Colorado growers were harvesting over 265 tons of grapes a year. Not ten years later, in 1909, that number had nearly doubled. Then in 1916, almost four years before national prohibition, the state of Colorado went dry. Vines were ripped up in favor of more moral fruit, and a budding industry was derailed. The first post-prohibition winery in Colorado wasn’t opened until 1968. That’s over 50 years that Colorado wineries could have been refining the difficult process of figuring out which varietals work best in which spots of the vineyard. It’s also time lost towards the invaluable effort of building reputation.
It’s difficult to project the whims and appetites of the general public. We can’t know for sure how or if the perception of Colorado wine would be different if it weren’t for prohibition. I think it is safe to say, though, the state of Colorado wine is in fine shape despite its truncated history. And people are starting to catch on. With every glowing article written in national publications, our wine becomes more credible. With every Colorado win at international wine competitions, buzz is beginning to form around the Centennial State. You have an opportunity to be in front of this trend.
Join us at Charles Court on Saturday, May 5th. We will be hosting a farmer’s market featuring some of Colorado’s finest wineries, distilleries, and farms. Then that evening our highly acclaimed Chef Greg Barnhill is hosting a farm-to table dinner paired with Colorado wines.
See you there!