Having first met in Crested Butte, fallen in love in Colorado, and cultivated our passion for making really good wine here in Colorado, there’s no place we’d rather be. There’s something about this land, the people, and the way time passes here. You can see it in the vibrant sunsets, draping the sandstone cliffs that tower over the Western Slope’s orchards and vineyards, feel it while shaking hands and exchanging laughs with a farmer as you load up the season’s harvest, and taste it while taking that first sip of a new vintage, as fall’s cooler air funnels into the valley and golden aspens glow in the low-angled afternoon sun.
Colorado is truly a special place, and we aim to share as much of it with you as possible. From the terroir, to the history, and the adventures that await, come back here often for our family’s favorites of Colorado and Crested Butte.
Things are getting busy here in the winery this spring!
Bottling the reds-
Much of the winter was spent preparing our red wines from previous vintages for bottling. We ‘racked’ each wine, moving it from barrel to tank, and allowed the wine to settle before bottling. We don’t fine or filter our red wines, so careful racking and time for tank settling help us achieve bright, clear reds with a lot of aromatics and mouthfeel. Once the wine has settled in the tank, we are ready to bottle.
This winter we bottled the 2019 Pinot Noir, 2019 Cinsault, 2019 Cabernet Franc and the 2018 Red Blend. We have a small bottling machine in the winery that allows us to bottle everything in house. Bottling days can be long and repetitive, but we have a great team of volunteers to make it fun, and we always enjoy a delicious lunch paired with our newly bottled wine.
Preparing the Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc-
Along with getting all of our red wine ready to bottle and sell this summer, we’ve also been working on our 2020 Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc, especially now with the warmer weather! Right now, we are cold stabilizing our Rosé and Sauv Blanc to prepare them for filtering and bottling. Cold stabilizing is a winery process in which the wine is chilled to just above its freezing point for about two weeks. During this time the tartrates crystallize and precipitate. Once this process is finished, we can then rack the clean wine to a new tank and leave behind the crystals.
Most of this winter has been preparing our new releases for the summer season, and we’re very excited about them. Keep your eyes out for the new vintages to try this spring and summer and let us know what you think!
Pronounced, ‘san-so’, Cinsault is a red grape varietal that is known for its light body, fruit forward characteristics, and aromatics. Cinsault is from the south of France, most commonly found in the Languedoc region, southern Rhone, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Cinsault can be found around the world, but it is often called other names such as Ottanvianello in Italy, Black Prince in Australia, and Pinotage in South Africa.
Most often in winemaking Cinsault is used for rosés or as a blending wine because it adds freshness, fruit, and aromatic qualities to heavier reds like Carignan, Syrah or Grenache. Some argue that because Cinsault is a high-yielding grape with lower tannins, it should just be used as a blending tool, but we definitely don’t see it that way. The lightness in body, acid, fruit forwardness and touch of spice create a wine that is incredibly drinkable on its own and ready to open in its youth. Cinsault is also very drought tolerant, can withstand high winds, and ripens earlier in the season (avoiding fall frosts), which make it a varietal that is very well suited for Colorado. We source our Cinsault from Black Bear Orchards in Palisade and they do a great job of farming the fruit!
Because it’s so drinkable, you can honestly pair our Cinsault with whatever you’re cooking! I personally recommend it with a stew or braised meat, but it is also delicious with pizza, seafood, cheese and more. It’s also a wonderful summer wine to have outside, with friends, served slightly chilled. Cheers!
Last week we had a virtual tasting in which we paired a bottle of our newly released 2019 Cabernet Franc with three different chocolates locally made by Crumb de la Crumb bakery here in Gunnison. It was great to see all of our neighbors on Zoom and we were able to learn so much from Shelby about the process of chocolate making, and how it affects the flavor profile of the wine we are drinking. The dark chocolate bar gave the Cab Franc a very earthy profile while the milk chocolate vanilla truffle brought out the wine’s fruit flavors, and while the salted caramel tart was beyond delicious, I ultimately decided that maybe one of our white wines might suit it better. It was a very fun and delicious experiment.
So how should you pair wine and chocolate?
First, choose high quality chocolate.
We learned a couple tips for choosing the right chocolate. Everything from looking at where the cacao was sourced to the percentage of cacao in the chocolate bar will let you know both the quality level and how dark the chocolate will be. We also learned that shinier chocolate bars that break easily with a clean snap are higher in quality. Another test is to rub chocolate between your fingers, if it starts to melt then it is good stuff! This is a fun way to use all of your senses while tasting chocolate, a lot like we do with tasting wine!
Second, choose the right wine.
Red wine and dark chocolate can both have intense, at times bitter flavors. So pairing a very dark chocolate with a highly tannic wine can overwhelm your palate. We learned from this tasting that choosing a softer, more fruit forward wine can enhance the chocolate flavors. Or conversely, choosing a milk chocolate can enhance the fruitiness of a more tannic wine.
Third, have fun and play around.
This tasting really surprised me in how three separate pairings can alter the taste of the same wine so differently. I had a lot of fun comparing the chocolates and learning more about the similarities and differences between chocolate making and winemaking. The best part is that there is endless chocolate and wine to mix and match, and you really can't go wrong.
If you missed our virtual tasting pick up a bottle of our Cab Franc from us, find some chocolate and try it yourself! Also stay tuned to our website where we will post future events with more good food and great wine.
What should I do while visiting Crested Butte this winter, aside from skiing?
Crested Butte is an amazing place to explore during the winter, and while most visitors flock towards our ski mountain, there are so many other activities where you can enjoy the beauty and spirit of our valley!
Cross Country Skiing-
CB is actually the Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado with over 50km of groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing! Our Nordic Center offers equipment rentals, day passes and lessons/clinics, which all can be booked online to promote social distancing.
Cross country skiing is a great way to get out into nature and really experience the beauty of our valley. It is also a great workout and a warmer option for days when it’s really cold on the mountain. Also, many of the trails allow dogs, so you can take your pup along for a snowy adventure.
Snow Shoeing and Fat Tire Biking-
Snow shoeing and Fat Biking are other great ways to explore the mountains. CB Nordic and CBMBA have over 10km of groomed trails. You can rent snow shoes at the Nordic Center and Fat Bikes at any of the bike shops in town.
Check out the town-
Have a cozy, quiet day by walking around Elk Avenue or exploring the surrounding streets with colorful houses covered in snow. There are plenty of great coffee shops to fill you with a warm beverage, and shops with unique gifts, warm winter gear, and more. Hungry? Check out the restaurants in town with socially distanced dining, or to-go options!
Visit our tasting room-
Come stop by our tasting room in Gunnison! We are offering full tastings of our wine line-up or any of our wines by the glass, and delicious cheese boards by CB Personal Chefs. It’s a great way to see how our wine is made and warm up after a long day of skiing. Fridays and Saturdays from 2-7pm or by appointment!
Colorado is not the easiest state to live in, for both humans and plants. Our winters are cold, snowy, and long, often lasting into June with surprise frosts, sometimes shocking the plants (and us) while we wait for summer. Our summers can be arid, hot and at times short, like this year when we celebrated Labor Day with a foot of snow in Gunnison Valley. As winemakers, we face challenges of a short growing season, drought, and extreme weather events.
One of the greatest challenges of the Colorado climate for viticulture is the frost events that occur in late spring and early fall. In spring, once the vines’ buds have burst open an unexpected frost can freeze the new green vegetation (containing the flowers that will produce grapes) and damage the crop for the season. In early fall, the vines have not yet entered full ‘dormancy’, in which they have hardened their green vegetative tissue. In a serious cold event that green tissue can freeze and die, preventing transfer of sugars and nutrients to the plant and impacting the following year’s crop and the vine’s overall health. These frost events impact the crop load, vine strength, and limit the growing season time.
In the same way that these extreme conditions make Colorado viticulture an act of resiliency and perseverance, the conditions also allow us to make very distinctive and beautiful wines. When a vine has too easy access to water and nutrients, the result is large grape clusters that are diluted in flavor, with a lower sugar to tannin ratio. This makes wines that are simpler with less structure. Additionally, excess resources for the vine allows it to grow a very large canopy, which shades the fruit and prevents ripening. Alternatively, when a vine experiences mild water stress, there is a light, porous canopy that perfectly ripens grapes and allows the root system to search deeper in the soil for water and nutrients. Our arid, hot climate with warm days and cool nights helps us achieve this balanced canopy. The fruit from these vines produce wines that are well structured, balanced, and show off the unique terroir.
Achieving vine balance and mitigating freeze damage were big topics at this year’s VinCO, a conference on Colorado winemaking and grape growing, with several lectures from viticulturalists, enologists and researchers from CO and beyond. Many industry experts provided strategies to protect the vines from extreme temperatures, information on cold-tolerant varieties and climate data from CSU. With the collective sharing of information and wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm from the Colorado wine community, we can continue to make great wine, even with the unpredictable Colorado weather.
Colorado has two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), the official US term for a specific vineyard zone. AVAs are based on the specific geography, soil and climate that make the area unique for winemaking. This is similar to France’s AOP designations or Italy’s DOC classifications that we see on many labels of European wine. For a wine to be labelled as an AVA, 85% of the fruit must come from that zone. AVAs help us know where our wine is from, and also gives us a greater understanding about the special characteristics from a certain area.
Colorado’s first AVA is The Grand Valley, located outside of Grand Junction and Palisade, a major fruit growing region full of orchards and vineyards. The Grand Valley is situated alongside the Colorado River, with an elevation around 4,000 feet above sea level, a relatively mild climate (for Colorado’s standards) and alluvial soils, which all contribute to its ability to grow great fruit. The Colorado River allows for irrigation in the vineyards, but also keeps surrounding temperatures milder in the winter, reducing the risk of frost, and provides a cool breeze in the summer. The contrast between the warm days and cool nights allows for great ripening conditions, and varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Franc thrive here. Check out our Cabernet Franc sourced from Black Bear Orchards in this region!
The West Elks is Colorado’s second AVA. It is located along the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River through Paonia and Hotchkiss, another prominent fruit growing region of the Western Slope with rich alluvial soils. The elevation is higher than the Grand Valley, at 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. This altitude creates a cooler and shorter growing season than the Grand Valley, which is why varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Pinot Gris work quite well here. Our recently bottled 2019 Pinot Noir has grapes sourced from this region, stay tuned to check it out!