Calling all wine enthusiasts (read: pretty much everyone we know): The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board recently announced the winners of the 2017 Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup competition. Judging 325 wines from 46 Colorado wineries, the 12 winners include a mead, cider and sparkling wine among more traditional varietals.
And you can get a taste of them all before the full case is available at a public tasting event Aug. 3 at The History Colorado Center. Kicking off at 7:30 p.m. for general admission ($45) and 6:30 p.m. for VIPs ($75), the bash couples each of the 12 winners with small plate pairings from notable Colorado chefs. We talked with Doug Caskey, executive director of the CWIDB, to get the inside scoop on the event and the vino victors.
Was it difficult to choose the winners this year with so many entries?
“Well, we started with 325 entries from 46 wineries and narrowed that down to 12, so it is a big task. We had four panels of judges, so each judge didn’t taste 325 wines, but they all tasted a lot. When you tell people, ‘I am going to spend the weekend tasting 300 wines,’ everybody says, ‘That sounds fun!’ But it’s really hard work.”
You used a 10-point scale to judge the wines. What characteristics were you looking for?
“Point scales in wine go all over the place. Most people are familiar with the 100 point scale like the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast all use, but a lot of judges have concerns about that because if you taste the same wine twice, the chances of coming up with the same score on a 100-point scale are rather limited. So a lot of people use a 20-point scale, which we took one step further. In the years that I’ve been participating in competitions as a judge, or running them, I realized that using numeric scores as an average usually isn’t a good indication of the quality of a wine—somebody’s going to love it or hate it. Years ago, someone introduced me to using judge’s consensus and that’s the process we use here.
“This year we really had no need of numeric scores because it was a pretty clear delineation. We had 24 of 325 wines that received either a gold or a double gold medal, which means either two panels of judges awarded a gold or all the judges on one panel agreed on the gold medal. From that 24, it was very easy to pick the top 12. What I think is interesting about this year is that we have 12 different wineries with 12 completely different grape varieties or styles. In previous years we’ve had one, or three like last year, wineries that had more than one wine in the case, which is great, but it’s nice to have a greater representation of wineries this year. This is also the first year we have a sparkling wine in the case.”
Colorado tends to get somewhat of a bad rap when it comes to wine. How would you say our bottles compare to the rest of the world?
“Absolutely. Most all of our judges have judged other national competitions, so they don’t just give away gold medals. They are aware of the standards at other competitions and that’s what they’re bringing to this one, which is one of the reasons why we really work to find people who have experience at other competitions and aren’t just focused on the Colorado market. If you just randomly pick a bottle of wine off the shelf from California or France, it may be fantastic and it may be mediocre. And I think that’s the truth anywhere you go. I think what happens is that, partially because Colorado consumers are so discerning, well-educated and kind of spoiled because we have a better selection than most states our size, Coloradans get much more skeptical about our local wines. I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, I tasted a Colorado wine 10 years ago and it wasn’t very good.’ Nobody says that about France or Italy. You don’t give up on Italian wine because it wasn’t so great. What we’ve found is that when people taste the wines, they are surprised and become supporters.”
Do you have a favorite winning wine from the competition?
“Yes, all of them! I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to have such a broad range this year—that’s what I like. Every single one of these wines is completely different and they are all really well made. Whether it’s one of the sweeter dessert wines or the dry sparkling wine or the cider, they are all remarkable wines that you want to drink again and again.”
What are you most excited for with the public tasting event?
“What I love about this event is that we really try to get the chefs to create a menu item that pairs specifically with the wine they have for the night. Over the two years, we’ve done this event at History Colorado, I’ve heard several comments that this is one of the best food and wine tasting events people have been to and I think it’s because the chefs are focused on one wine. For me, pairing wine with food is the best part. When you get a pairing that is a perfect match, the experience is greater than the sum of its parts.”
THE 2017 GOVERNOR’S CUP CASE WINNERS
- 2016 Reisling, Colorado from Boulder’s Bookcliff Vineyards
- 2015 Lemberger Grand Valley AVA from Palisade’s Carlson Vineyards
- Raspberry wine from Palisade’s Colorado Cellars
- Grasshop-ah Cider from Denver’s Colorado Cider Company
- 2014 Cabernet Franc, Colorado from Evergreen’s Creekside Cellars
- 2015 Syrah, Colorado from Cortez’s Guy Drew Vineyards
- Strawberry Honey from Palisade’s Meadery of the Rockies
- 2013 “The Bubble Universe,” Sparkling Albarino, Grand Valley AVA from Denver’s The Infinite Monkey Theorem
- 2015 Port, Mesa County from Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Winery
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, American from Boulder’s Decadent Saint
- 2016 Sweetheart Red, Grand Valley AVA from Grand Junction’s Whitewater Hill Vineyards
- 2015 Reserve Merlot, Colorado from Canon City’s The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey