First Denver Wine Fest: Not For Night Owls

November 7 2005, 10:27 PM
I'm beginning to see signs of my future self. I'm gimping around on my bad ankle now, but the going is painfully slow. Everyday tasks like a quick jaunt to the grocery store can take up half my afternoon, getting up and down the staircase is a lengthy process that leaves me achy and irritated, and I'm attending weekend cocktail events that end at 5 p.m. sharp. Last weekend, I attended the first Denver International Wine Festival, the culmination of Denver Wine Week. The event started far too early for night owls like me, with a 10 a.m. VIP tasting (I missed it, natch) and a general event, that spanned several ballrooms at the Oxford Hotel from noon until 5 p.m. Now, maybe it's because I only spit my wine if it's really nasty, but Saturday mornings for me are for sleeping in, cleaning house, running errands, lounging around, playing in the mountains, or a million other weekend activities. Plus I don't generally roll out of bed and think, "Hey, a nice glass of Cabernet sounds great with my Wheaties." Maybe it's just me. Of course, judging by the still-sparse crowd by the time I did arrive in the mid-afternoon, I'm not the only one who prefers to observe the rule of cocktail hour. (Okay, lunchtime at the very earliest.) Even organizer Christopher Davies, co-founder and publisher of the presenting sponsor, Wine Country Network and Wine Country International magazine, was disappointed in the poor showing. He told me at the end of the event that the crowd reached into the several hundreds, but I'm sure he was expecting at least double that amount. Still, it's only the first year of the event, it's a sound concept that Denverites should appreciate, and perhaps it will grow into a truly significant festival. And it certainly wasn't without its highlights. Before 5 p.m. approached, I was able to zip around the ballrooms (actually, I gimped to a table and hubby kindly zipped on my behalf) and tasted nearly a dozen different wines. We were baffled by an incredibly peppery 2004 Syrah by Colorado-based Balistreri Vineyards - it was too spicy for me, but a friend of ours stocked up and bought a few bottles, saying it reminded him of older, peppery California Zinfandels from 20 years ago. We liked the 2002 Mountain Cuvee by Gundlach Bundschu, but we liked their dense, rich 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon even more. I liked the unusual Estival wine from the Vinedo de los Vientos winery in Uruguay, a pale gold white wine with an interesting, mossy bouquet and the sweet-tart flavor of green apples. I don't personally care for port wines, but my husband loved the organic Caso Dos Jordoes tawny port from Portugal; my personal favorite of the day was a crisp, refreshing Chilean dry Riesling from Don Reca that had a nice acidity and a faint aroma of figs. Overall, it was a really great event, and the food and wines were lovely. But hopefully next year they'll get more folks out to the tasting, and perhaps they'll reconsider the early-bird timeline.