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There’s never been a better year to shop locally, and you’ve most likely already made an effort to do just that by buying Colorado-made holiday gifts, supporting your favorite neighborhood restaurants, and buying from area farmers and makers. Keep that local love flowing into your wine glass by grabbing a bottle of Centennial State vino to pair with all the treats and feasts you’re bound to devour in the coming weeks. Besides bolstering local wineries, you’ll get the added benefit of a downright delicious drink—recent harvests have been stellar, and what Colorado artisans are producing just gets better and better.
“The quality remains high,” says Kyle Schlachter, outreach coordinator for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “The grape yield in 2020 was smaller than normal due to a late season freeze in October 2019, but this smaller vintage yields high-quality grapes. Also, many of the wines released this year from the 2017 and 2018 vintages have received 90+ scores from the nation’s top wine publications.”
While COVID-19 incongruously benefited a number of local wineries, thanks to more people traveling within the state and amply serving themselves at home, many small businesses have kept their tasting rooms shuttered, relying entirely on online sales. “Dealing with COVID has been a struggle for everyone, as our industry has had to adapt to the complex changes COVID has had on the hospitality industry,” Schlachter says.
For Hotchkiss winery the Storm Cellar, co-owner Jayme Henderson says that the pandemic has had both positive and negative effects. “‘Challenging’ has been the word of the year, along with ‘pivoting,’” Henderson says. She’d applied for a loan in February to build a tasting room and expand the winery, but then: “We were about to sign papers and then the banks basically lost faith. We did not get our construction loan. It was devastating.”
Since the Storm Cellar doesn’t have a tasting room, most of its revenue in 2019 came from farmers’ markets, restaurants, and liquor store sales. Two of those avenues dried up to a trickle in March of this year, but steady liquor store sales and some quick adapting on Henderson and spouse-partner Steve Steese’s part have allowed the business to remain solvent. In the spring, they began mailing out quarantine packs—bottles of their wines packaged with spices from Aurora’s the Spice Guy—and were among the first wineries to host virtual tastings on Instagram Live. Henderson and Steese also bought tables and umbrellas, and arranged them outside their winery for a makeshift al fresco tasting room. They brought in local chef Brandt Bishop to create Colorado-sourced charcuterie boards, too, and reached new customers through such efforts.
But, Henderson stresses, it was and continues to be a struggle. “A lot of Colorado wineries are tiny, family-run operations. A lot of them have been hurt. They don’t necessarily have an online presence and they can’t turn on a dime to offer those services.”
To make sure our drinking dollars are going back to your Colorado community, we picked, along with the help of the Colorado Wine Board, nine local wines that you can buy for your virtual holiday shindigs and at-home events:
Vino Salida Wine Cellars Vermouth*
Drink with: savory appetizers, like charcuterie, cheeses, olives, and Mallorca almonds
Sauvage Spectrum Sparkling Rosé
Drink with: creamy cheeses like brie or any triple crème and other rich foods
Plum Creek Cellars Cabernet Franc*
Drink with: all of the meat, especially pork, beef, duck, sausage, lamb, and veal
The Storm Cellar Dry Riesling or Riesling*
Drink with: raw, cured, or smoked fish, creamy sauces, goat cheese, or lightly pickled vegetables
Chill Switch Wines Syrah
Drink with: braised beef, duck, roast leg of lamb, and Gouda and Edam cheeses
Bonacquisti Wine Company Tempranillo*
Drink with: anything smoked, or tomato-based dishes including pasta
Colterris Winery Petit Verdot*
Drink with: rich cuts of red meat, aged cheeses, wild game, and spicy foods
Whitewater Hill Moscato*
Drink with: alone as an aperitif, with appetizers, sweet brunch dishes, and dessert
Carlson Vineyards Cherry Wine*
Drink with: chocolate and cheese (especially blue, cheddar, or Gruyère), or freeze in ice trays to gussy up holiday spritzers
*Indicates a winner of the 2019 Governor’s Cup