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This story is part of the 5280 Guide to Colorado Wine. Read the full feature here.
Wine director Mary Allison Wright’s choice to pour 100 percent natural vino at Morin, LoDo’s four-month-old contemporary French restaurant, may not sound radical. But in its own way, it is a statement. The vast majority of wines on the market do not fall under the “natural wine” heading, which, at its core, rebels against mainstream methods by following common threads: Add nothing (commercial yeasts, sugar, acid) to the grapes; remove nothing (leaving the wine unfined and unfiltered); and use modest, if any, amounts of the preservative sulfur dioxide (which is natural, after all). “It’s a truer expression of the grape and the land,” Wright says. Truer or not—a matter of debate in the wine industry—one thing is certain: These wines are anything but cookie cutter, or even predictable from year to year.
Although Colorado isn’t at the epicenter of the movement, there are some local producers making exciting natural (or natural-ish) wines. Situated above 6,000 feet in Hotchkiss, Lance Hanson made Jack Rabbit Hill Farm the state’s first certified biodynamic winery in 2007. Lower pressures from disease and pests at that elevation make Hanson’s style of chemical-free viticulture easier, but he carries his non-interventionist approach into the cellar, too, cultivating authentic expressions of his land’s terroir—which you can taste in Jack Rabbit’s nuanced dry Riesling and red fruited, energetic Pinot Meunier-Pinot Noir blend.
Meanwhile, Colorado-born Nathan Littlejohn recently opened Monkshood Cellars in Minturn after stints at prestigious places like Mayacamas Vineyards in Napa Valley. His natural wines are born of a minimalist methodology that does include sulfur dioxide, but Littlejohn lets the fruit speak in the bottle, resulting in a compelling, unadulterated, baked-apple-noted Chenin Blanc and a peppery-floral Syrah.