Saturday in the Park on September 17, 2011, at the 20th Annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade, had something for everyone who loves wine and food, including rain and sunshine. Aside from an abundance of great wine and food, there was live music, the opportunity to stomp grapes, sample olive oil, buy wine-themed t-shirts, jewelry, and pottery, and marvel at Miss D’Vine, a walking grapevine on stilts. The people-watching was superb, including those who made their own pretzel necklaces so a carbohydrate was always available to help clear the palate between tastes of wine.
Upon arriving at Riverbend Park via yellow school buses (driven by real school bus drivers!), the day’s intrepid wine-tasters were given a 6-pack tote bag designed to carry a half-dozen bottles purchased onsite (free wine storage was available at the festival). Other essentials included sunglasses, an umbrella, and a wineglass-holding lanyard to offer a convenient place to put your wine glass, leaving hands free to taste food and try on jewelry.
One way to enjoy the many good choices in wine and food was to travel from tent to tent, sampling only the award-winning wines. This year, 6 Double Gold, 23 Gold, 27 Silver, 38 Bronze, and 22 Honorable Mention medals were awarded in the 2011 Colorado Winefest Best of Fest Competition. The “Best of Show” winner, which also won “Best Red Wine” and was named a “Double-Gold Winner,” was the 2009 Kahil Winery Mesa County Malbec, made by 26-year-old winemaker Tyrel Lawson, who was on hand to pour his wonderfully smoky, dense wine. The 2010 Kahil Mountain Winery Snipes Mountain Pinot Gris won a Gold Medal.
Boulder Creek Winery’s 2010 Chardonnay won “Best White Wine,” and Colorado Cellars Winery Blackberry won “Best Fruit Wine.” In addition to the Kahil Winery Malbec and Boulder Creek Winery Chardonnay, the other Double Gold Winners were: 2006 Spero Winery Vino e Buono Cabernet Franc, 2008 Spero Winery Vino e Buono Syrah, 2009 Two Rivers Winery Mesa County Syrah, and 2009 Stone Cottage Cellars Syrah.
Another way to appreciate the wines was to taste vineyard by vineyard, lingering at each tent to sample the full array of wines from a particular winemaker. This was the case with Bonacquisti Wine Company, Bookcliff Vineyards, Canyon Wind Cellars, Graystone Vineyards, Guy Drew Vineyards, Plum Creek Winery, and Two Rivers Winery.
Numerous food carts kept wine-tasters well fed during the day. The VIP Tent had food stations where culinary students prepared and served everything from beef tenderloin with tarragon aioli to Thai chicken, Colorado lamb with polenta, a summer vegetable tart, and salad with spring mix, roasted golden beets, smoked salmon, crumbled feta cheese, and toasted hazelnuts, with citrus vinaigrette. Cheesecake in a Jar greeted wine tasters at the entrance to the booth, with samples of sweet and savory cheesecakes.
At the end of the day, wine tasters now laden with bottles of Colorado wine and olive oil, and treasures from the artists’ booths, boarded waiting yellow school buses and headed for home. There they can enjoy some of the tastes from the 2011 Winefest, and anticipate experiencing next year’s event.