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… well, really wasn’t much of a smack down… instead, it was a cordial gathering of wine nerds (wine nerds in the best sense of the expression).  We may have been the only 7 people in all of Denver drinking wine on St. Patrick’s Day.

What started as a comment on the ColoradoWino.com blog grew in to the Virginia – Colorado Taste-Off.  Last month I stumbled on to the Colorado Wino website while searching for wine bars in the Denver area in preparation for an upcoming trip.   Jake, the founder of ColoradoWino.com, posted an article about a new wine bar in Denver that I commented on which then led to several back-and-forth emails.  In one of the emails, Jake suggested that we have a Virginia – Colorado blind tasting while I was out there.  This sounded like an excellent opportunity to showcase wines from both Colorado and Virginia – two states with great wine that rarely receive much deserved recognition on the national wine stage.  (For additional background on this tasting, check out this post on ColoradoWino.com.)

After several weeks of emailing, blogging, and Twittering about this event – the Virginia – Colorado Taste-Off went down on Wednesday night.  Paul Bonacquisti, owner of Bonacquisti winery graciously opened his winery to host the event.  Bonaquisti is an Urban winery located in a storefront, adjacent to two other urban wineries, in the Highlands area of Denver.

Tasting Format: We tasted in to two flights – a red blend flight, and a cab franc flight.  Each flight was tasted blind.  Seven tasters participated in the taste-off. Each person scored wines based on their preferred scoring methodology, and then select their favorite wine of each flight.  Jake and I revealed our favorites at the same time.  I used a 10-point scoring scale, while Jake used an 11-point scoring scale.

Team Virginia:

Team Colorado:

(photo taken by Greg Tally @WineCountryInn)

Red Blend Flight: The red blend flight contenders were Keswick Consensus, Mountfair Inaugural from Virginia, and Alfred Eames Collage and Bonacquisti D Red from team Colorado.  The Keswick Consensus was the clear winner – both Jake and I selected this one as our favorite as did the majority of the tasters.  The Keswick 2008 Consensus – a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Chambourcin, and 12% Petite Verdot – was created by a team of Keswick wine club members during the annual Keswick blending party.   Hat tip to the Keswick club members who created this Consensus blend – well done.

The Alfred Eames Collage – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot – finished second by majority as well (but who ever remembers the runner up 😉 ).  I took the remainder of the Collage with me and paired it with lamb chops the next night – even better the second night.

Jake and I after results for the red blend flight. My Colorado counterpart looks surprised as the winner, Keswick Consensus, was unveiled. ‘V’ is for Virginia Victory. #justsayin (photo taken by Greg Tally @WineCountryInn)

Cab Franc Flight: After tallying results from the red blend flight, we moved on to the Cabernet Franc wines.  Representing Virginia in the Cab Franc flight were Pollak, Keswick, and Blenheim, and on team Colorado were Bonacquisti and Infinite Monkey Theorem.  Since Cab Franc tends to grow well and produce exceptional wines in both Colorado and Virginia I was really looking forward to this flight.

The majority of the tasters selected Infinite Monkey Theorem as their favorite Cab Franc. Like Bonacquisti, Infinite Monkey Theorem is also an urban winery located in the Sante Fe Arts District.  Infinite Monkey Theorem winemaker, Ben Parsons, was also in attendance.   Topping Jake’s scoring sheet was the 2008 Bonacquisti followed by Infinite Monkey Theorem.  Ranking #1 on my tasting sheet was the Pollak 2007 Reserve, followed closely by Infinite Monkey Theorem.

I admit that I am very partial to the Pollak Cab Franc Reserve and immediately indentified it by the aroma profile.  I have had many bottles of this wine, and consider it one of the best Virginia Cab Francs.  One disappointment of the tasting was the Blenheim 2003 Cab Franc.  Since 2003 was a very challenging growing season here in Virginia I thought twice about bringing this one.  In retrospect, and in fairness, I should have brought a more recent vintage of Blenheim.

The Winners - Infinite Monkey Theorem Cab Franc and Keswick Consensus (photo taken by Greg Tally @WineCountryInn)

It’s worth noting that the results may have been slightly affected by our respective ‘home state bias.’  With the exception of one wine, I picked each of the Virginia wines as we tasted them.  Given Jake’s knowledge of Colorado wines and the fact that there were two winemakers in the group, they too could easily pick out the Colorado wines.  Nothing wrong with a little home-state bias tho.

Although Virginia-Colorado taste-off was technically a draw, I feel both states were winners in this tasting – we all tasted wines we would not have had otherwise tasted, and both, Colorado and Virginia wineries received recognition and buzz that they wouldn’t have otherwise received.

Takeaways from the tasting:

  1. Virginia does have a distinguishable terroir that is very evident in a 1-on-1 comparison tasting with wines from another region.
  2. I am partial to Virginia terroir.
  3. Both Colorado and Virginia are turning out some great juice.

Lesson Learned: Don’t mix cold medicine and wine.  Unfortunately, I was fighting a cold before I left for Denver that got worse leading up to the taste-off on Wednesday night.  To offset the body aches, headache, and sore throat, I took cold medicine a couple of hours prior to the tasting.  By the time the tasting started I was headache and sore throat free.  However, I learned a valuable lesson that will serve me well in the future – cold medicine and wine do not mix!  Although I only drank about a glass of wine throughout the tasting (I spit mostly), my head was spinning by the end of the tasting.

I will be back in Denver during the Summer and look forward to a rematch – this time with whites and maybe Roses.

(photo taken by Greg Tally @WineCountryInn)

A big thanks to Jake for putting this event together, to Paul Bonacquisti for his hospitality and for allowing us to use his winery for the tasting, to everyone else who attended, and to Kat at Keswick Vineyards for providing the winning red blend!