The Rematch – The second Colorado vs. Virginia Wine Taste-Off went down on August 24th at Bonacquisti Winery in Denver, CO.  The first Colorado-Virginia taste-off in March featured the red wines of each state and ended in a draw.  For our second meeting our theme was ‘Summer Wines’ of Colorado and Virginia.

The intent of this tasting was not to declare one state’s wines better than the other, but rather to taste wines from two states with little nationwide distribution and to showcase wines that rarely receive ‘out-of-state’ attention they each deserve. Mission accomplished!  A good time was had by all, and each state’s wines picked up a few new fans.

Group at the table at the end of flight 1. Jacob Harkins, Bruce Shoenfeld, Frank Morgan, Brandy Manix, Shari Caudron not pictured. (Photos courtesy of Greg Tally of Colorado Wine Country Inn.)

A HUGE THANK YOU to the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office and to each winery that supported the Colorado – Virginia wine events last week. I was humbled by the overwhelming response from Virginia wineries:

Round 1 of ‘Virginia Wine in Colorado’ was held Bonacquisti Winery in Denver’s Winery Row, and included six flights:

  • Rosé
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay (oaked)
  • Chardonnay (unoaked)
  • Viognier
  • White blend/Open White

Each of the six flights were tasted blind and scored by a panel of five judges – Jake Harkins from Colorado Wino, Bruce Shoenfeld, Wine & Spirits Editor at Travel & Leisure Magazine, Brandi Manix of the International Wine Guild, Shari Caudron from 5280 Magazine, and me.  Also in attendance were several winemakers, winery folks, and friends.

Scoring was based on a ranking system wherein judges scored each wine, then ranked their favorite wines in ascending order for each flight.  I prefer this ‘ranking system’ to the ‘traditional’ point rating scales – 100 point rating system and the 20-point Davis system – to avoid high/low-scoring anomalies.  At the end of each flight, the rankings were tallied and the wines were unbagged.

Given the number of wines in the overall lineup, I decided to break the Colorado trip in to two different tastings.  Not only was this the most practical option in terms of time, this would ensure a maximum number of people would be introduced to Virginia wine.  For round 1 – the blind tasting, we started with the Rosé, then worked our way through the varietal whites and finished with the white blends/open flight.

Rosé Flight:
Winner – Kluge Estate Albemarle rosé 2009
Frank’s top scorer – Boxwood rosé (Boxwood finished #2 in overall scoring)
Jake’s top scorer – Kluge Estate Albemarle rosé 2009

Rose flight top 4 after scores were announced.

Sauvignon Blanc
Winner – Barboursville 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Frank’s top scorer – Barboursville 2009
Jakes’s top scorer – Bonacquisti Wine Co. 2008

Chardonnay (unoaked)
Winner – Afton Mountain steel 2009
Frank’s top scorer – Afton Mountain steel 2009
Jakes’s top scorer – Whitewater Hill 2009

Unoaked Chardonnay top 4 after unbagging.

Chardonnay (oaked)
Winner – Settembre Cellars 2009
Frank’s top scorer – Philip Carter 2009 Chardonnay
Jacob’s top scorer – Boulder Creek Cellars 2009

Oaked Chardonnay flight top 4.

Viognier Flight:
Winner – Creekside Cellars 2009
(This wine was bottled shortly before this tasting and showed exceptionally well.)
Frank’s top scorer – Keswick Vineyards 2009 / Gadino Cellars 2009
Jacob’s top scorer – Creekside Cellars 2009
Scoring for this flight ended in a tie between Creekside Cellars and Keswick Vineyards.  To break the tie, our host for the tasting, Paul Bonacquisti, tasted each wine blind to choose the winner – he selected bag #1 which turned out to be the Creekside Cellars Viognier. Good call, as the Creekside Cellars was an excellent offering.

Viognier flight after unveiling (in random order).

Wild Card White Flight:
Winner – Horton Vineyards 2009 Petit Manseng
Frank’s top scorer – Lovingston Vineyards 2009 White
Jacob’s top scorer – Garrett Estate Cellars 2009 Pinot Gris

In looking at my personal tasting results, I clearly have home-state palate bias as Virginia wine was at the top of my ranking for five of the six flights. I must admit that I expected more from the Viognier flight – from both sides. Coming in to this tasting, I noted in several emails to Jake how amazing Virginia Viogniers are, and I fully expected the Virginia juice to dominate this flight.  Unfortunately, this was not the case as several of the wines in this flight were uncharacteristically disjointed and not showing well.

The surprise flight of the tasting was the oaked Chardonnay flight, which turned out to be my favorite flight of the evening.  I’m usually not a fan of oaked Chardonnay, but was impressed by the complexity and balance of each of the contenders in this flight, especially Colorado’s Settembre Cellars Chardonnay and Virginia’s Philip Carter Chardonnay.  I’m embarrassed to admit this was my first time tasting the Philip Carter Chardonnay (sorry, I’m a bad Virginian 😦 ).

Although Virginia wine won four of the six flights, both states came out as winners in this event.

Takeaways from the tasting:

  1. Virginia wineries are incredibly supportive and eager to spread the word about wines of the Commonwealth. I’m grateful, thank you!
  2. Virginia does have a distinguishable terroir that is very evident in white wines in a 1-on-1 comparison tasting with wines from another region (same observation as prior tasting as well).
  3. Both Colorado and Virginia are turning out some great juice.

Lesson Learned: Plan, and then plan some more. Confirm, and then reconfirm wineries participating in the tasting.  The list of wineries participating was in a constant state of change – two of the wineries that expressed interest in being included in the Colorado tasting were not able to ship wine, and two others that I had not expected to participate did send wine.  One box arrived the afternoon of the tasting, and another unfortunately was set-aside at the winery and wasn’t shipped until the day of the tasting (which was recalled once this was realized).  As wines arrived in Denver (or at my house), I ‘attempted’ to match the Virginia wines for the blind tasting based on the entries from Colorado.

I would like to thank each of my fellow judges and attendees who joined us for this tasting, and especially to Paul Bonacquisti for opening his winery again for us, and to Jacob Harkins who pulled this all together.

For ‘Virginia-Colorado Round 2,’ I teamed up with Barbara Kiebel who manages the Denver Wine Meetup group to present Virginia wines to an enthusiastic group of Coloradoans.  Known to most on Twitter as VinoLuci, Barb pulled together a great group of tasters including a bloggers, a Sommelier, B&B owner, and several other wine enthusiasts.  Recap of Round 2 coming Friday…


Questions, Comments, Complaints, Random Observations? Contact Me Here


Virginia wine line up for round 2.

Some things about Colorado can not be matched. View near Deer Creek area.