Colorado gained a little more recognition for its growing wine culture this week: Industry magazine Wine Enthusiast named Kyle Schlachter of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board (CWIDB) one of its 40 Under 40 Tastemakers for 2017.
Schlachter, outreach coordinator for the CWIDB, is a Colorado wine enthusiast who passionately promotes our state's wines within the broader national and international industry. Sometimes this means busting false assumptions. “If people don’t know that wine comes from Colorado, they assume no good wine comes from Colorado,” says Schlachter, adding that when people actually try the wine, they are pleasantly surprised.
Schlachter seeks opportunities to get samples of Colorado’s finest — in particular, the twelve wines selected during the annual Governor’s Cup Competition — into the hands of the who’s-who of the wine industry. Recently, Tim Mondavi, scion of Robert Mondavi and head of Continuum Estate winery, had sipped Colorado’s wine wares and was impressed.
Colorado’s 140 wineries are small mom-and-pop businesses compared to the wine giants of California and New York. Although increasingly recognized for their quality, the wines of the Centennial State remain a bargain. Colorado’s sweet spot, says Schlachter, is wine in the $20 bottle range. The same mid-priced, high-quality wine from a boutique winery in Napa Valley would cost $40 a bottle.
In addition to introducing the world to Colorado wine, Schlachter introduces Colorado vintners to different types of wine and experts through USDA-supported educational seminars. Syrah, petit verdot, cabernet franc and riesling grapes grow well in Colorado’s vinicultural regions in Grand Valley, the Paonia-Hotchkiss area, Four Corners and Cañon City, but Schlachter wants to see vineyards experiment with other grapes, too.
Schlachter’s passion for wine precedes his seven-year tenure at the CWIDB. While teaching at the Colorado Women's College at the University of Denver and working on a Ph.D., he gave wine classes for faculty and staff on the side. Although his background is in environmental science, it was becoming clear to co-workers and eventually Schlachter himself that wine was his true calling. The dissertation would have to wait.
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For Schlachter, wine is both an intellectual and sentimental pursuit. “Wine is geography in a bottle. You can explore the world through wine. You can taste the history, the sunshine, the culture, the soil,” he says. Wine also weaves a thread through his own history; he can remember, as though returning to the very moment, the taste of wine at seminal moments of his life — the toast at his wedding, for example.
Talking about wine with Schlachter makes you want to drink wine, especially Colorado wine. His knowledge and zeal is no doubt why he was named by Wine Enthusiast a 40 Under 40 Tastemaker.
In addition to his day job, Schlachter blogs about wine and occasionally writes for wine magazines.