Back when John Hickenlooper and his partners founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Hickenlooper was insistent that Colorado's first brewpub pronounced its name “WINkoop.” As he would tell anyone who would listen, “After all, we don't produce WINE.” But Colorado definitely does, and its current governor – one John Hickenlooper – is more than happy to tout the industry, and maybe even drink some of the stuff himself.
The first recorded wine production in Colorado was in 1890 - and it was then-Governor George Crawford, who'd founded Grand Junction in 1881, who first saw the Grand Valley's potential for grape production and planted sixty acres of wine grapes and other fruit along the Colorado River above Palisade. Today Palisade is the home to the state's biggest wine festival — Colorado Mountain Winefest in September — and the state has over 125 licensed wineries and approximately 120 grape growers tending nearly 1,000 acres of vineyards, according to the the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
Last month that group, which is part of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, announced the winners of the 2015 Governor’s Cup Wine Competition. The only statewide winemaking competition exclusively for Colorado wines, this year's contest drew 241 entries from 37 wineries and was judged by a panel of sommeliers, winemakers, writers and wine experts from around the country.
Those judges voted to award the 2015 Governor’s Cup Best of Show to two wines: Canyon Wind Cellars’ 2013 Anemoi Lip and Turquoise Mesa Winery’s 2013 Syrah. Canyon Wind is a family-owned winery founded outside Palisade in 1991. The twelve-year-old Turquoise Mesa Winery is in a much more unlikely wine-making area: Broomfield.
“Each year, the judges continue to note the rise in quality of Colorado wine, and this year was no exception,” says Doug Caskey, executive director of the CWIDB, which hosted a tasting of the winners at Acorn. “We couldn't have been more pleased with the wines that were submitted this year, as well as the excellent group of judges that put in so much effort and thought to choose the winners.”
And on August 1 — Colorado Day — you can taste these sixteen winning wines at a 7:30 p.m. Governor's Cup Wine Tasting at the History Colorado Center that pairs them with food from six local chefs. Tickets are $75 for general admission; get them here.
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In the meantime, you can pick up a Governor's Cup Case, which includes the twelve highest-scoring wines, as well as a special "niche" four-pack, at select retailers along the Front Range. The winners:
2015 Governor's Cup Case (top 12 scoring grape wines)
Bonacquisti Wine Company (Denver): 2013 Malbec, American
Bookcliff Vineyards (Boulder): 2014 Viognier, Grand Valley AVA
Bookcliff Vineyards (Boulder): 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve, Grand Valley AVA
Boulder Creek Winery (Boulder): 2012 Syrah, Colorado
Canyon Wind Cellars/Anemoi (Palisade): 2013 Lips (Syrah), Grand Valley AVA BEST IN SHOW (tie)
Canyon Wind Cellars (Palisade): 2013 Petit Verdot, Grand Valley AVA
Creekside Cellars (Evergreen): 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Valley AVA
Creekside Cellars (Evergreen): 2012 Petit Verdot, Grand Valley AVA
Guy Drew Vineyards (Cortez): 2012 Sweet Riesling, Montezuma County
Turquoise Mesa Winery (Broomfield): 2013 Colorado Crimson (Rhône-style blend), Colorado
Turquoise Mesa Winery (Broomfield): 2013 Syrah, Colorado BEST IN SHOW (tie)
Whitewater Hill Vineyards (Grand Junction): 2014 Sweetheart Red, Grand Valley AVA
Governor’s Cup “Niche” Case (top ciders, meads and fruit wines)
Colorado Cider Company (Denver):“Grasshop-ah” hopped cider
Redstone Meadery (Boulder): “Nectar of the Hops” hopped mead
Carlson Vineyards and Winery (Palisade): Peach
Aspen Peak Cellars (Bailey): “Mocha Zinsation”
Denotes wine made from at least 75% Colorado fruit or produce.
Find out more about the Governor's Cup and Colorado wines here.