Barrel Into Spring
Grand Valley Winery Association
Barrels are tapped and last fall’s harvest sipped and swirled during the annual “Barrel Into Spring” weekends at wineries around Grand Junction, Colorado. Eight members of the Grand Valley Winery Association host visitors two weekends each spring, April 24-25 and May 15-16 in 2010. Each winery pours current releases as well as the first tastings of the 2009 vintages – a sneak-peak into their potential.
Tickets for each weekend – good for Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend – are limited so this is not an overly crowded shoulder to shoulder experience. A commemorative wine glass, passport and map awaits ticket holders at their assigned first winery. After that everyone is on own. You’ll welcome to spend as much or as little time at each venue as you choose. It would be a real rush but I’ve met people who have visited all eight in one day. Cyclists set a more leisurely pace pedaling along the rural roads between wineries.
Food, the perfect wine companion is not overlooked during the tastings. Each winery features dishes to showcase their wines. At one it may be an Italian deli-like spread, at another a German theme built around their Gewurztraminer. From cheese to chocolate tasters learn great pairing tips. You may even go home with a couple of new recipes.
At Carlson Vineyards, owner/winemaker Parker Carlson encourages everyone to get a plate of food before coming to the tasting table. As the different wines are poured he suggests trying it with the lamb, the duck, etc. Italian-born chef Brunella Gualerzi of il Bistro Italiano in downtown Grand Junction works with Parker planning and preparing these perfect pairings. At the first barrel tasting several years ago a jovial Gualerzi shared a story as she offered a plate of grape kabobs drizzled with caramelized sugar. “When I was growing up Italy we always had a two week vacation at the beach. Ever morning at eleven a vendor carrying a wicker basket would come down the beach calling, ‘Cry kids, cry kids that your mommy will buy you a kabob’. I hadn’t thought about them for years but decided to make them for today.”
Depending on your interest the weekend offers a great opportunity to increase one’s wine knowledge. A presentation or tour is offered at each location. Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery may share his years of experience demonstrating the wine-making process with carboys, tubing and airlocks. At Canyon Wind Cellars you can tour Colorado’s only underground wine cellars. Experience the difference that varietal blending makes, or sample the flavors imparted by oak barrels from America verses France. Leave with a greater understanding of terroir and viniculture.
Spring barrel tasting weekends seem well designed for both the casual sipper and the connoisseur stocking their private collection. The participating wineries offer a 15% discount on wines purchased by event ticket holders. You’ll see those intently taking notes of each tasting while others are simply enjoying a casual weekend getaway.
Grand Junction and the Grand Valley region of Western Colorado offer numerous outstanding options for getaways. From the sandstone formations of Colorado National Monument to the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River to the serenity of fly fishing on Grand Mesa, fruits direct from the orchard or fine dining you’ll want to return again and again.
When You Go: Barrel Into Spring tickets for the May weekend are $60 if purchased before April 19th. Tickets for the April weekend are $65. The event usually sells out, don’t go without making reservations. Lodging, dining and activity information available at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. The participating wineries all have tasting rooms regularly open to the public. Stop by the Grand Junction VCB at 740 Horizon Drive to pick up a free map to Colorado’s Wine Country and tour any time of year.