It’s on to more wine-making for outgoing Glenwood Mayor Michael Gamba
At the age of 5, Michael Gamba crushed grapes with his bare feet and by the time he was 8, the outgoing Glenwood Springs mayor accidentally discovered his love for wine.
“We just thought it was a good tasting punch,” Gamba recalled of the refreshment he dove into at a wedding he attended with his family. “I think that might’ve been the first time I over drank.”
When Gamba’s great grandfather emigrated from Italy to Glenwood Springs a significant Italian population existed in the western town at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.
“It wasn’t a question of if you are going to make wine if you were an Italian family in the area, it was how much wine are you going to make,” Gamba said.
Together, Gamba and his father, the late Jerome Gamba, would go down to the train tracks in town and retrieve wine grapes from the three boxcars loaded to the brim with them.
Today, utilizing Zinfandel and Barbera grapes, the fourth-generation Glenwood Springs resident continues his Italian family’s tradition by producing 1,400 bottles of red wine a year.
Rather than selling it, Gamba instead shares his wine with the community he loves.
“We bring the equivalent of about 10 cases a year to the Italian picnic, which is on the first Sunday in August, and we share it with everybody there,” Gamba said.
Spicy, like the former mayor’s opinion toward a moratorium on vacation rentals and bold like his public stance against Rocky Mountain Resources’ expansion plans for the limestone quarry, Gamba’s wine also yields a fairly high alcohol content.
“The higher the alcohol content, the less likely you are going to get any spoilage in it,” Gamba said of what some connoisseurs describe as a hot wine. “I grew up with it so to me it’s normal, and sometimes I drink commercial wine and think, wow, that’s really weak.”
While Gamba loves making wine as a hobby, he equally enjoys pairing it with his wife Karin’s cooking that celebrates local and international cuisines. Dishes like elk stroganoff, venison stew, Indian chana masala as well as German spaetzle and lentils.
“Dark chocolate goes really great with our wine, too,” Gamba said.
Whether at the Italian picnic or regular church potluck dinners, the former mayor and still-working civil engineer loves sharing his red zinfandel for a number of reasons.
“I think the best thing about wine is, it just brings people together,” Gamba said. “We have friends that we don’t agree with on politics, but whatever. …They come over and help us with the various winemaking steps and then we share our wine with them. It’s a good thing.”
Gamba, who served as the city’s Ward 4 council representative for eight years as well as mayor since April of 2015, also talked about his wine’s other, relaxing benefits; in particular following council meetings that ran past 11 p.m.
When asked if any of his fellow councilors ever made him want to switch to something stronger, Gamba joked, “Oh, there’s a number of them that have honestly made me want to drink more.”
Although Gamba has retired from his role as mayor and councilman, don’t expect the Glenwood Springs native to ever stop making wine and bringing people together over a bottle, or two.
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