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Lots of gold medals at Mesa County Fair wine competition

Mesa County Fair Wine Contest volunteer Curtis Martin helps out at the event's June 29 blind tasting where four judges rated Colorado wines against category standards.
Submitted by Ryan Cook / Mesa County |

GOLD WINNERS FROM LOCAL WINEMAKER’S COMPETITION

Red Wines

Gold/Gold — Whitewater Hill Vineyards, 2011 Ethereal

Gold/Gold — Avant Vineyards, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese

Gold — Plum Creek Cellars Winery, 2008 Grand Mesa

Gold — Reeder Mesa Vineyards, 2009 Lands End Red

White Wines

Gold — Plum Creek Cellars Winery, Plum Creek Palisade Festival

Gold — Reeder Mesa Vineyards, 2012 Gewurtztraminer

Gold — Talon Winery, 2012 Viognier

Gold — Whitewater Hill Vineyards

Fruit Wines

Gold — St. Kathryn Cellars, Golden Pear

OTS Wines

Gold — Whitewater Hill Vineyards, 2012 Icewine

Best Overall Winery

Reeder Mesa Vineyards

Best of Show: Commissioner’s Cup: Ethereal (2011) by Whitewater Hill Vineyards

SOURCE: Mesa County Fair

As a way to recognize Colorado wine and its burgeoning ties to Grand Valley agriculture, the Mesa County Fair Wine Contest recently honored many locally grown and produced vintages.

“We love that the wine competition is growing in number and popularity,” Fairgrounds Manager Jo Carole Haxel said. “It’s also important for the fair to highlight our amazing wine industry. Many wines are from the Grand Valley, and 80 percent of all wines made in Colorado come from grapes grown right here. We have the best growing conditions. That’s why the wine industry is so important to the Mesa County Fair.”

According to Haxel, 89 different Colorado wines were featured in the 2013 Mesa County Fair wine competition, which was the biggest showing since the contest’s start in 2011. All Colorado wineries were invited to participate, and entries were required to have at least 75 percent of its ingredients from the county. Each wine entered was separated into categories like white, red, fruit and more, and then judged against the standard for gold, silver and bronze medals at a blind tasting on Saturday, June 29. The event was held at the Springhill Suites in Grand Junction.



Four judges participated this year: Cindy Onkenglim (a Sommelier from Denver), Dave Tewksbury (a Denver wine-tasting-room owner), Steve Acquafresca (a Mesa County Commissioner), and Dave Buchanan (a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel writer who covers the wine industry).

“We select judges who have experienced, trained palates,” Haxel said. “They know wine.”



Wines entered were not competing against each other for taste, she added. The judging was only “against the standard,” so not all contest categories featured gold-medal wines.

“The total medal count for the competition was two double-gold medals, eight gold, 53 silver medals and 20 bronze medals,” a Mesa County Fair news release said.

Whitewater Hill Vineyards (220 32 Road) in Grand Junction won a double-gold medal and the Best in Show Commissioners Cup for its red wine, Ethereal (2011).

“It’s a blend — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz,” Whitewater Hill Vineyards Owner Nancy Janes said. “Ethereal actually means close to heaven, so it’s our heavenly blend.”

Janes, who owns the winery with her husband, John Behrs, added that “we’re coming up on our 10th crush this year, and we’ve been growing grapes for other wineries for 15 years. We started out as growers, and we still grow grapes for other wineries across the state.”

Janes is the winemaker, while Behrs grows the grapes.

“We thought it was fascinating that you could grow traditional wine grapes of Europe in western Colorado,” Janes said. “It’s very much a team effort.”

The Best Overall Winery award went to Whitewater’s Reeder Mesa Vineyards (7799 Reeder Mesa Road). Reeder Mesa’s winemaker and owner Doug Vogel noted two gold-medal wines along with six silvers as the reason for his winery’s high ranking.

“It just really helps me to know that my wines have been in a competition with good judges,” Vogel said.

Plum Creek Cellars Winery (3708 G Rd., Palisade) also did quite well in the contest. Winemaker Jenne Baldwin-Eaton earned a gold-medal ranking for her white wine called Plum Creek Palisade Festival, along with five silvers.

“It just shows the consistency of our brand,” Baldwin-Eaton said, who has worked for Plum Creek for 19 years. “It definitely shows how we are doing in Colorado. … Next year will be our 30th anniversary of doing 100 percent, Colorado-grown grapes.”

Anyone interested in tasting award-winning local wines should head to the Mesa County Fairgrounds through Saturday, July 20.

“Gold wines will be poured at (Mesa County Fair’s) beer and wine gardens,” Vogel said. “People can come out there, get a glass and taste it.”


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