Denver International Wine Festival: A Must-Do!

Everyone should attend the Denver International Wine Festival at least once in their life. Started in 2005 by Christopher and Darcy Davies, the festival has continued to educate newcomers and wine lovers, promoting the discovery of hidden gems in the wine industry.

After realizing that most of Colorado’s wine festivals are held in the mountains, the Davies’ goal became to create an internationally recognized wine competition and festival in the Denver metro area. Though the festival has been held throughout Denver in the past, this year’s festival was hosted at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, setting a more intimate environment for tasting quality wines and spirits.

I have been to a variety of local wine festivals in Colorado and New Mexico, but this was my first international festival. When presented with over 80 domestic and international wineries to try, there has to be a game plan. My game plan was to taste through the red blend offerings. As hard as I tried to stick to that, there were too many tempting wines to try. Straying from my plan allowed me to find some of my new favorites I cannot wait to buy.

One of my favorite wines of the evening is described as a “cigar-friendly wine.” The Peregrino 14 comes from Bodegas Gordonzello in Spain, made from 100% Prieto Picudo, a native Spanish grape that is new to the U.S. market. The wine is big, bold, fruity with moderate but not overpowering tannin. This wine is hard to compare to any local variety, but it will please anyone who enjoys a complex red wine that requires a pause and ponder over every sip.

From California, I discovered Van Ruiten Family Winery whose 2013 Cab-Shiraz blend took me by surprise with how light, fruity and easy drinking it was. I also tried the 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel, which is lighter than a typical Zin, yet fruit-forward, not cloying, smooth and a good introductory Zinfandel. Unfortunately these wines are not yet available in Colorado, but hopefully the festival is a step toward bringing the products here.

I stumbled upon J. Cage Cellars who make hand-crafted wines in Sonoma County, CA. Their Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc were the only whites I tasted. Though Viognier is my favorite white grape varietal, I have had a difficult time finding a producer I like.

The viognier from J. Cage is full-bodied with some acid. With my first sip, I was overwhelmed with what I thought was green apple. As I continued tasting the wine and talking to Roger Beery, one of the owners, he pointed out that I was tasting pineapple. Overall, the wine is well rounded, refreshing, fruity and complex, perfect for those wine lovers who may avoid white wines.

Their Sauvignon Blanc won the food pairing competition of the festival, and it was palate pleasing with notes of citrus, peach, mineral, finishing with light but not overwhelming tartness. J. Cage Cellars’ wines are only available to order from their company website.

I rarely have the opportunity to taste expensive wines, so I was lucky to try an exquisite Chateauneuf du Pape from Southern Rhone ($75) and a small production Napa Valley Cabernet ($125).

The Tardieu-Laurent Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Speciale 2011 is 100% Grenache, that is ripe with red berry notes, soft and silky on the finish, structured, well-balanced and meant to be aged. It is a wine meant for an occasion-to be enjoyed with someone special.

The Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon from 2011 is from a one-acre vineyard in the Diamond Mountain District of Napa. It is soft to the taste, medium bodied with a spicy, lightly tannic finish. It is lush and savory, to be enjoyed slowly to experience the power a good Cabernet can have.

Whether or not I am able to find these wines in the future, I am grateful to have gotten the opportunity to attend the Denver International Wine Festival. I enjoyed interacting with wine merchants, producers and distributors whose knowledge of their product helped to expand my own.

The Davies enjoy traveling the world, finding and reporting about exciting wine regions, and the festival showcases their passion for the industry. The festival gave me an evening of world travel without having to stray far from my Broomfield residence.