May 31, 2007 1:22 PM
Business writer/wine enthusiast Roger Fillion on Colorado vs. California wines
Mark_Wolf(Q) Welcome to Rocky business writer and wine enthusiast Roger Fillion, who wrote Wednesday's Spotlight cover story about a Rocky-organized wine tasting that pitted Colorado wines against California wines. Tell us about how the story/test came about?
Roger_Fillion(A) I recently read a great wine book, "Judgment of Paris" by former Time correspondent George Taber. He was the only journalist to attend the famous 1976 blinding tasting in Paris in which the Napa wines bested the top French wines in a competition involving all French judges. Taber is a great story teller, and he tells wonderful tales of how the winemakers at Stag's Leap and Chateau Montelena -- the winning wines -- came about. The Napa wine industry was very much a cottage industry at that time, much like here in Colorado. So during some "aha moment" on my own I thought: Wwhy not try a wine tasting pitting Colorado vs. California.
Mark_Wolf(Q) How much of an enthusiast are you and what do you like to drink?
Roger_Fillion(A) With two kids and a mortgage, I really like to hunt down good value wines. I like to try things from all over the world. Lately I've been having a lot of luck from Australia, South America, Austria and South Africa. I also like wines from California and Washington state, not to mention Idaho and here in Colorado. My wife and I recently had a great Riseling she'd purchased at Carlson Vineyards during a trip to Palisade. Anyway, I have no bias in terms of red or white. I like them both, as well as sparkling wine. If you pulled my arm hard enough I'd probably say I prefer red.
Mark_Wolf(Q) If someone wants to broaden their wine experience, what steps would you suggest?
Roger_Fillion(A) Find a wine store where you feel comfortable walking into and locate someone there who has an enthusiasm for wine. If the place feels snooty, get out ASAP. Once you've found the right salesperson, feel free to ask them questions and explain what you're interested in and mention a price range. Let them be your guide. Get a feel for what you like. The pocket wine guides -- by Hugh Johnson or Anthony Diaz Blue -- also are a great reference for buying wine and learning about wine. Once you feel a little more confident, a really fun thing to do is to get a mixed case -- in otherwords, 12 different bottles. Try each on a different night and make mental notes or write down what you like or don't like. Feel free to try new things. The world's the limit on this trip. r'inssaet
Mark_Wolf(Q) Ever since "Sideways" I've felt self-conscious ordering Merlot. Did it really take a hit in sales after the movie?
Roger_Fillion(A) Yes, it seems so. That may be a good thing for Merlot lovers. I recently heard a wine expert on the radio say that Merlot prices have since plunged from their lofty heights when Merlot was the hip thing to sip. The result: You can get some great deals on Merlot from all over the world.
Mark_Wolf(Q) You're described as a wine enthusiast and you participated in the test along with four other judges. Were you surprised at any of the results?
Roger_Fillion(A) I'm a wine enthusiast in the sense that I love wine. Unlike the experts, I can't break down the aroma or taste into all the component parts -- i.e., cedar, tobacco, tar-like, etc. But I do know when I like a particular wine. I was surprised by two things. First, my own scores weren't that far off from the pros, though we did have differences. Even the pros differed. Nobody has the same taste. Just like fine diners at a meal, not everyone is going to agree on the quality of the food. Like the other tasters, I was surprised -- perhaps a bit shocked -- that the Colorado wines held up as well as they did. The whites were particularly strong. I'm guessing because it's easier to make decent white wines. But the No. 1 red from Colorado -- the Sutcliffe Ddraig Goch -- was a really good wine. I should add that we didn't conclude from our tasting that Colorado's wine industry suddenly was on par with California's. There's still some lackluster Colorado wine out there, just like anywhere. What we did find, however, that was the quality Colorado wines held up well against comparable bottles from California.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Generally, how are Colorado wines regarded in the wine world?
Roger_Fillion(A) From what I've gathered, Colorado wines are known more for being from Colorado -- i.e., a great place to ski, hike, camp. They aren't known for their quality. I sense that people from out-of-state buy Colorado wine more for the novelty than the actual bottles themselves.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Do most liquor stores carry a decent selection of Colorado wines?
Roger_Fillion(A) Based on my own experience, it's decent but not great. I don't know the reason. Perhaps the wineries aren't touting their bottles enough. Or the stores aren't going out of their way. Perhaps a bit of both. But when I have walked into places I usually can locate several bottles. We live in Evergreen and our local wine stores carry Colorado wine. In fact, Evergreen Discount Liquors held a great tasting one summer in which about a dozen Colorado wineries participated.