Orchard Mesa With A Side Of Bordeaux

People always want to pigeonhole Colorado wines into some other region in the world, and with our vineyard, it’s easy to say we produce juice just like Bordeaux.

We’re flattered. And it’s true. And it’s not true. Sorry to be ambiguous; stay with us for a second.

The first thing to understand is what it means when someone bestows the moniker of “Bordeaux style” on a wine or winery. Bordeaux is one of the most famed French growing regions in the world, and it’s treated like a trademark, meaning if a bottle says Bordeaux on it, it should actually be from Bordeaux, legally speaking.

This region is famous for making the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends in the world. Other key grapes include Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (and to a lessor extent, Malbec and Carmenere). By definition, a Bordeaux red will always be a mix of these above grapes.

Since we only grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc on our 8 acres atop Orchard Mesa, it’s easy to understand why we might tell visitors our wines are Bordeaux in style. It’s simple to draw a comparison there, and we love to strive for a food-friendly blend like those French classics.

But Colorado is not France in more ways than just language and food. The Grand Valley where we grow our grapes has a warmer, shorter growing season. The soils are different, thus the wines are, too.

“Very few similarities,” says Horst Caspari, a professor of viticulture at Colorado State University’s Western Slope branch. “Your talking comparing different climates. You don’t get those temperatures for such an extended period of time. our growing seasons is shorter, it’s drier.”

Don’t look at that as a knock on Palisade. Wine should always give a sense of place. That’s why a Napa Cabernet is strikingly different from a Bordeaux. Life is no different here in terms of producing unique flavors.

“We make our own style, and Australian Shiraz is not a Rhone Syrah; that’s a good thing,” Caspari says. “Over time, people understand it’s different. Do you like Pepsi or Coke? Or do you drink Dr. Pepper?”

Our grapes tend to reach higher sugar contents than those from Bordeaux vines because of the high temperatures in the summer time, meaning we work with higher alcohol contents (15 percent is common). These produce bigger wines but we get nice earthy tones from the Orchard Mesa soil, too. Think of it as a nice mix of big, bold American Cabs from Napa and the more delicate, food-friendly wines of Bordeaux.

When the grape gods cooperate, we produce a Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and blend of the three each vintage. Depending on the season, anyone of those can be the standout, but Cabernet Franc tends to be the most consistent.

“Well, that particular side has always done really well with Cabernet Franc,” Caspari says. “They have had pretty consistently had some of the best, if not the best, Cab Franc in Colorado.”

The reason for that being the average length of our growing season. Merlot ripens first, followed by Cabernet Franc, then Cabernet Sauvignon. So if it gets cold early in the fall, our Merlot will be the best of the bunch. If the heat lasts well into October, then Cabernet Sauvignon is the vintage winner. Most years, it’s somewhere in between, and our Cabernet Franc becomes the crowd pleaser.

Each year is different, just like our “Bordeaux” wines are a little different than the bottles that come from the famous region. So we suggest you stock up on our wines, get a few bottles from France and pick up some good Napa Cab and taste them all to see the differences first hand.

Feel free to invite us (or at least tell us about your experience).

Current Releases:

  • 2006 Cabernet Franc: Dark ruby in color, a very nice wine with surprising finesse. Estate grown and bottled. Winner of a Gold Medal at 2008 Colorado Mountain Winefest
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc ($22): Dark ruby in color, a very nice wine with surprising finesse. Estate grown and bottled.
  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Aged in oak, aggressive tanins. A wine for lovers of big and bold Cab’s. Estate grown and bottled.
  • 2009 Family Reserve Red ($22): Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Raspberry and plum aromas, smooth chocolate finish with surprising finesse.
  • 2006 Merlot ($15): A nice cherry aroma, aged in oak, a complex wine at the height of its aging.
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What’s for Dinner: Harvest Lasagna Recipe

Harvest Lasagna recipe from Mesa Park Vineyards

Here at Mesa Park Vineyards, one of our favorite things to do is prepare good food and enjoy it paired with wine and good friends. We love sharing our favorite recipes with you from time to time, and this Harvest Lasagna is one of our favorites.

Harvest Lasagna
Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants
  • Lasagna noodles, enough for three layers
  • 3 zucchini, cut lengthwise, 1/4 in. thick
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 pound plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
  • 2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (or make it yourself)
  • 2 1/2 cup Italian blend cheese
  • 1 jar Alfredo sauce (Or make it yourself)

Directions:

Preheat oven 450 degrees oven racks: upper and lower thirds of oven. Layer eggplant in colander and sprinkle with salt. Let stand in sink for 20 minutes, then pat dry.  Cook lasagna noodles, according to directions. Arrange zucchini on greased baking sheet, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes till tender. Transfer to plate, cool.

Arrange eggplant on baking sheet, brush with olive oil. Arrange tomatoes on second sheet, drizzle with olive oil, roast 25 minutes. Reduce oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, in a larger skillet over med. heat, cook the garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil, until golden. Add turkey and herbs and cook over medium heat, crumbling the meat, about 5 minutes. Stir in half marinara sauce. Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish, add remaining marinara sauce.

Add layer lasagna noodles, spoon turkey mixture on top; sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese. Add another layer of lasagna noodles, 1/2 cup alfredo sauce, the zucchini, 1/2 cup cheese and the tomatoes with their juice. Add final layer of lasagna noodles, 1/2 cup white sauce, then top with eggplant. Spread with the remaining 1 cup white sauce.

Cover dish with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cup cheese, bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Pair with 2009 Mesa Park Vineyards Estate Family Reserve Red.

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Where To Stay In Colorado Wine Country (Palisade and Grand Junction)

Wine Country Inn Palisade

The Wine Country Inn in Palisade opened in 2007.

Most of us like to talk just about wine when discussing a trip to Palisade. But you need a place to sleep. Here are a few of our favorites for your next trip to a vino-soaked weekend along the Western Slope:

Palisade:
Wine Country Inn: Opened in 2007, this 80 room hotel was a huge addition to Palisade. It features all the amenities you need; employs a great staff; offers top nosh in its restaurant, Tapestry Lounge; features live music (seasonally); and has the best darn pool in the region. What else do you need? How about more wine? The Inn has its own house white and red, too. 777 Grande River Drive, (970) 464-5777

DiVine B&B in Palisade

DiVine B&B in Palisade

DiVine Thyme B&B: Run by Tom and Cathy Monroe, this adorable B&B is housed in a Victorian and caters to those looking for a more intimate setting for their stay in Palisade. The vanilla poppyseed muffins are worth the drive to Palisade alone. 404 West 1st St., 970~464~9144

Vistas and Vineyards B&B:  Run by Donna and Felix Iovanni, we often hear feedback about the espresso and the warm hospitality served up by these friendly folks.  In the summer, they also host a summer concert series (among many others around town).  3587 G Road 970~464~7478

Nearby:
Springhill Suites by Marriott: If you want to explore Grand Junction as well as wine country, this hotel is within walking distance downtown, meaning it’s nearby some of our favorite places to eat such as Bin 707, Dolce Vita and Il Bistro. Grand Junction is a 15-minute drive from Palisade. 236 Main St., Grand Junction, (970) 424-5777

Island Acres in Fruita: For those with a little more of an adventurous spirit, this campground along the Colorado River is an incredible option during the warmer months. It’s minutes from Palisade — and even closer to world class mountain biking. You can bike year round!

Getting Geeky With Total Beverage Wine Manager Kurt Mayo

Total Beverage Thornton

Total Beverage Thornton's wine manager Kurt Mayo is a wine educator, both on the floor and at Metro State.

“I brush my teeth with wine,” Kurt Mayo says, matter-of-factly.

It’s not exactly what you think. He’s tasting wine just a few minutes after spitting out an Altoid, meaning swishing some vino through his mouth is a requisite to rid the minty taste before offering his notes on the Mesa Park Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc ($17 at Total Beverage; notes below). Still, a comment such as that gives you glimpse into the diehard wine geek that he truly is.

Mayo is the wine manager for Total Beverage, the massive liquor utopia along Interstate 25 in Thornton that carries more than 5,000 bottles at any given time. He can talk most wine nerds under the table when it comes to most any subject in the industry.

“There’s so much useless junk in my head that you’ll never get to spit out of me,” Mayo says. “Most people don’t care what’s below the six or 12 feet of terra rosa soils in the Barossa Valley in Australia.”

He does, but he’s no wine snob opting to embrace everything from Sutter Home white Zinfindal to a fine Grand Cru Burgundy. If a wine is made well, there’s a purpose for it. It’s as simple as that, especially if you can match the right food to it.

“All wine needs food, and all food needs wine,” he says, describing his mantra.

He quickly points to Retsina as an example. It’s a Greek wine that was historically capped with pine, a tradition that has carried on into modern times producing a wine that, to many, tastes like Pine Sol. That is, he says, unless you’re on the beach in Santorini, with a plate of fried kasseri cheese and a few fresh lemon wedges. “Then, it’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever had in your life.”

Dropping knowledge like that is fun for him. Simply, he loves to educate (he happens to teach wine curriculum as part of Metro State’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events program.)

To think, for the better part of the last decade — he just took his job at Total Beverage in April — Mayo was working collections for a large Denver law firm. “Things happened with the firm; they restructured, reorganized,” he says. “Let’s just say I didn’t like it anymore. It was one of those things you get to the point in life, as long as you have enough money, it’s about what you want to do.”

So he found himself looking for meaningful employment in early 2011, and if his five years at Metro (and his adult life learning everything he could about wine) taught him anything, it was he dug the wine business.

A frequent customer of Total Beverage — it’s where he buys his wine for class — he heard about the job opening to lead the wine department and a few employees. It was a no-brainer to seek it out, and it turns out the liquor giant was all too pleased to welcome him aboard.

The change of pace has left him as content as a cork dork could be, even if Mayo is working harder than he has in two decades. “I hit the floor running,” he says. “It’s been very fast paced. In 20 years, it’s the longest and the hardest hours I’ve worked.

“I don’t mind it because I like it.”

It comes back to education.

“It’s nice when I really bring it down to them and explain it to them this is what’s up and this is why,” he says, referring to both his Metro students and Total Beverage customers. “They get excited when they learn something new.”

Kurt’s Mesa Park Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc tasting notes:
“It’s one of the few Cabernet Francs I actually like. This wine is very well balanced. It’s fruity yet it’s got great structure. You pick wood up but the fruit comes first. The biggie to me is this bottle is 16 percent alcohol and as far as the detectability, it only detects a little hot. There’s no way in the world it feels 16 to me. Whenever I find something that fakes me out on the alcohol, it tells me how well balanced it is.

“It’s my No. 1 recommendation for a Cab Franc in the store because I like the idea that it’s a very easy drinking, fruit driven wine, it’s got great structure, and it’s an opportunity to push a Colorado wine and say, ‘guess what, we make good wines in Colorado.”

What Kurt’s eating with it:
“I would do some kind of barbecue short ribs in a slow cook with onions and garlic. Slow cook it so lot of the fat is cooked out of it so its nice and tender and kinda falling apart.”

Get it:

Mesa Park Vineyard Notebook — October 2, 2011

As I write this at 7 a.m., my fingers are a little chilled. The mornings in the Grand Valley are getting very cool. The weather has been good to us so far and the days have still been creeping into the high 80s.

But Old Man Winter is fast approaching and our patience with our grapes is running out. The brix — the measurement of the sugar in the grapes — have finally started to climb above 22 and the acid is dropping down to desirable levels, so we have decided to begin harvesting in on Oct. 7.

We can harvest upwards of three tons per day, and once we start on Friday we will continue every two or three days until we have stripped the vineyard clean of berries. It’s a hard, but fun, process.

The Merlot berries and the Cabernet Sauvignon will be the first to come off and we will let the stubborn Cabernet Franc hang as l

ong as possible. These first grapes will have less sugar than the ones will pick next week, which will be perfect for our newest offering, a rose. The lower sugar level means we can get the alcohol into an easy-drinking 12 percent range.

Since we’re new to the winery business, we are extremely excited to play with a new style of wine, and can’t wait to taste our first rose in the early summer.

We will keep the journal updated as harvest progresses and will post pictures to Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned and please ask questions.

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Getting To Know Mesa Park Vintner Chuck Price

Forgive Chuck for being a little selfish.

The California native grew up with agriculture in his blood, but when it came time to raise a family in the early 80s, he realized that a career on the farm couldn’t provide the lifestyle they wanted. So he turned to the corporate world to earn a paycheck.

“I just couldn’t make enough money to support a family and stuff (in agriculture),” he says. “I felt like I sacrificed 25 years of doing what I needed to do to build enough of a financial reserve so the second half of my life I could do something a little more meaningful.”

Luckily there’s always retirement to work 16 hours days making wine.

Meet Chuck Price, the winemaker for Mesa Park Vineyards, a Palisade operation he’s owned with his wife, Patty; daughter, Brooke: and son-in-law, Brad Webb, since 2009. While some look to golf, Chuck considers a perfect retirement one in which he works harder than ever to produce quality estate wines and manage an 8-acre vineyard filled with his favorite Bordeaux-style grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot).

A Dream Come True

Despite serving as an electrical engineer Lockheed Martin for a quarter century, Chuck’s heart was elsewhere, professionally speaking. He loved the opportunity Lockheed provided, but it wasn’t him.

He wanted dirt under his fingernails and a few juice stains on his work jeans. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University in 1975 with a degree in agricultural business and marketing that led him to a job he loved, producing sorting equipment for machines that handled stone fruits and apples (common flavors in wine, no less).

Even before then, he was immersed in the culture. Growing up in the Long Beach area — before it became the over-populated sprawling city that it is today — meant seeing miles and miles of strawberry, orange and lemon fields. His father was an independent grocer and grew peach and stone fruit trees as a hobby.

Chuck loved everything about it.

But there was only so much financial security that this line of work offered him, so with a little trepidation, he jumped into the corporate world in 1983, a financially stable job that eventually relocated he and Patty to Denver in the late 80s.

The Dilemma

So that was life for 25 years. But a year ahead of his silver anniversary at work (in 2009), he began weighing his retirement options, coming up with three ideas as to how to spend his post-engineering days.

The first included a move back Southern California for a life on the beach. There he could dabble in the fix and flip real estate market. “That was more thinking what my wife would enjoy,” he says. “A couple of blocks off the beach…” Sounds like a nice retirement for most.

Or he and Patty could buy a camper van and spend a few years driving around the United States. He didn’t think she would care for that as much, however.

Then there was the idea of going back to his roots and finding a small farm in a great little agricultural community. It was an idea his wife could get behind, and it could help him live out his dream.

As luck would have it, daughter Brooke and her husband Brad found this perfect vineyard for sale high atop East Orchard Mesa in Palisade. Brooke started lobbying, and Chuck found himself pondering a future along the Western Slope, which fondly reminded him of his childhood home.

He’d always loved wine and agriculture in general — he even toyed in home winemaking in the late 70s and early 80s. “For me its just really a nice way to spend your life, living in an agricultural community. It was a bit selfish I guess,” he says of retiring to a life on the vineyard. “Brooke and Brad have their own selves to blame.”

No one will blame him for following what seems like a destiny. “This is where my heart is,” he says.

When he arrived on site at Mesa Park, it was a whole different game than producing a few jugs at home. Commercial winemaking and vineyard management is as much an art as it is a science. He poured through notes and charts left by his predecessors (including notebooks from then consultant Ben Parsons, who’s gone on to produce some of the highest rated wines in Colorado history with his Denver-based Infinite Monkey Theorem label).

Of course, it helps to have a neighbor like Doug Vogel, the respected winemaker/owner at Reeder Mesa Vineyards, who lives just a few miles away. Chuck calls Doug his mentor, one who has eased the learning curve quite a bit.

The First Bottle

Which leads us back to the summer of 2011 when Chuck was able to release his first wine. See, the first few vintages that have been offered since the family took over were already in process when they bought the winery. So Chuck just finished them off.

The 2009 vintage was the first that Chuck nurtured from vine to bottle. He showcases a fatherly pride when talking about the 09 Cabernet Franc.

“It was kinda almost euphoric,” Chuck says. “It’s an accomplishment, like graduating from college. It only happens once or twice in your lifetime.”

Chuck’s dream is pretty much complete. He has the awesome farm in a beautiful part of Colorado, a few pallets of wine to drink at his disposal and his family to experience it all with him.

“I’ve just always wanted to be able to produce a Bordeaux-style wine,” he says. “And pair it with food and friends and family.”

Turns out the only way to do that is be a little selfish and move the entire family to Palisade to open a winery.

Chuck’s Food Pairing Ideas

Fish, chicken, beef. It all goes with red wine, right? In Mesa Park winemaker Chuck Price’s world, it does. That might have something to do with the fact that he only produces estate Bordeaux-style reds. So no matter the food, he’s reaching for a red.

  • Cabernet Franc: “I love seafood. A bucket of peel-and-eat shrimp and a glass of Cabernet Franc … it’d be my appetizer, main course and dessert.”
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: “I love to eat cheeses and drink it. For a light dinner, add breads and olive oil and pepper. It will be awesome.”
  • Merlot: “Maybe some smoked salmon or some white meats like swordfish, heavily smoked.”
  • Family Reserve blend: “Ribeye steak and Family Reserve; that’d just be heaven to me.”

 Head to the wine shop