Carlson Vineyards turns 25 this year, and they’ve been celebrating all over their Facebook page recently. One of their posts got me to reminiscing about my first experiences with Carlson wine, and Colorado wine in general. It was an early part of my exposure to regional wine, so it is part of the back story for Drink Local Wine and my evolution as a locapour.
In the mid-1990s, a few years after Mom passed away, Dad announced that he was moving to Colorado. He wanted to be near mountains – Pikes Peak in particular – and he wasn’t going to let something like family stand in the way. So he up and moved to Colorado Springs, and later settled in Divide, up US 24 a ways on the north side of the Peak.
I have two very fond memories of visiting Dad during the nine years he lived in Colorado. One was taking the train from Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak, and hearing Dad exclaim, “These sure are rocky mountains!” (He has since re-retired to Virginia Beach, and likes to tease me by remarking on all the water in the ocean. As a former Merchant Marine, that can’t be a surprise to him.) My second memory is the Wines of Colorado store in Cascade, perched precariously on the side of US 24. Filled with wine tchotchkes and a wide selection even then of Colorado wines, it was a treasure trove. Every visit I would stop in for a sandwich and a tasting, usually leaving with a bottle or two to bring home. The store was not near Colorado wine country out on the western range of the Rockies in Palisade and Grand Junction, but it gave me a taste.
On one visit, I was looking specifically for Carlson’s Riesling, which had just won top prize in the International Riesling Competition run by Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. “We haven’t been able to get any since they won that stupid award,” the store manager grumbled. “But we have their Gewurz.”
That’s when I fell in love with Carlson Gewurztraminer, and with Colorado wine. I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted Carlson’s Riesling, come to think of it, but my exploration of Colorado continued with Drink Local Wine’s 2012 conference in Denver. Like other states, Colorado continues to expand and improve its wines, carving out a regional identity.
Happy birthday, Carlson Vineyards!