Monday, July 18, 2011

a Birthday Weekend and Wine Tasting in Colorado

There really should be a law against getting sick on your own birthday.  Especially in the summer, because getting a cold and cough, along with sweats and chills, headache and body aches when it's sunny and gorgeous outside is just wrong!  But here I am, on my 33rd birthday, drippy nose rubbed raw from blowing, throat sore and scratchy, and just feeling all around icky.  Jamie is taking good care of me, though--he made me some delicious soup last night with white beans, carrots, onions and spinach.  Lots of cups of hot tea with lemon.  Shoulder massages.  And there are some wrapped presents in the living room that he's been teasing me with for days.

When I was little, I remember when I felt yucky and my mom would take my temperature, only to announce, "Oh, don't worry, you only have a low-grade temperature."  Much to my disappointment.  Just having a slightly above normal temperature couldn't justify my staying home from school to lie on the couch, watch daytime TV and be needy and whiny while she waited on me.  And yet she always did, like all moms do so well, providing an endless supply of 7-up and juice, rubbing lotion on my back, wiping my forehead and arms with a cool, damp washcloth, and making the best cinnamon-sugar toast ever.

Orchards and Vineyards of Paonia, CO

For my birthday, Jamie planned a relaxing weekend in Paonia, CO, a small town in southwest CO with lots of orchards, vineyards and wineries.  We had actually hoped to spend some time in some of the "you-pick" orchards, picking our own fruit and bringing it home to do some canning, but as it turned out, it wasn't a good weekend for fruit picking.  Colorado's cherry crop was already done, and it's still too early for picking peaches and apples.  So instead, we spend most of Saturday visiting the various farmer's markets and wineries in the area, tasting wine and enjoying the beautiful views of our state.

Sunset view from Splendida

Paonia is about 4 1/2 hours from Denver, so we drove halfway on Friday evening where we spent the night in Avon, a city near Vail.  We had dinner at Splendido at the Chateau and enjoyed some fantastic wine with steak tartare and a goat cheese plate with bread.  That was one of those meals where I could happily eat bread and butter with wine and then skip straight to dessert!  But for dinner, Jamie ordered steak and I ordered the lamb chops which were incredibly tender and flavorful.  And for dessert, we shared a chocolate torte topped with cherries and cherry sorbet.  I would have preferred more of the chocolate torte and less of the cherries, but it was still delicious!

Steak Tartare
Goat Cheese Plate
Lamb Chops
Chocolate Torte with Cherries, Cherry Sorbet and Pistachio Sauce
Saturday morning we drove to Paonia where we started our wine tour.  I am, by no means, a wine expert.  Not even close.  I drank the Arbor Mist type of wine in my twenties, then eventually graduated to Lambrusco, a very sweet and slightly sparkly red wine.  Occasionally I would branch out and try something different, usually because I thought the label was funky, but I've learned that the more clever the label, usually the worse the wine.  A good wine doesn't need all the bells and whistles on their labels.

Jamie has tried to teach me the differences between Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabs, Syrah, etc...  And although I know if I like something or not, I generally don't know why and have a hard time telling the difference between the different wines, knowing what I'm tasting and being able to describe it.  But it's fun to learn!

Black Bridge Winery
Our first stop was Black Bridge Winery at Orchard Valley Farms.  The buildings are situated next to the Gunnison River, and in addition to their wines, they have a variety of canned foods from their farm and other local farms.  It was hard to only choose a few things, and we came away with some Apricot Mustard, Good and Evil Pickles, a bottle of 20-year aged Balsamic Vinegar, and a bottle of red dessert wine.

Black Bridge Wine-Tasting Room
The next winery we visited wasn't on our wine tour map and does not seem to have a website, but we happened to see a sign from the highway leading to their tasting room.  S Rhodes Winery is located up a narrow, winding road through the hillsides, and when we arrived, we saw what appeared to be a barn with the sound of violin music floating towards us.  Inside the barn, though, was a cheerful tasting room with a counter and stools, a fountain on one wall, and a couch in the corner where the owner's daughter was practicing violin.  We tasted 4 or 5 red wines and chose a bottle of 2006 Claret.
S Rhodes Winery

Terror Creek Winery was next, and according to the owner, the name simply comes from the creek being so difficult to reroute across the mountains for irrigation.  This winery sits atop the Garvin Mesa at 6400 feet and has a beautiful view of Paonia valley.  If I lived there, I would eat dinner outside every day!  We tasted some delicious white wines--usually we drink red at home, but occasionally with chicken or seafood we'll have a bottle of white.  We bought a couple bottles of dry white wine, a Riesling that was a little less sweet than usual and a 2008 Gewurztraminer.

View from Terror Creek Winery
View from Terror Creek Winery
Just down the road from Terror Creek is Stone Cottage Cellars.  The buildings have an old-world charm and the tasting room is located right next to the vineyard.  We tasted 5 wines here, and they were possibly my favorites.  It was hard to decide on one or two since they were all so good, but we finally chose a 2009 Syrah and a 2009 Gewurztraminer. 
Stone Cottage Cellars

Vineyards at Stone Cottage Cellars
Lastly, we stopped at Azura Cellars, a winery and art gallery.  More stunning views from their courtyard.  Inside their tasting room is a sampling of the owners' modern art pieces.  After sampling their wines, we chose a 2010 Riesling that was very sweet, and will be good to drink as a dessert wine.
Azura Cellars

Azura Cellars
We ended our visit by spending the night at the historic Bross Hotel in Paonia, a 105-year old bed and breakfast.  After filling up on coffee and french toast Sunday morning, we headed back to Denver since by then, my cold had come on in full force.  What a fun and relaxing weekend of experiencing the beautiful Colorado scenery!  And now we have some great local wines to enjoy with future cooking adventures.

Bross Hotel
Bross Hotel

Homeward Bound