Butterflies dart in and out of the grapevine stems, still bare from winter's wrath. With each step on the gravel parking lot, the lustrous sun is evermore blinding. Yet by squinting, the quaint-style cottage known as the Trail Ridge Winery is revealed.
Through the door sit several bottles of wine perched upon a wooden desk; behind it are several stacked oak barrels filled with wine. Still further back sit several, much larger vats of wine, which stays fermenting anywhere from three to nine months.
The wine is poured into the glass, and with a twist of the wrist, the liquid swirls, allowing oxygen to enter every drop, opening the flavors. Raising the glass to the lips and inhaling the aroma gives the nose a treat. Even with only one sip, every hint of rose, chocolate, oak or many other flavors is still savored.
On the quest to become a true wine connoisseur, the only road to take is to taste every type of wine imaginable.
Colorado can be the perfect place to become a wine aficionado, with more than 80 vineyards in the state and 16 wineries in the Front Range area.
The only way to master the art of wine is to, "try all sorts of different wines and figure out what works best for you," said Brooke Harless, employee at Trail Ridge Winery, 4113 W. Eisenhower Blvd. in Loveland.
Varieties of Wine
There are countless wine varieties and different, unique blends and tastes that enter the market every day. However, it is useful to understand a few basics before deciding what wine suits specific personality.
There are three main wine types that people are usually able to identify: red, white and rose. These three types are also divided up into sparkling (also known as champagne, which often endures a secondary fermentation process), natural (meaning it has fermented naturally), and fortified (meaning other alcoholic spirits have been added, such as sherry, brandy or port), according to www.encyclopedia.com.
"Port wine is wine that has been fermented for a really long time. It's really syrupy with a lot of alcohol," said Harless, also a senior creative writing major.
Most often, the red, white and rose wines are identified by color because of the crushing process.
Other ways to identify wines are by the alcohol content – whether the wine is dry or sweet. Dry wine differs from sweet wine because dry wine allows the grape sugar to "ferment completely into alcohol" while sweet wine is characterized by the sugar being left alone and not fermented, according to www.encyclopedia.com.
The art of tasting wine is simple. There is no right or wrong on the path to wine enlightenment; there's only the truth in taste. However, several tips do exist that may help ensure people tickle their taste buds.
The first is knowing what type of wine is being consumed, and paying close attention to the color and the scent as well.
"Smelling is to make sure the wine is agreeable. Really big wine connoisseurs will smell for the vinegar, but for the average drinker it is more for show," Harless said.
When tasting wine, another useful way to entice the palette is swirling the wine while it's in the glass, which allows oxygen to open the wine, increasing the flavor.
Finally, when tasting the wine, be sure to twirl the first sip by closing the teeth and, in almost a slurping action, suck the wine into the mouth through the front teeth to the tongue.
Another useful tip to becoming a wine connoisseur is keeping a wine journal, which is available at most cooking stores or tasting rooms. The wine journal is a small pocket-sized notepad in which the wine types, observations and ratings can be kept.
Harless recommends beginners start with the less-expensive wines at the liquor store and sample them until they find out which wine suits them best.
"If you are just starting out, then Australian wine is definitely the way to go," Harless said. "It's so good and so cheap."
Mark Fiore, part owner and manger of the Trail Ridge Winery, recommends finding a specific type of wine before going to a wine festival. He said a frequent mistake people make is drinking all the wine at a festival, causing the flavors to blend together.
"If you are just starting out, first of all you taste as many different wines as you can," Fiore said. "You go to the festivals and things like the barrel tasting and go to more sophisticated tasting like the vertical, horizontal and food-pairing tasting."
But to be an ultimate wine connoisseur, people must know grapes. While wine can be made from many different fruits, such as apples, peaches, cherries, etc., grapes have become the main staple for winemakers.
"Good wine-making starts with the grapes," Fiore said.
More than 10,000 varieties of grapes have been documented, and different grapes produce different varieties of wines, such as the 2001 Syrah wine offered at Trail Ridge Winery. The Syrah wine is made from the Syrah grape. The 2001 Syrah is described by Trail Ridge wine list as having, "nuances of dark chocolate and currants." To create such a distinct taste, wine sometimes depends on timing or on adding sweetness, Harless said.
"For the most part, it is really just the winemaker doing his job correctly," Harless said.
Making the different varieties of wine – white, red and rose – all depends on the processing of the grapes.
In order to get white wine, "the grapes are pressed right away," to separate the grape from its skin, Harless said. This provides for the white wine's light coloring. Pressing the grapes right away also creates a sweeter taste and provides a lower alcohol-content level.
For red wines, the process differs to create an altered color and taste.
"In red wines we let them hang out with their skins for a really long time, like especially with the Syrah. It is really dark," Harless said. "The longer they are with their skins the more alcohol it is going to be and the more tangy it is going to be."
For the rose wine, after fermentation begins, the skins are removed; they merely sit with their skins longer.
"Rose is like a red and white blend," Harless said.
The environment also affects the outcome of the wine.
"Soil, the kind of grape and the growing conditions all contribute to that (the taste of the wine)," Harless said. "But it can be up to the winemaker and what he tastes. Everybody tastes something different."
While growing grapes in Colorado can be difficult because of random frosts, it has yet to affect the winemaking process.
"The grapes out here, in this section of Colorado are not conducive to growing. We can grow some but you just can't get a good harvest off of it so all of our wines are made from grapes all over Colorado," Harless said. "Most of the grapes here are from France and Germany."
However, an even better way to become more knowledgeable with wine and the types of grapes is to purchase a grape vine to grow. At Trail Ridge Winery there are five different grape vines available to purchase for $5 per vine.
Serving wine properly doesn't take a certified wine connoisseur, but it will require the right glass and the right wine temperature.
"The white wines generally are served chilled in the fridge. When you get a white wine, if you get it months in advance, don't leave it in the fridge. Just chill it a day or two days before, otherwise it will kill what's going on in the bottle," Harless said.
The wine glass is just as important when serving guests. Harless said white wine is generally best served when the glass's sides are straighter. For red wine, a full goblet is usually used. However, catchall glasses, which are generally smaller in size, can be used for all wines. When filling a glass of wine, fill it only halfway or even less if merely sipping on the wine.
Serving wine correctly with food merely calls for the chef's opinion. But most often, deciding what wine to serve with what food doesn't take an expert, just the server's preference.
Harless encourages pairing food and wine by what tastes good together and putting aside the Ramen noodles in favor of more complex meals to pair with wine.
An expensive cellar is not necessary for storing wine. In fact, the only imperative tools are wine and a wine rack, to ensure that the cork never dries up.
White wine can be kept upstairs in the kitchen; just do not chill it until it is ready to serve. Red and rose wine can be kept in a closet, somewhere cool. Oftentimes connoisseurs will even smell the cork simply to guarantee the wine was kept properly and that it is still "agreeable," Harless said.
When aging wine, being aware of its peak time can help avoid the sticky situation of serving wine that has already turned. If it is kept after it peaks, the wine can go bad. While the most commonly aged wines are vintage wines, those made with all of the same grapes from the same harvest, other wines can be aged, just not for very long, especially if blended with several grape varieties.