6.23pm, A Taste of Colorado, Civic Centre Park, Denver, Colorado, USA
I’m right in the thick of Colorado culture. It’s the Labor Day holiday weekend, and I’m trundling about the food stalls, trying really interesting things. I’m sending a heap of photos home to Tony so you can see what I’m talking about. Then I’ll double back and catch up the last couple of days where we’ve been crisscrossing Boulder and Denver, plus visiting Colorado Springs for the first time. So here we go.
Taste of Colorado
This Taste of Colorado is a great four-day festival, with several music stages going at the same time. On the main stage across the weekend is Grand Funk Railroad, The Robert Cray Band, Poco and the Spinners. Not bad at all! I spent a bit of time at the country stage watching the Trailer Park Playboys and Buckstein – shades of the Tamworth country music festival at home! But it’s the food that is the big magnet, and you can have a taste or a serve of different things – which gives you a chance to try stuff without it costing a fortune – especially if you don’t like it.
I started with my first-ever char grilled jalapeno chilli stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon – from the Trail Dust Steakhouse. They’re hot! And spicy! But the cheese and bacon tone it down. I might have to plant some at home and do these for the troops, stuffed with my cheesemaker mate Skep’s soft Gruth or Fresh! Then on to the crazy folks at the Golden Toad, home of the original shrimp bomb! Now these translated I think are what they had on the char grills – big shrimp (aka prawns) and spicy sausage chunks skewered and basted with a chipotle BBQ finishing sauce. Too good! We don’t do chipotle anything at home, and we might have to look at importing a few (hundred) gallons of this outstanding condiment.
Then I thought … vegetables! Let me tell you about these fresh ears of sweet corn, still in the husk, that I watched being loaded into these gas-fired baking ovens. The corn travels a zig zag course through the oven for 20 minutes, and comes out slightly charred, the husk is peeled back, the corn dipped whole into buckets of melted butter, and you plow through it hot using the husk as the protection for your hand from the dribbly butter. Sensational and good for you – pretty much!
Then into uncharted waters. My first experience with milk chocolate dipped bacon strips. Famous Dave’s BBQ gave me a choice of milk chocolate or jalapeno dark chocolate – I went with milk. And I have to say – it was pretty darn good. I have a mate who owns a winery – Pete Barry from Jim Barry Wines in Clare – and he has his own pigs, and makes his own bacon, ham and proscuitto – and I think I have a whole new line for him to get into! They also do the “pulled pork shooter”, a small cup of tender, shredded, slow-cooked pork shoulder swimming in their “rich and sassy” sauce. (I’d love to meet a bloke like that!) Then because it’s such a hot day – good idea to finish with some shaved ice – with lemon lime, watermelon, and peach flavouring. Yep – Taste of Colorado – we can tick that box. Lucky for me, as you never know what’s going to be on where you have your days off. Thank you Denver!
Good day in Boulder
Now – to catch up the last couple of days – because we have good things to report. I want to start with Boulder, as it’s always been pretty good to us.
Before I go any further, though, I should explain that when an area is “good to us” and supports our wines, it usually reflects how well our distributor in a certain region has placed our wines across the retail stores and restaurants, and in Colorado we’re with a family-owned fine wine house called Classic Wines, which continues to do this well. We go back a long way with these folks, and they do make the difference!
Now on our latest visit to Boulder, we had a great day with some really nice folks. First up with Jordan at The Black Cat, a very cool bistro with a hot bar and the “Arabian Nights curtain booths”. It concentrates on food and wine pairing. We had a solid bag of wines:
- 2008 Y Riesling: I love pleasantly surprising folks with this dry citrus driven thing.
- 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay: Yes it’s chardonnay, but not as you know it from Australia.
- 2008 Eden Valley Viognier: Sharp! Very sharp!
- 2007 Patchwork Shiraz: Barossa traditional.
- 2007 Scribbler: Over-the-odds Cab-Shiraz blend that is doing well wherever we open it.
- 2004 FDR 1A: Lush with spine, Cab-Shiraz blend with depth.
- 2003 Signature: Moving really nicely after being dense as a youngster.
- Museum Muscat: 18 years average age with layers of raisins, maple syrup, honey, dried fruit and molasses – smoooth!
After a great chat at The Black Cat, we moved on to Dolan’s Restaurant for lunch. I had a very healthy shrimp stirf ry (no rice, no pasta) and showed our wines to Mike Dolan himself, and Jed his barman – who is worth going to visit on his own! Looks like we might have been fortunate enough to have landed a couple of wines by the glass, which is a tremendous result as this spot is the die hard, support central for the Boulder-based university football team: University of Colorado Buffaloes. Mike’s got the signed helmet mounted pride of place above the centre of the main bar, and tomorrow is the season-opener local derby with Colorado State University. So it’s Buffaloes v Rams – go the Buffs!
From Dolan’s we went and visited the boys at Bailey’s Wine & Spirits, and besides working through the wines, we covered pretty much everything else – including world peace! Go see Matt at Baileys for not just good wines and local beers but also a decent conversation (albeit in pieces because there’s good traffic through the store that requires their attention) about life, travel and the important stuff. Nice.
Australia’s First Families of Wine
We headed back to Denver eventually to get together with the city team for Classic (our distributor) and had a nice long yarn about what’s been going on at Yalumba, in the Barossa, and in Australia in general. I was able to let the folks know about the launch in Sydney last Monday of Australia’s First Families of Wine. This group of 12 iconic and respected family winemakers are collaborating on a joint marketing initiative that aims to make a serious ongoing committment to the future of the Australian wine industry.
“Naturally the initiative is just the first step. What we do and how we do it will be the litmus test in giving voice, personality, and energy to our regional fine wine sector. The goodwill is evident on all sides for the moment, but I do hope we can be seen in the future as a go-to wine group who deliver on their promises, give value to the promo partners, retail/press/whatever, and have a good time.” — Robert Hill Smith, Yalumba
Just for the record, here are the folks who are getting involved:
- Brown Brothers (King Valley, Victoria)
- Campbells (Rutherglen, Victoria)
- D’Arenberg (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
- De Bortoli (Riverina, New South Wales)
- Henschke (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
- Howard Park (Margaret River, Western Australia)
- Jim Barry (Clare, South Australia)
- McWilliam’s (Hunter Valley, New South Wales)
- Tahbilk (Nagambie Lakes, Victoria)
- Taylors (Clare, South Australia)
- Tyrrell’s (Hunter Valley, New South Wales)
- Yalumba (Eden Valley, South Australia)
So I’ve gone off on a tangent a bit. Now it’s time to settle in front of the telly and watch the local baseball team. The Colorado Rockies are playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, so it should be a good game. Then late tonight about 10.30pm, I’ll be chasing the scores from the big footy game at home. I got a photo of a local cowboy with my Saints scarf, so hopefully the Sainters will be able to “outgun” Collingwood in the qualifying final. Fingers crossed.
I’ll get to Colorado Springs tomorrow, as we made some good friends down there, and we’ll be back! See ya later.