VinCO 2023: Colorado's Annual Wine Conference
Every year, the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE) hosts the VinCO conference dedicated to viticulture and enology. Winery owners, winemakers, grape growers, and others affiliated with the wine industry from around the state come to the VinCO conference. Participants enjoy networking and seminars on a wide variety of topics regarding grape-growing, wine making, and marketing. The annual amateur winemakers awards are presented and their wines are available to sample. There are also wine tasting seminars which are very popular for obvious reasons.
This year one of the wine tasting seminars was on Itasca wines. Itasca is a cold-hardy grape varietal developed by the University of Minnesota that has only been licensed to sell since 2017. It is named after Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The majority of the attendees of this seminar had never even heard of Itasca, much less tasted it. We sampled three wines from Minnesota and one experimental wine from Colorado made by Jennie Baldwin-Eaton from grapes grown by Talbott Farms in the Grand Valley AVA. Itasca has very similar characteristics to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: crisp acidity, grapefruit and tropical fruit notes, and minerality. Itasca is a wine to watch for in the coming years - it has great potential as a refreshing summer wine!
One of the marketing seminars was a panel discussion offering tips and tricks for wineries to effectively market their tasting rooms and products with limited time and budget. Panelists included Stan Stephens of Long Point Digital (left), Jason Van Houten of Grand Valley Grapes and Grains Adventures and Align Multimedia (center), and Felipe Mosqueda of Mile High Wine Tours (right). There was beneficial discussion about maximizing visibility on Google My Business and developing content for use in multiple platforms. Participants asked a lot of good questions that generated a productive discussion and sharing of information.
The highlight of VinCO is the wine industry awards dinner. The dinner is a three-course meal expertly paired with Colorado wines. The first course was a mixed green salad with candied walnuts, beets, bacon, soft cheese, and a maple and stone ground mustard vinaigrette paired with The Storm Cellar's Dry Riesling. The second course was a grilled New York strip steak with a mushroom demi-glace paired with Snowy Peaks Winery's Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert was a poached pear tart paired with Greystone Winery's Port VII.
The 2022 Winery of the Year was awarded to Steve Steese and Jayme Henderson of The Storm Cellar. In 2017, Jayme and Steve bought the winery outside of Hotchkiss in the West Elks AVA and have stormed onto the Colorado wine scene with their perfectly crafted white and rose wines. They have been featured in numerous Colorado and national publications and their wines have consistently scored very highly in the Colorado Governor's Cup and national wine competitions. Personally, Jayme and Steve are wonderful, welcoming people who truly love what they do.
We had a great time at VinCO 2023 connecting with the amazing people who make Colorado's wine industry, learning new things, and tasting what all the hard work is all about: delicious wines.
Sarah and Jason