Thirsty Thursday: Stone Cottage Cellars, Gewurztraminer, West Elks AVA, Colorado 2012


Colorado Map

Not the Mediterranean

This land-locked state gains fame for its Rocky Mountains, Broncos, and Coors: the largest…single brewery…in the world (22 million barrels roll out annually).

But they also grow grapes.

Let me put my cowboy hat on and tell you a tale.  Along the Gunnison river, around Hotchkiss and Paonia, in the shadow of snow-capped peaks, lays the West Elks AVA.

West Elks AVA


Now you may be thinkin’: “AVA??? This ain’t France or California! Colorado can’t grow grapes!”. Well, West Elks provides a rare micro-climate, similar to landlocked regions like Alsace or Western Germany.

Here, the nights are as cold as the days are warm.  The climate is firmly continental.  So grapes ripen just enough at day, but keep their acids at night.  It is dry country this.  No humidity could ever corrupt the grapes’ delicate skins with fungus or bacteria.

While Europe’s vineyards reach 1,600 feet above sea level, and Argentina impresses with vineyards pushing 5,000 fasl, today’s Thirsty Thursday’s grapes grow 7,000 fasl: go above this, and your body stops digesting food.  Without this height it would be too hot, humid, and horrid for grapes.

And luckily, Stone Cottage Cellars grows Gewurztraminer: the “spiced grape” known for opulent, tropical, Asiatic fruits and and spiced aromas…especially when grown in cool but arid climates like Alsace. But Colorado? Let’s see.

So, what is Stone Cottage Cellars’s extreme Gerwurztraminer like?

Not the most exciting label.

Not the most exciting label.

Appearance: Beyond the bland label, it looks a cool, pale lemon.

Aromas: Clean, extravagant aromas of lychee, white flowers, honey, and gold pear envelop all sensory capacities.

Palate: Medium sweetness is slayed by slicing acids.  Even at 14% alcohol, there is still residual sugar.  Without it, this wine would be painfully austere.  The interplay of sugar, alcohol, and acid create a pleasant, medium body.

Flavors: Surprisingly moderate flavors of fresh white melon, lychee, and a hidden minerality and apricot, lead to a fresh cut of ginger on the finish.

Conclusions: Stone Cottage Cellars has created an aromatic showcase that tightens into a tight, food-ready palate.  The wine has balance, flavor complexity, and length.  It is surprisingly very good (4 of 5), worth $22, and a worthy competitor of some of Alsace’s better Gewurztraminers. Well done.

Stone Cottage Cellars 2012

Never read a book by its cover.


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