By Jacob Harkins | Local Winos Magazine editor
In the late 1980s, Max Ariza had that wine moment that all of us cork dorks long for: He tasted the most remarkable wine of his drinking days. It was a 1949 Domaine Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Chardonnay, a Grand Cru Burgundy that at the time was nearly 40 years old.
The former sommelier at the Brown Palace and Adams Mark in Denver and current wine instructor at Johnson and Wales can rattle off an impressive list of old — scratch that, very old — wines he’s comsumed. A 1960 Latour, ’49 Mouton, ’61 Lafite, a “bunch of Burgundy from the 30s and 40s” and a Port dating all the way back to 1892.
The man has had his share of vintage wine, but it’s that dry, Chardonnay that sticks out.
“It was showing so beautifully,” he says. “It was stunning; you don’t expect that from a white wine. To this day that was the most exquisite wines I’ve ever had.”
When Ariza takes the stage on Friday for his “Life of Wine” seminar the day ahead of Colorado Mountain Winefest, he’ll likely leave guests with a similar level of shock. See, he’s pouring vintage Colorado wines, selections dating back to the mid 1990s, a time when few knew anything about local wine.
The seminar will showcase old wines from some of the state’s classic and pioneer vintners alongside fresh and vibrant youthful versions. For example, 2010 Riesling from Carlson Vineyards will be paired alongside Carlson’s 2000 vintage and Plum Creek Winery 1996 and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignons will be compared as part of the 10-wine tasting.
This event came to fruition by fluke. Ariza, a near life-long wine professional, had never tasted an old Colorado wine until a friend, recently, unloaded a few cases of it on him, with vintages covering most of the 1990s (the modern area of Colorado-made wine began in 1980 or so).
Was he surprised when he dusted a few off and tasted?
“Yes,” he says, rolling into a knowing laughter. “Yes because I didn’t know in what condition they were kept.”
He didn’t really have any idea if the folks in the early days of Colorado made long-lasting juice, either. Ariza knows now, and he hopes those who come to his seminar will take away a few lessons:
“We can put a few (Colorado) bottles away and wait 10 years and wait to consume it — and have a better product sometimes,” he says.
Plus, it will hopefully help a few more people realize that not all wine has to be consumed within 30 minutes of return from the wine shop. That’s the French in him coming out. He grew up in a culture of cellaring wine for years.
Now he can showcase that it’s possible to do that with some of the state’s select wines and not just top bottles of Burgundy that costs hundreds of dollars.
The Line Up:
- 2000 Carlson Vineyards Riesling and 2010 Carlson Vineyards Riesling
- 1997 Carlson Vinearyds Pinot Noir and 2008 Alfred Eames Cellars Pinot Noir
- 1996 Plum Creek Winery Cabernet Sauvignon and 2008 Plum Creek Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1999 Colorado Cellars Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah blend and 2009 Colorado Cellars similar red blend
- 1999 Carlson Vineyards and 2009 Carlson Vineyards Syrah
The Life of Wine with Max Ariza, 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14 at the DoubleTree in Grand Junction. Tickets are $45.
Colorado Mountain Winefest is Sept. 15 at Riverbend Park in Palisade. Tickets are $43