Some marriages don’t last this long.
For the 14th year, a collection of West Coast-based pinot noir winemakers will gather to make a winter road trip through the snow-covered mountains of Colorado to sell and serve their wares to wine lovers in the region. Under the moniker the Pinot Posse, this impressive and intrepid group is a bit like the Postal Service. You know, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers (er… winemakers) from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
This year the Pinot Posse lineup will include Jim Prosser of JK Carriere in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Yakima Washington’s David O’Reilly of Owen Roe. From the Bay Area in California, Craig Strehlow of Camlow Cellars and Ed Kurtzman of August West will attend, and Central Coast winemakers Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi of Bonaccorsi Wine Co. and Brian Loring of Loring Wine Co. also will make the ride.
In the Roaring Fork Valley there will be a special wine dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 16, featuring all six of these vintners at Steve and Robin Humble’s Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar in Basalt. This is the second time Free Range has hosted the group, and the first iteration a couple of years back was as fine a wine bacchanalia as you’ll find anywhere. Any of the six would be worthy hosts for a wine dinner, but the opportunity to share a four-course meal and six great pinot noir wines with these winemakers is a shouldn’t miss opportunity. (See factbox for details.)
There will be two other high-altitude dine and greets in Colorado sandwiching the stop in Basalt. Keystone’s historic and charming Ski Tip Lodge will set the stems for a dinner on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Then on the 17th, the elegantly rustic Home Ranch, just outside of Steamboat Springs, will host the half-dozen pinot pilots.
Over the past few years, the Pinot Posse has spent their early winter sojourns traveling the back roads from Summit County to Aspen to Vail and Steamboat through all kinds of weather and on the backest of back roads, all punctuated by their pouring pinot with passion. Late nights in sold-out restaraunts, early-morning drives from town to town on icy passes and a compressed schedule may not sound like fun to you and me (well, maybe me), but annually the winemakers look forward to their mountain getaway.
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“I’m really glad to be back on the tour this year,” said Brian Loring of Loring Wine Co. when I visited him recently in his winemaking facility in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. “It’s great to see these other winemakers and we have really developed a friendship over the years.” Loring, who is an exacting and determined pinot professional, was honored this year with a spot, No. 98, on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Most Exciting Wines of 2018 list for his 2016 Loring Wine Co. Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. A stunning achievement for a stunning wine.
Virtually all of these winemakers have received accolades for their myriad wines over the years. Tasting through them, especially with the winemakers, gives diners a chance to not only enjoy great pinot noir but also to learn about how different vineyard sites, different vintages and different winemaking philosophies and styles can impact the famously finicky pinot noir grape. The opportunity to sit with each of the winemakers, who rotate among the tables, and query them about the techniques they use can provide an instant mini education on the process of pinot production.
Plus, they are all nice people. Especially when they have had a chance to taste one another’s wines. For as much as they enjoy making and tasting their own wines, the camaraderie of the Posse tour gives each a peak at how other regions and other practices can influence the grapes that they so love.
The Pinot Posse is a creation of John Salamanski and his wife, Penny Devine, who run CS Wines, a high-end wine distributor based in Colorado. The intent of the Posse is, of course, to sell wine, but over the last nearly decade and a half they have also made friends and created bonds along the way. “Sure, it is a busy trip,” John said about the slog that the week in January can be. “But it is just amazing that all of these winemakers have been along for the ride these past 14 years. It is really gratifying.”
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at [email protected].
The Pinot Posse Colorado High Mountain Dinner Line Up:
Tuesday, Jan. 15
The Ski Tip Lodge—Steamboat Springs
Wednesday, Jan. 16
Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar – Basalt
970-279-5199 or [email protected]
Cost $120 for four-course dinner with matching wines
6.30 p.m. reception / 7 p.m. dinner
Reservations: (don’t delay, this event will sell out)
Thursday, Jan. 17
The Home Ranch – Steamboat Springs