Mavericks contributes to the success of Winefest and the wine industry
As Grand Valley Celebrates Colorado Wine and Matching Grant Deadline for Warren Winiarski Institute of Viticulture and Enology Approaches, WCCC Calls for Community Support
“It really takes a village to make Colorado Mountain Winefest a success every year, and many of us are mavericks,” said Cassidee Shull, CMU alumnus and executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE) and Colorado Mountain Winefest. Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado Community College faculty, students and alumni are involved in just about every aspect of the state’s largest wine festival, which was recently named the best wine festival in the country by USA Today.
The event takes place on Saturday, September 17 and for the seventh year it is sold out. Shull says VIP tickets are the first to go because of the food.
“Catering for the Winefest First Class Pass area provides culinary students with a unique experience that we could not otherwise provide as part of their education,” said WCCC Associate Technical Professor of Culinary Arts Wayne Smith. “Students have the chance to experience off-site gourmet catering for 350 guests and they can interact with attendees as they prepare food to order right in front of them. Year after year, guests notice the good food and the enthusiasm of the culinary students. This is quite a remarkable achievement considering that half of the student population is in their fourth week in the culinary program at the time of the event.”
Lee Lanoue graduated from WCCC’s viticulture and enology program in 2020, the same year as the first harvest from his family winery. Lanoue had been an amateur winemaker alongside his father since the age of 8. When construction delayed the opening of their tasting room, Lanoue decided to take a few winemaking classes. “I had no intention of completing formal training in winemaking, but once I started Jenne’s classes, I knew there was no way I would want to start a winery without learning all the chemistry and deep microbiology. I invested in the equipment to carry out my own laboratory analyzes on my wines. It is difficult to make the transition from home winemaking experience to commercial experience. I would be lost without this program,” Lanoue said. He is very fond of cold Franco-American hybrid grape varieties such as Maréchal Foch and Léon Millot. “Colorado Mountain Winefest was by far the best and most fun event we’ve had,” Lanoue said. “I’ve noticed at all the events we attend, that millennials are much more open to trying the new, non-traditional wines we make. If they get together with friends, they want to bring something new and exciting than anyone else. no one else at the party has tried before.
“I love seeing my students take what they’ve learned to the next level. It’s been so much fun watching them find jobs or start a winery in our community,” said Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, WCCC Winemaking Instructor since 2016. “I love keeping in touch with my students. They call me for advice, or to invite me to taste their wines and I meet them at industry events. It’s one of the best things about living in a small community.
Baldwin-Eaton retired last year, but his dedication to the program has not wavered. She hopes the Viticulture and Oenology program will continue to grow and better serve students and the local wine industry for generations to come. World-renowned winemaker Warren Winiarski, whose Judgment of Paris event put California wines on the map in 1976, was also a Colorado winemaker for two years before founding Stag’s Leap Winery in Napa. In 2021, he invested in the success of Colorado’s wine industry by donating $100,000 to establish a scholarship fund and support program for WCCC’s viticulture and enology program. Additionally, he pledged a $50,000 donation with a matching deadline of December 31. So far, Baldwin-Eaton has raised $25,000 for the game and time is running out.
Projects made possible by the initial donations, which named the facility Warren Winiarski, Gerald Ivancie Institute of Viticulture and Enology, include research into the impacts of wildfire smoke on grapes, which began with the Pine Gulch Fire, and work with new hybrid varieties of grapes. that are grown in the Grand Valley AVA due to phylloxera and our changing climate.
“Warren’s hope was to inject money into our industry for education, research and collaboration,” Baldwin-Eaton said. “It’s a tough time to be asking wineries for money as they’ve been hit so hard over the past couple of years by COVID and the harvest freeze, so we really hope that the larger wine-loving community Colorado wine will also help.”
To make a donation, go to supportCMU.org/viticulture-and-enology-program. These funds will allow the program to upgrade home winemaking equipment, such as carboys and tubes, to commercial volume tanks, a mechanical press and improved lab equipment. It will also expand future opportunities to grow more grape varieties and produce more wine for research purposes.
Baldwin-Eaton was recently a judge at the Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition and will lead a workshop on little-known varietals at this year’s Winefest.
Fisher’s Liquor Barn is the title sponsor of the event and owner Brandi Pollock is a CMU alumnus. “I am so proud to be a part of the University of Colorado Mesa as a former member of the Mav Club Board of Trustees, current member of the President’s Advisory Council, and donor of athletic funds and scholarships – and so proud that the Mavericks make Winefest great,” Pollock said. “The Colorado Mountain Winefest has long been a beneficial event bringing together Colorado winemakers to share their wines with visitors from around the world. At Fisher’s, we have the privilege of showcasing these wines throughout the year. We are excited to be at Colorado Mountain Winefest and welcome wine and food lovers!