Holy Cross Abbey's big blowout (party)

Posted by Matthew Schniper on Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Don't ever let anyone tell you that people in Cañon City don't know how to party.

Also don't let them tell you that Colorado has crap wine.

Neither is true, as proved by The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey and its ninth annual Harvest Fest winemaker's dinner, which I attended as their guest this past Friday night. (Seats this year were $95, which included tax and tip.)

According to stats tossed out between eight food and wine courses by winemakers Matt Cookson and Jeff Stultz and winery owner Larry Oddo, the winery is the largest by volume in the state, as well as the most medaled.

The faces behind The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. From left: Matt Cookson (winemaker), Larry Oddo (owner), Sally Davidson (marketing rep) and Jeff Stultz (assistant winemaker).
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The faces behind The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. From left: Matt Cookson (winemaker), Larry Oddo (owner), Sally Davidson (marketing rep) and Jeff Stultz (assistant winemaker).

Marketing representative Sally Davidson says 60 percent of the wine is still sold in the tasting room, with the other 40 percent going out to liquor stores and restaurants along the Front Range, including prestigious outfits like Denver's The Brown Palace and Morrison's The Fort.

The dinner was held at the Shadow Hills Golf Course, where club chefs and brothers James and David Tracy matched food with a wide variety of the winery's products.

My single favorite course highlighted the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, a surprisingly creamy and smokey pour aged half in stainless steel and half in new oak barrels, with 10 percent Viognier added in for a slight orange hint. That citrus really came out when paired with bites of sautéed shrimp and scallops in an orange shallot sauce.

Flecks of orange rind made for a true citrus punch, beyond pleasant garnish.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Flecks of orange rind made for a true citrus punch, beyond pleasant garnish.

I also particularly enjoyed an intermezzo of sorbet made with the winery's apple blossom wine, one of my seasonal favorites.

A stealth sorbet that blends in with its bowl. But it couldnt hide from me behind the pretty flower. Yum.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A stealth sorbet that blends in with its bowl. But it couldn't hide from me behind the pretty flower. Yum.

And carrying on the sugar into epic realms, the team paired a chocolate mousse in a pecan tuile with the winery's now sold-out 2009 Divinity Merlot, a super sweet, port-like dessert wine.

Since all wine essentially looks the same in the glass, I focused on the food shots.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Since all wine essentially looks the same in the glass, I focused on the food shots.

As for that thing I said about Cañon City people knowing how to throw down: The first sign of trouble was no dump buckets on the tables. The second was the big — no, HUGE — pours with each course; we're talking full glasses, times eight, so about a couple of bottles of wine per person for the evening. (Yeah ... I let the waiters clear my half-empty glasses.)

Delivering me the coveted quote of the night, one waiter, about midway through, leaned over me and threatened: "I will give you a sippy cup if you don't drink faster." I was too amused to be insulted. (And hey, who doesn't enjoy a good sippy cup now and again? What's a to-go coffee cup, really, with that tiny hole in the lid?)

I've said for years now that this winery puts out great wine, and Friday's dinner served only to highlight that point.

If the aforementioned wines don't interest you, check out their Riesling or 2009 Colorado Cabernet Franc, others that stood out for their style.

At one point, Cookson explained that he's truly taken customer feedback to continue to develop each year's wines. His philosophy: "Let's make it the way you like it."

Hey, works for me.

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