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Tracking Down the Rare Petit Verdot Wine in Colorado

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Petit verdot can be like drinking ink. That is if you can actually find it in a bottle of local wine.

It's one of those blending grapes that garners respect in a Bordeaux as a 5 percent grape to give gorgeous coloring to these world-class wines. On its own? It's just not that common. Colorado is no exception -- and that's too bad.

There are some reasons it's not widespread in Colorado. First, it has a longer growing period than even cabernet sauvignon. That means an early fall frost or cold snap can doom the crop. Beyond that, it's a tough sell, since no one knows what the heck petit verdot is anyway.

Here's a little secret: it's a stunning and fun grape that is absolutely stellar on its own. Petit verdot is developing somewhat of a cult-like following among serious Colorado wine drinkers, and more local producers are featuring this purple, dark and inky grape to keep up with demand.

They are some of the most interesting wines around, and although very few are available in the bottle today, seek them out.

Canyon Wine Cellars might be the only Grand Valley winery selling it right now. Its 2007 petit verdot is peppery and pungent, tasty and complex. It has a mile-long finish that sits on the palate like a coffee-flavored cigar. Open a bottle, take a sip, then decant. This wine needs a little air to let the grape speak on its own without overwhelming.

When blended with other Bordeaux grapes but still given the lead, the results are even more appealing. Canyon Wind's IV is a prime example. Although this bottle retails for $100, it is a stellar wine worth considering. Its finish is one of the longest in the state of Colorado.

Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver released an excellent version in early July and it sold out quickly (Denver retailers still have it on shelves). Its petit verdot ($36), sourced from Palisade fruit, is tannic with nice blackberry fruits hiding beneath. With air, the finish just keeps growing. Infinite's 100th Monkey blend (leading with petit verdot and including cabernet franc, malbec, petit syrah and syrah) has wine of the year written all over it. It sells for about $50.

Guy Drew Vineyards out in Cortez is another rare vintner with petit verdot available, and Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park sold out of its offering in just two months upon release.

Reeder Mesa has a very promising batch in oak barrels right now -- for true petit verdot fans, it might just be worth a visit to the tasting room at the base of Grand Mesa.

And that encompasses most of this tasty wine in Colorado, and despite its popularity with these small-batch releases, don't expect petit verdot to dominate the Colorado grape-growing landscape anytime soon. It's hard to find, hard to grow and a big, bold wine that doesn't always please everyone at the table.

It's time to find out if you are one who wants to join the Colorado petit verdot-drinking cult.