It’s been some time since I’ve tried wines from Colorado, probably since I took my certified course as an American Wine Specialist® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA) a few years back. So when I was offered the opportunity to taste wines from the label The Ordinary Fellow, hailing from Southwest Colorado, I thought, yes! Time for some continuing education! I joined a zoom meeting with winemaker Ben Parsons and fellow wine journalists to learn about Parsons, the winery and the wines.
Winemaker Ben Parsons and The Ordinary Fellow
Parsons has a CV as long as my arm, my notes are lengthy and begin with his time selling wine in London – he is an Englishman – but he quickly outgrew his original intentions and wanted to make wine. He won a scholarship in the late 1990s and ended up attending the University of Adelaide in South Australia. After University he made wine in New Zealand and by 2001, Parsons explained, he decided he’d like to make wine in the Northern Hemisphere. He saw an ad for a winemaker in Palisade, Colorado and was offered the job. By 2011 he began his journey in Palisade, Grand Junction, where The Ordinary Fellow winery is located.
Parsons said that Palisade is located four hours west of Denver. The vineyard is set at 6,200 feet in altitude at the base of the Ute Mountain, a river runs through it, the land has fertile soil and also has a unique climate – there are only 155 to 165 frost-free days per year.
The Ordinary Fellow winery, a name Parsons borrowed from an English pub he frequented with his father, is inside a former peach packing shed, the “Historic United Fruit Growers COOP” in Downtown Palisade. They are open for tastings, and Parsons does private barrel tastings for small groups.
A word or two about the beautiful labels: the outer sleeve contains all of the details required by law, as well as a silhouette of a face and a small black sticker in the back to temporarily hold it in place. Remove the sticker and the sleeve can then be removed. All that is left on the bottle is a full circular label completely covered in “pop culture references” that allow you to “peer through the mind of ordinary man.” Probably the most colorful and imaginative label you’ll ever see.
100% Chardonnay, Box Bar Vineyard, two years in French oak, $34.99.
Very pale yellow color. Parsons said he had made the wine in a Chablis style. I was reminded of lemon-lime soda pop, dry Vermouth, rain and freshly washed pebbles all on the nose. The taste had that same lemon as well as grapefruit, salt air, minerality, with a medium acidity and long finish. My husband thought it was more Sauvignon Blanc-like on the palate.
100% Riesling, Box Bar Vineyard, stainless steel cool fermentation, $23.99.
Fresh and buttery, with kiwi, peach and lemon zest all in the aroma. Lots of freshly cut apple slices, medium acidity and bone dry on the palate. Parsons said this is “what Colorado Rieslings can be” and that’s a good thing as I thought the wine was de-lish! Enjoyed it with guests later that evening, over some French Brie and charcuterie, and they agreed with my assessment.
2021 Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir, Hawks’ Nest Vineyard, three years in French oak, $36.99.
I was surprised at the very light color of this Pinot Noir, almost like a Rose or Nouveaux Beaujolais. On the nose I felt there was a lot of red cherries, stems, earth and bark peeling from a tree. (My mother’s house had what she called a Chinese Paper Tree out front and we would peel back the bark often.) On the mouth I got notes of very light and delicate red fruit, seemed lower in alcohol than the 13.6% ABV noted in the tech sheet. Very much an easy drinker, and I chose to chill it a little bit before serving to guests later, that again, enjoyed the wine very much. Note: Parsons said he also does a Rose and Sparkling, both with his Pinot Noir. I’d very much like to try those and compare my notes.
2021 Cabernet Sauvignon
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Box Bar Vineyard, three years in French oak, $38.99.
What a delightful surprise to have a very well done Cab from a place we rarely, if ever, have had a Cab from. It was a very dark and opaque purple color, with aromas of dark blue fruit that reached me as soon as I opened the bottle. Also got whiffs of espresso, blueberry and spice. The taste was red fruit, spicy, some tannins and well balanced. The wine had a medium finish and I would describe it on a whole as a lighter styled Cab.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Proof Awards, Cellarmasters, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.