Steamboat Springs Cellars releases unique '99 blends

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— Steamboat Springs Cellars has released its 1999 vintage and there are some new wines in the cellar. For the first time, the tiny winery that operates out of its Steamboat location on Downhill Drive will release a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Franc called "Rabbit Ears Red."

Vintners Tom and Kathie Williams make all the wines themselves, with help this year from a half-dozen volunteers who crushed grapes in exchange for wine. The grapes all come from vineyards from the Palisade area.

Williams said all 225 cases of Steamboat Vintners 1998 Merlot have sold out.

This year's wines were touch and go, Williams said, because a cold snap in the Palisade area in December 1998, combined with a late frost in the spring of 1999, killed much of the grape crop. Williams said he was worried he might succeed in getting only two or three tons of grapes from the vineyards.

"We wound up getting about 8.5 tons," Williams said. "But we had a hard time getting as much Merlot grapes as last year."

That meant he and Kathie could expand their offerings to Steamboat customers, even though this year's offering only includes 185 cases of the popular Merlot.

In addition, they've produced 75 cases of the Chardonnay, 100 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and 75 cases of a new blend, "Strawberry Park," which combines a Riesling with a strawberry wine. Cabernet Franc is a dry red wine that is not as full-bodied as the traditional Cabernets or Merlots, Williams said. The winery is also releasing 185 cases of the Rabbit Ears Red.

Williams, who also owns a wall-papering business, ice and snow removal business and home exterior wood protection business, said wine making is by far the most complicated of his endeavors.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210

or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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