Boulder Couple Shares a Passion for Viticulture and Winemaking

The first thing I noticed when I met Tracy and Blake Eliasson at their house in Boulder, Colorado was that the house looked like any other on the block.  But that’s where the similarities ended.  Once I set foot in their house, I found myself in the most unlikely winery setting.  The Eliasson’s house has been converted into a licensed and bonded winery, with vines growing in the backyard and a converted garage that now serves as the tank and barrel room.  The floor in the house is made entirely out of cork, and the dining room doubles as a laboratory as well as an eating space.

The next thing I noticed while walking through the Eliasson’s house was how clean and meticulous everything looked.  These two are very serious about making wine without being too serious.  After all, Blake delivers wine to Boulder residents via bike when an order is placed.  But when the Eliasson’s make wine under the Settembre Cellars name, this isn’t just a hobby.  Blake’s wine making style shows a masterful understanding of the wine making process from soil to bottle.  His Doctorate and Electrical Engineering degrees provide an ideal background for the chemistry side of wine making.

Take for example the forthcoming Settembre Cellars Riesling, made with fruit from Colorado‘s Palisades wine growing region on the western slope.  I wasn’t sure what to think as they poured me a glass and told me they were going for an Alsatian style.  Who’s heard of such a thing in Colorado?  Sure enough, that Riesling was not only Alsatian, but easily the best Riesling I’ve had from Colorado.  If it were poured out of a brown bag you’d never guess it was a Colorado wine.  So well made, with such expressive clean fruit with perfect acidity, I had to do a double take.  The nose was lovely, the finish, perfect.  I can still taste it now.  Next up was the Syrah.  The label said it was 14.2% ALC which was perfect for this Syrah.  Nice balance allowing the purity of the fruit to come through while the impeccable balance showed up everywhere on my palate at once.  I got some sweet rhubarb and blackberry on the nose, with just a hint of spice from the oak.

Wine delivery around Boulder

Wine delivery around Boulder

The last wine I tried was the Cabernet Sauvignon.  At 13.9% ALC I was thinking the Cab would not only be Old World in style, but maybe a little thin.  I was wrong.  Blake was able to get extraction and a rich mouth feel out of the grapes without overpower alcohol.  Again, the wine hit everywhere on my palate with what was now an apparent wine making style.  Blake not only maintains a meticulous winery, but his wines all had ideal balance with purity of fruit.  There was nothing about his wines not too like, and I’m still having a hard time believing they came from Colorado.

It’s exciting to watch a couple who is so passionate and so focused on what they want to create, but to know they are just getting started.  The Eliasson’s have so much great wine ahead of them, and it’ll be fun to watch their evolution from gargiste’s in Boulder, Colorado to see where their path takes them.  Tracy provided recipe pairing to go with the Settembre Cellars Riesling:

Grilled Polenta with Pears and Gorgonzola:
7 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups coarse cornmeal
2 Pears
½ Cup Gorgonzola

To make the polenta: boil the water in a deep pot, add the salt, then add the cornmeal slowly while stirring with a wooden spoon. Stir continuously until all of the water is absorbed and the polenta has become creamy, this takes about 25-30 minutes. Transfer the polenta to a casserole dish or bowl, cover, and cool for at least 1 hour. After cooling remove polenta from the cooling dish and slice the block into 1” thick slices brush with olive oil in preparation for the grill. Cut the pears in half and remove the seeds. Cook the pears (face down) along with the polenta on the grill. When the outside of the polenta is golden brown add Gorgonzola and cook for another 45 seconds. Serve outdoors with a glass of Settembre Cellars Colorado Riesling.

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  5 comments for “Boulder Couple Shares a Passion for Viticulture and Winemaking

  1. July 21, 2009 at 12:49 AM

    Great recipe – be sure to get gorgonzola dolce – it has just the right amount of punch without overpowering the dish.

  2. Joan
    July 21, 2009 at 4:05 PM

    Saw your video through Baka, only in Boulder could you have wine delivered by bike! Well, maybe Austin too. Here in Houston, I think you would need a tank to safely deliver anything. Have great fun living your dream.

  3. Java1Guy
    September 25, 2009 at 2:47 AM

    Hi Rick –

    Could you elaborate on this sentence?

    "His Doctorate and Electrical Engineering degrees provide an ideal background for the chemistry side of wine making."

    'doctorate' in what? I'm a EE and I'm not sure my one chemistry class is ideal for wine making – drinking, sure!

    Thanks for the fun article and have fun out there in the big time!

    Cheers, Mark

    • September 27, 2009 at 12:24 AM

      Hi Java1Guy,

      My Doctorate is in Solid State Electrical Engineering: fabrication, measurement, and simulation of quantum transport devices. At the electron device level the lines between electrical engineering, physics, and chemistry blur. This is a field where attention to detail is extremely important and this extends to my winemaking techniques. I followed this education with a Certificate in Enology & Viticulture from UC Davis: the sciences applied to winemaking and winegrowing. Having already completed a Doctorate the scientific journals presented here were much less intimidating. Winemaking is a fascinating mix of subjects. Whether fully realized or not there is a tremendous amount of art and science behind great wines. One example is the oxidation-reduction reactions that occur in wine and which are extremely important in wine aging (check out my blog: http://www.SettembreCellars.com/Blog-Oxygen). We all know this one: leave a bottle open overnight and it will oxidize. Oxidation-reduction are the loss-gain of an electron. In device physics one routinely calculates the quantum probabilities of electron transitions (loss-gain). In chemistry, and in winemaking, one often measures the redox potential (which is related to the macroscopic probability of oxidation-reduction reactions). Traditional winemaking choices influence the probability of these reactions. The right combination of oxidation-reduction adds complexity, too much of either adds flaws. Played out right an exquisite wine can result, and thus I pay very careful attention to my wines using science and engineering to help choose timing of otherwise very traditional winemaking techniques. This being said, even though many aspects of winemaking are understood through science, even more are completely unknown: enter art. And in this case, my eyes, nose, palate, instincts, creativity and experience guide the winemaking decisions. I like this. Applying Ohms Law in electrical engineering, equating moles of acids and bases in chemistry, and calculating the pressure variation in a stainless steel tank with temperature fluctuations using the ideal gas law in physics all apply and reliably give the expected result. Attempting to build a world-class wine chemical-by-chemical doesn't reproduce the original wine. For me, this is part of what makes wine fascinating. And of course the ultimate goal: sitting back and enjoying the allure of one of the world's oldest and most fascinating beverages. But, until then: off to apply some very basic fluid dynamics: moving the 2009 Chardonnay into French Oak barrel for fermentation. I have goals of making this my most exquisite Chardonnay yet!

      Cheers!
      -Blake.

  4. September 25, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    Hi Java1Guy,

    My Doctorate is in Solid State Electrical Engineering: fabrication, measurement, and simulation of quantum transport devices. At the electron device level the lines between electrical engineering, physics, and chemistry blur. This is a field where attention to detail is extremely important and this extends to my winemaking techniques. I followed this education with a Certificate in Enology & Viticulture from UC Davis: the sciences applied to winemaking and winegrowing. Having already completed a Doctorate the scientific journals presented here were much less intimidating. Winemaking is a fascinating mix of subjects. Whether fully realized or not there is a tremendous amount of art and science behind great wines. One example is the oxidation-reduction reactions that occur in wine and which are extremely important in wine aging (check out my blog: http://www.SettembreCellars.com/Blog-Oxygen). We all know this one: leave a bottle open overnight and it will oxidize. Oxidation-reduction are the loss-gain of an electron. In device physics one routinely calculates the quantum probabilities of electron transitions (loss-gain). In chemistry, and in winemaking, one often measures the redox potential (which is related to the macroscopic probability of oxidation-reduction reactions). Traditional winemaking choices influence the probability of these reactions. The right combination of oxidation-reduction adds complexity, too much of either adds flaws. Played out right an exquisite wine can result, and thus I pay very careful attention to my wines using science and engineering to help choose timing of otherwise very traditional winemaking techniques. This being said, even though many aspects of winemaking are understood through science, even more are completely unknown: enter art. And in this case, my eyes, nose, palate, instincts, creativity and experience guide the winemaking decisions. I like this. Applying Ohms Law in electrical engineering, equating moles of acids and bases in chemistry, and calculating the pressure variation in a stainless steel tank with temperature fluctuations using the ideal gas law in physics all apply and reliably give the expected result. Attempting to build a world-class wine chemical-by-chemical doesn’t reproduce the original wine. For me, this is part of what makes wine fascinating. And of course the ultimate goal: sitting back and enjoying the allure of one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating beverages. But, until then: off to apply some very basic fluid dynamics: moving the 2009 Chardonnay into French Oak barrel for fermentation. I have goals of making this my most exquisite Chardonnay yet!

    Cheers!
    -Blake.

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