Chow Town

When a terrific winery closes, it feels almost like a death in family

Boulder Creek Winery in Boulder, Colo., closed its doors in mid-December.
Boulder Creek Winery in Boulder, Colo., closed its doors in mid-December.

It’s funny how wine is valued these days.

People will talk about certain wines as priceless: Chateau Mouton Rothschild or Chateau Lafite Rothschild comes to mind. Each cost thousands of dollars today, but I remember thinking in 1984 that the prices asked for these wines were absurd.

“Sixty dollars a bottle?” I remember saying to the buyer at Gomers. “Do I look stupid to you?”

Apparently, I must have. Gomer’s Liquor Store bought lots of 1982 Bordeaux and sold it all at a healthy profit. Today, that $60 bottle is worth $1,000 or more (to some, poor misguided fools, or just the filthy rich who don't know what money means.)

I thought those wines were lovely back then. I still think they are today. But some of the value of 1982 Mouton or 1982 Lafite is based upon its rarity. There shouldn't be much to go around. Many have noticed that there is far more of those two wines for sale than ever was made; but that brings up the issue of fraudulent wine, best left to another day.

Instead, I will admit my error 33 years ago. I was wrong. Those wines were special and worth every penny of $60. Or more. A lot more.

But here’s my problem. There are other special wines that are not championed three decades hence. They are little noticed, and that makes them perfect purchases for those who see fine wine as an investment.

I see it but in another way. I think that wine offers the only perfect investment: if you buy wisely it always accrues, either in value or in flavor. Pay attention to your purchase, so that it tastes delicious when you finally decide to drink it. Is it more valuable then? Well, that’s the market talking. Silly things happen. But flavor should always win.

Sadly, sometimes, it doesn't. Great wineries fail. Often because of hubris. The winery owners build a new and shiny winery; they purchase top vineyards at some crazy price. Perhaps they just buy new cars, I don’t know.

But Boulder Creek Winery did none of that. What they did was quietly make fantastic wines from grapes on the Western Slopes of the Colorado Rockies and then sell them to the people of Boulder, Colo. And they did it well. They needed a bigger space. The landlord said no.

But they wanted to grow and just needed a license to do so and the authorities just wouldn’t them do that. Perhaps ironically, marijuana’s success meant that cheap warehouses were hard to find in Boulder. And now, one of the finest wineries to exist between the coasts, closed its doors in mid-December, before Christmas.

It’s a sad tale that feels a bit like a death in the family, but we can at least say thank you to Jackie and Mike Thompson, the owners of Boulder Creek. You changed things. We will never get to buy your wines again; and we are the poorer for it.

But thank you for what you did. Because everybody in Colorado and elsewhere is thinking, maybe I could do something as good or better than that. We hope they do.

Go online and buy some while the bottles are still around. Then brag about it later.

Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column to The Star’s Food section.