Winery celebrates new vintage
November 18, 2002
Dan and Eva Baharav, owners and operators of Carbondale’s Baharav Vineyards Winery, are happy to sell any local connoisseur a bottle of their latest release. However, potential buyers should call the couple before dropping by for a purchase ? they have “real” jobs that occupy most of their day.But a taste of the Baharavs’ 2001 harvest wines ? the couple’s fifth release since purchasing the winery in 1995 ? doesn’t betray them as a mere hobby. Though Dan, a wildlife consultant by day, and Eva, a speech therapist with the Basalt school system, split their time between full-time jobs and their basement winery, their three selections ? a merlot, chardonnay and viognier ? are slowly gaining popularity among restaurants around Denver and have created a wide fan base throughout the valley.The Baharavs generally host two tastings per year at their home in the hills above Carbondale ? one in the weeks before the Food & Wine Magazine Classic, and another in the fall to premiere the winery’s latest release. “Releasing is the toughest time of year ? you don’t know if it’s good enough, or if the people will accept it,” Dan said.Considering the crowd at the weekend’s open house and wine tasting, local buyers have embraced the Baharav brand. Dan spent most of Saturday and Sunday pouring samples for potential customers, while Eva, an expert after five years of sampling, suggested menu additions to potential buyers ? the viognier is perfect for seafood entrees, while the chardonnay compliments anything from fruit, cheese and desserts to pasta dishes. Eva also provided photos of the family’s vineyard to help illustrate how Grand Valley grapes are used to create Carbondale’s own brand of wine.The Baharavs’ grapes are grown at 4,900 feet at the family’s 12-acre vineyard in Palisade. Dan, a former ecological consultant for local ski areas, doesn’t allow the use of herbicides or pesticides on his crops ? though Baharav releases aren’t certified organic, they’re pretty close. Irrigation for the vineyard comes from the nearby river, the couple says, so the summer’s lengthy drought hardly effected this year’s harvest.”For the grapes, it was really good,” Dan said. “We don’t rely on the rain ? we rely on the river. And grapes don’t need a lot of water.”Water is also withheld in the weeks before harvest to keep a careful balance of sugar and acid levels within the fruit, Dan said.Harvesting of the grapes usually occurs in the first few week of September ? the grapes picked for this new batch of wine were actually picked last year. Baharav grapes, around a ton per day during the height of the harvest season, are hand picked by Dan after a careful survey of the vines. The selected fruit is then brought to Carbondale in Dan’s pickup where the family crushes, presses and begins the fermentation process.The Baharavs’ winery is actually housed in a small “cave” in the family’s basement. The temperature of the small room is carefully monitored, and usually kept between 56 to 60 degrees.”A constant, low temperature for slow aging,” Dan said.Dan introduces different taste elements ? oak, for example ? to the fermenting grapes at his leisure. However, his sensitive palate and a disdain for wineries that tend to mask the taste of the fruit lends a purity to the Baharav selections. “This is a true viognier ? I don’t do any correction,” Dan warns one patron during a weekend wine tasting. “We just use a little oak, so the taste of the grape is stronger,” he tells a second visitor as he prepares another bottle of merlot.The Baharavs generally produce 600 cases of wine per year. The number allows the couple to keep up with customer demand, Dan says, but retain the intimate feel of a small, family-run business.But even such a small caseload is a challenge ? a welcome one, but still a challenge ? for the Baharavs.”Imagine ? 600 cases, 7,200 bottles, and one person,” Dan laughed.Wine lovers who missed out on the Baharavs’ open house still have the opportunity to pick up a bottle of a 2001 release in time for the holidays. Contact the Baharav Vineyards Winery at 1-877-ECO-WINE or at Baharavs@sopris.net.