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Wine and Weed: A Colorado Vacation

I’ve pretty much given up on souvenirs.  I always try to buy something unique when I travel — something that represents the place I’m visiting.  Something I can’t get at home.  But the Internet is making it nearly impossible.  It’s a double edged sword of course, but I can satisfy any craving or whim with a couple of clicks and a credit card.  You want a miniature Big Ben from London?  Click, click, done.  Leather goods from Argentina?  Click, click, done.  Pottery from Mexico?  Click, click, done.  Whoopie pies from Maine?  Click, click, done.  You get the picture.

We’ve been in Colorado this week, visiting family.  We’ve been to Colorado many, many times. We have the t-shirts.  Is there anything left to buy that truly represents Colorado?

420The ubiquitous Colorado curiosity right now is weed — it’s the ultimate in “you can’t take it with you” mementos.  I have no problem with the legalization of marijuana.  If you want to smoke weed, knock yourself out. I’m all in on Live and Let Live, but I’m not really a Got Pot?  t-shirt kind of gal.

I learned a lot about marijuana this week. If you see a store with a green cross — that’s a weed store.  And I now know that 420 is code for “let’s light up”.  (Last week, if you had asked me what 420 meant, I would have said Hitler’s Birthday).

Weed is everywhere in Colorado, especially in the mountain towns.  You can smell it in the air, and especially the public restrooms.  My kids now have the answer to their “What’s that smell?” question.  Every other ad on the radio is weed-related.  We saw more than one person lighting up in their car (you can have marijuana in your car, but it’s illegal to use it in your car — but people do, obviously).   The new Mile-High Voodoo Doughnuts opened in January next to a cannabis shop.  Capitalism at work, folks.

Before you start thinking I’ve come home with a suitcase full of really funny brownies . . . we did not sample any weed in Colorado.  We did have several discussions with our tween and teen about the ratio of pot-heads to overachievers not being in the pot-heads favor, though. And pot is decidedly illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, so what did I buy that represents Colorado?

Nothing represents place more than wine.  And yes, Virginia, they make wine in Colorado.

That said, I don’t bring a lot of wine home with me when I travel.  (I send quite a bit of it, though).  Wine is heavy (by the time I get two bottles into my suitcase, I’m already maxing out the airline imposed weight restrictions).  And, more to the point, I can get almost any wine my little heart desires with a couple of clicks.  So, over the years, my vacation wine-buying strategy evolved to this:  “What do you have that I can’t buy in Virginia?”  If I can buy it in Virginia, I’m not interested.  And usually, there’s something.  Even if it’s one little bottle, there’s something.

So what am I bringing home from Colorado?  I’ve got it down to a science.  We have three suitcases, so we can take three bottles of Colorado home with us, one in each, very carefully weight-distributed, suitcase.  Here’s what I chose:


Two Rivers Vineyards Riesling 2011
Colorado is home to two AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) — Grand Valley and West Elk.  Two Rivers is located in Grand Junction, Colorado — extreme western Colorado, almost in Utah. That’s the Grand Valley AVA.  The sales rep at the liquor store told me Two Rivers is getting a lot of favorable press lately, especially for their cool climate grapes.  I decided on a Riesling with 12.4% ABV, hoping it’ll be on the dry side.  Fingers crossed.

Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey
Located in Breckenridge, the eponymous distillery is the world’s highest at 9,600 feet. Breckenridge bourbon is made with snow-melt from the Rocky Mountains.  OK, I’m sold. Breckenridge also won Bourbon of the Year, so it’s bound to be at least a little bit good.

Leopold’s Navy Strength Small Batch Gin
Located right in Denver, Leopold’s is known for its small-batch gin.  Navy Strength sounds more like it should be deodorant than gin.  My husband went to the US Naval Academy — I’ve smelled the Navy.  They could use Navy Strength deodorant.  But apparently, Navy Strength refers to the ABV, and this one comes in at 57%.  Wow.  Why so high?  Here’s the scoop, straight from the bottle:  “Because it was stored next to gunpowder munitions on naval warships, Navy Strength gin was distilled to a proof just high enough that if it spilled during battle, the ship’s gunpowder would still ignite”.  Navy. It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure.

After reading some extremely favorable reviews of Leopold’s regular small-batch gin (and a few reviews calling Navy Strength gin a punch in the face), I’m kind of kicking myself for buying the Navy Strength.

Can I buy all of these things on the Internet?  Sure.  But they all take at least 3 clicks to find and buy.  And for sure, I can’t buy them in my local ABC (Virginia’s state-run monopoly on liquor sales) or wine store.

Update . . . I just figured out I can place a special order for Leopold’s small-batch gin through our Virginia ABC Gestapo, but I can’t special order the Navy Strength.  So now I’m back to feeling good about buying Navy Strong.

And that’s my haul from Colorado.

Do you buy souvenirs when you travel?  If you buy wine and spirits on your vacation . . . what’s your strategy?


P.S.  Snoop Dog is hosting a “Wellness Retreat” (because when I think wellness, I think Snoop Dog) at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado tonight — 4/20.  And it’s sold out.  I’m pretty sure The Dude will be there . . . that rug really tied the room together, did it not?

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