Inspired by the successful re-establishment of Colorado’s wine industry, and intrigued by the idea of bringing that excitement to Boulder, owners Mike, Jackie and son Will Thompson established Boulder Creek Winery in January 2003, producing an array of award-winning, Old World style wines.
Hungarian-born and raised and a wine collector for about 40 years, Boulder resident Peter Kertesz knows wine.
And if he’s going to buy Colorado wine, there’s no question that he will buy it from Boulder Creek Winery.
“The only Colorado wines I personally buy are Boulder Creek,” he says, noting he has traveled the state tasting Colorado wines. “I always come back and end up buying at Boulder Creek Winery. She makes excellent reds … and whites. You have a good choice there.”
Perhaps it’s because Boulder Creek wines are “old style” – traditional white and red wines produced from classic varieties of grapes, aged in real oak barrels and sealed with natural corks.
No modern shortcuts here.
Owners Mike and Jackie Thompson and their son, Will, celebrate the winery’s 10th anniversary this year, and Peter has been their customer since the beginning.
While the “old style” process is expensive and time-consuming, the end product is high end and suited to aging in a cellar as opposed to being consumed right away, Jackie notes.
Boulder Creek doesn’t release its red wines until they’ve aged at least a couple of years, and the winery has heard from its earliest buyers that its first vintage of 2003 is still drinking well, she says.
“They are really enjoying the aged red,” Jackie says. “We always appreciate getting those reports back. There are those who don’t have the patience for aged wine and drink it here, and that’s OK.”
But the customers who purchased wine in 2003, such as Peter, are still buying Boulder Creek wines.
“We discovered Boulder Creek Winery and Jackie and Mike a long time ago, close to when they started up,” Peter says. “Jackie, in my opinion, is one of the best wine makers in Colorado, no question. She has a fabulous palate, so she makes very, very good wines.”
While Boulder Creek Winery is Mike and Jackie’s “retirement business,” Jackie, enologist and principal winemaker at Boulder Creek, has always dreamed of owning a commercial winery. She grew up in northern New England, where winemaking was a traditional home activity for her French family. Jackie earned a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science with a focus on wine grapes in college as well as completed a series of wine-making classes at the University of California Davis.
Mike retired from his career in the high-tech industry after the wine business proved sustainable for the family, but he is no amateur when it comes to winemaking or tasting: he is a former wine steward for Student Prince Restaurant in Springfield, Mass., as well as a longtime home winemaker and connoisseur of wines from all over the world.
Their son, Will, was only 13 when his parents started Boulder Creek, and he’s now a 23-year-old University of Colorado pre-med graduate with his eyes on obtaining a master’s degree in anesthesiology, likely at an out-of-state college. Until then, he makes his living as assistant winemaker, a position he’s held since he was 18, at Boulder Creek.
“In a lot of ways it’s more than I hoped it would be,” Jackie says, reflecting on the last 10 years of living her dream. “I was definitely naïve on the business end but I love making wine. I’ve grown and learned as we’ve gone along. It’s not all fun, but over all … I’m certainly wiser now and I would do it again if I had to do it all again.
“The winemaking part is better than I thought it would be; I never thought we could be as successful as we have been.
Not only does the winery primarily support Colorado farmers in the grapes it uses to make the wine – more than 95 percent of its grapes come from vineyards in Palisade – but its wines never leave the state unless they’re in the hands of tourists who have likely visited the winery or Boulder-area liquor store, Mike says.
“We try to focus on local (customers),” he says.
He notes the politics involved with shipping wine out of state are not worth the hassle, Mike says.
And local business supports the Thompson family while remaining small enough for the family to “be hands on,” Jackie adds.
While Boulder Creek started off making 500 cases (12 bottles each) of wine a year, it now produces 2,000 cases a year, and that’s enough.
“I think we have settled in to our own niche,” Jackie says.
Apparently wine experts agree, having awarded a number of Boulder Creek wines gold medals as well as several best-of-show awards, Mike says. The winery’s Consensus II wine, a combination of its best reds chosen by its VIP Wine Club members at a tasting, has won two gold medals.
“It gives our wine credibility,” Mike says of winning medals. “The Front Range in general is known for having a pretty sophisticated palate. Naturally the industry uses Colorado as a test market because we drink a lot of wine in this state. We want to make a product that appeals to the serious wine drinker.
“We’ve won over quite a few skeptics in the last 10 years.”
And that’s reflected in the fact that the business has grown – albeit only in the single digits – every year since it’s opened, Mike says.
Yet that growth has been manageable and all the Thompsons have asked for, keeping them and their three part-time employees busy.
While the Thompsons may someday be ready to negotiate with a buyer, when Mike and Jackie are truly ready to retire, they will keep making wine as long as they can and enjoy it. “We’re just playing it by ear,” Mike says. “As long as we’re having fun making wine and have good customers, we could do this for quite a few more years.”