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As the Grand Valley celebrates Colorado wine and the matching grant deadline for the Warren Winiarski Institute of Viticulture and Enology approaches, WCCC asks for community support

“It truly takes a village to make the Colorado Mountain Winefest successful each year and many of us happen to be Mavericks,” said Cassidee Shull, CMU alumna and executive director of Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE) and Colorado Mountain Winefest. Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado Community College faculty, students and alumni are involved in just about every aspect of the largest wine festival in the state, which was recently named The Best Wine Festival in the Nation by USA Today. 

The event takes place on Saturday, September 17 and for the seventh year, it is sold out. Shull says the VIP tickets are the first to go because of the food.

"Catering for the Winefest First Class Pass area provides culinary students with a unique experience we could not otherwise provide as part of their education,” said WCCC Associate Technical Professor of Culinary Arts, Wayne Smith. “Students get the chance to experience offsite gourmet catering for 350 guests and they get to interact with attendees as they prepare food to order right in front of them. Year in and year out guests remark on the great food and the enthusiasm of the culinary students. That is a pretty remarkable achievement considering that half of the student population is in their fourth week in the culinary program at the time of the event." 

Lee LaNoue graduated from WCCC’s Viticulture & Enology Program in 2020, the same year as his family winery’s first harvest. LaNoue had been an amateur winemaker alongside his father since he was 8 years old. When construction delayed the opening of their tasting room at LaNoue DuBois Winery in Montrose, he decided to just take a couple of winemaking classes. “I wasn’t planning on completing a formal education in winemaking but once I started Jenne’s classes I knew there was no way I wanted to start a winery without learning all the in-depth chemistry and microbiology. I invested in the equipment to run my own lab analysis on my wines. It’s hard to make the jump from the home winemaking experience to commercial. I would be lost without that program,” said LaNoue. He greatly enjoys growing and working with cold-hearty French American hybrid grapes like Marechal Foch and Leon Millot.

“Colorado Mountain Winefest was by far the best event we’ve done and the most fun,” LaNoue said. "I've noticed at all the events we pour at, that the millennials are much more open to trying the new, non-traditional wines we’re making. If they’re getting together with friends, they’re wanting to bring something new and exciting that no one else at the party has tried before.” 

“I just love seeing my students take what they learned to the next level. It’s so fun to see them get a job or start a winery in our community,” said Jenne Baldwin-Eaton who has been a winemaking instructor at WCCC since 2016. “I love to keep in touch with my students. They call me for advice, or to invite me to taste their wines and I run into them at industry events. That’s one of the best parts of living in a small community.” 

Baldwin-Eaton retired last year, but her dedication to the program hasn’t wavered. She is hopeful that the Viticulture & Enology program will continue to grow and better serve the students and local wine industry for generations to come. World famous winemaker, Warren Winiarski, whose Judgment of Paris event put California wines on the map in 1976 was also a winemaker in Colorado for two years before founding Stag’s Leap Winery in Napa. In 2021, he invested in the Colorado wine industry’s success by donating $100,000 to establish a scholarship fund and support program for WCCC’s Viticulture & Enology program. Additionally, he pledged a $50,000 donation with a December 31 matching deadline. So far, Baldwin-Eaton has raised $25,000 toward the match and time is running out.  

Projects made possible by the initial donations, which dubbed the facility Warren Winiarski, Gerald Ivancie Institute of Viticulture and Enology, include research on the impacts of wildfire smoke on grapes, which started with the Pine Gulch Fire, and working with new hybrid varieties of grapes that are being grown in the Grand Valley AVA due to phylloxera and our changing climate.  

“Warren's hope was to infuse money into our industry for education, research and collaboration,” Baldwin-Eaton said. “This is a tough time to ask wineries for money since they were hit so hard in the last couple of years by COVID and crop freezes so we really hope the larger community of Colorado wine lovers will contribute too.” 

To donate, please visit These funds will allow the program to upgrade from home winemaking equipment like carboys and tubing to commercial volume tanks, a mechanical press and upgraded lab equipment. It will also expand future opportunities to grow more grape varieties and make more wine for research purposes. 

Baldwin-Eaton recently served as a judge in the Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition and will be teaching a workshop on little-known grape varieties at this year’s Winefest.  

Fisher’s Liquor Barn is the title sponsor of the event and Owner Brandi Pollock is a CMU alumna. “I’m so proud to be a part of Colorado Mesa University as a former Mav Club Board Member, a current President Advisory Board Member and a donor to athletics and scholarship funds — and so proud of the Mavericks making Winefest great,” Pollock said. “The Colorado Mountain Winefest has long been a beneficial event bringing Colorado Winemakers together to share their wines with visitors from all over. At Fisher’s we have the privilege of highlighting these wines year-round. We are excited to be at The Colorado Mountain Winefest and welcome wine and food enthusiasts!” 


Written by Hannah Odneal