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Love of art and science leads to career making wine

January 20, 2009

An interview with Colorado State graduate Rob Hammelman ('99), oenologist at Two Rivers Winery in Grand Junction, Colo.

What did you study at CSU?
It took a few years to settle on a major. I was torn between science and art. As a junior I settled on biology with a concentration on plant physiology.

How did you get involved in wine making?
I came across wine making through a professor at CSU. I had never thought about the science behind wine making and that sparked my interest so I started looking into oenology programs for graduate school. I thought it would be a good field to combine my interest in art and science. Wine making is a creative science. It’s not a visual art, but a sensory art.

Where did you study oenology? 
I went to graduate school at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia, for a post graduate diploma, which is equivalent to a master’s degree without the research. It’s a world-renowned school for oenology and I was able to combine my interest in travel and wine making. I had experience with Australian wineries, which are very technical in their wine making, New Zealand wineries, and two summers ago I went to Austria. I toured a winery just west of Vienna where they are known for dry Rieslings.

What’s the best part of making wine?
I love harvest time (mid September to mid October in the Grand Valley). It’s the most exciting time for a winemaker because it’s when fermentation is going on and 80 percent of lab analysis happens. You get one chance a year to make a wine (as far as fermentation goes).

What are your current favorite wines to make or drink?
For a white, a dry Riesling. Colorado can do Reislings the way other states can’t because of our temperatures. Austrian and Australian Rieslings are great too. To make and drink, I love a Syrah. The flavor profile is so enjoyable. It has earthiness, gaminess, and spicy, pepper qualities to it. It’s the wine that seems to change the most during the maturation process. The Syrah we make here ages for 10 months in barrels.

What’s the best way to preserve wine?
Most wines are designed to be consumed within a year, and 90 percent of all wine bought is drunk within 24 hours. I recommend drinking a wine within two years of its vintage date. White wines are made to be drunk early. They don’t benefit as much from aging as reds do. Only a more expensive wine from specific regions is made to be aged for a long time.

Is there a good book on wine that you can recommend?
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France by Kermit Lynch. It’s about the author’s travels to wine cellars and meeting winemakers. It’s as much about the personalities of the winemakers as it is about the wine. It’s opinionated and well written.

What kind of wine events are available for consumers?
At our winery, we host a Wines Around the World event. Small groups of people come for the weekend and stay at the chateau where we do wine tastings with varieties across the world and I put on a winemaking seminar. We have a spring barrel tasting in April where we taste the wine from the barrels that were made the previous harvest. There are jazz and wine concerts in summer, Palisade hosts a wine fest in September in a park, and there is the Boulder Wine Fest and the Denver International Wine Fest.


This article was originally published in Around the Oval magazine. To subscribe to Around the Oval, become a member of the CSU Alumni Association.

Contact: Beth Etter
Phone: (970) 491-6533