Grand Valley retailer joins state wine board

Phil Castle
Business Times

Monty Haltiner

Monty Haltiner stocks the shelves of the Grand Junction liquor store he manages with more than 1,000 wines from around the world. But right next to vintages from far-flung European and California producers sit products bottled at wineries mere miles from the store.

Haltiner believes Grand Valley and Colorado wines deserve not only the shelf space, but also more attention from retailers — and in turn, customers. “If you give them the chance that I’ve given them, they’ll shine.”

It’s a message Haltiner expects to spread as a new member of a state board that promotes and helps market Colorado wines and wine-related tourism.

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Haltiner to a four-year term on the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. Haltiner will represent retail wine distributors on a nine-member board that also includes representatives of wineries, wine grape growers, wholesale wine distributors, the Colorado Tourism Board and Colorado State University.

Haltiner has worked as the manager and buyer at Crossroads Wine & Spirits since the store opened six years ago. He’s worked in the liquor industry for 10 years.

A certified sommelier, Haltiner conducts wine tastings and helps customers select wines at the store. He also has served as a wine judge at the annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade.

Haltiner said the Colorado wine industry has grown considerably since he’s been involved in the wine and liquor industry. More than 100 wineries now operate in the state and wine production over the past 10 years has increased from 279,000 liters to nearly 1 million liters.

While wineries are located all over the state, grape production remains concentrated in the Grand Valley and Western Colorado. Nearly 86 percent of 2009 wine grape production came from Mesa County, while Delta and Montrose counties accounted for another 12 percent.

Haltiner said Colorado wineries not only produce more wine, but also better quality wines that compare favorably with some of the best in the world. Consequently, Colorado wines deserve more attention from retailers as well as customers, he said.

At Crossroads Wines & Spirits, wines are grouped by styles, rather than origin. That means a riesling from Germany is located next to a riesling from California next to a riesling from Colorado.

Haltiner said he hopes to share that approach with other wine retailers as well as encourage them to display Colorado wines more prominently and educate customers about Colorado wines.

Rather than follow California trends, Haltiner said the Colorado wine industry is beginning to create its own identity and unique products. The next step, he said, is to plant more grape varietals suited to the climate and soils found in Colorado and concentrate on producing high-quality wines made from those grapes. The tempranillo and malbec varietals come to mind as two possibilities, he said.

Haltiner compared the potential for unique wines in Colorado to the way in which New Zealand has become renown for producing iconic wines made with sauvignon blanc.

In the meantime, Haltiner intends to continue to devote shelf space at his store to wines from around the world, including those produced in the Grand Valley and Colorado.