Magazine / People

Geographer spreads the word about Colorado wines

Kyle Schacter pours wine at a tasting

Alumnus Kyle Schlacter, a promoter of Colorado wines, pours for DU geography professors at a wine tasting on campus in March. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Kyle Schlachter (BS environmental science ’03) turned his passion for dirt into a love of wine. The geography PhD student studies and markets the Colorado wine industry for a living.

Schlachter began writing his dissertation on lake sediment and fire reconstruction but became distracted by his developing interest in wine.

So he switched gears, turning his hobby into a career.

“Everyone talks about eating local, but nobody really talks about drinking local. I knew that Colorado had a good wine industry that not a lot of people knew about. I wanted to get into that,” Schlachter says.

His new research topic focuses on how the Colorado wine industry uses geography to market its wines.

Schlachter is a certified specialist of wine through the Society of Wine Educators and wants to teach a university-level geography of wine class. He has a syllabus ready to go in case the opportunity presents itself.

Currently, he is the research and outreach coordinator for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board — a subset of the state department of agriculture — which funds research, informs the public and markets Colorado wines.

Through his research and work, Schlachter discovered that the biggest misconceptions about Colorado wines are that the state’s climate is too cold to grow grapes and that the wines are of poor quality and overly sweet. In reality, he says, the dichotomy of hot summer days and cool evenings gives grapes really good flavor, producing high-quality merlots, cabernet francs, Rieslings and other varietals. Many people prefer Colorado wines to expensive French and Italian wines in his quarterly blind tastings, Schlachter says.

Colorado is home to nearly 100 boutique wineries across the state, but 85–90 percent of the grapes grow in the Grand Valley near Palisade and Grand Junction due to the region’s ideal climate.

In addition to his other endeavors, Schlachter enjoys writing his wine blog, Colorado Wine Press, and likes that his work combines the human and environmental aspects of science.

“I went from more of a physical scientist to a cultural scientist, which I never thought I would,” he says. “It’s a lot more interesting to tell people I study wine rather than lake mud — although it was fun to say I was a paleolimnologist.”


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