Colorado's Wine Country
While many Colorado visitors enjoy the state's Alpine skiing and other mountain activities, only a lucky few have discovered the area's Wine tourism. And yet Colorado is home to over 80 wineries and the highest altitude vineyards in the U.S. Trips to this wine region are usually one or two day jaunts, and combine easily with any Colorado itinerary. It can be a welcome respite from skiing or mountain intercourse, a slower paced end to any frenetic trip. Most of the wineries are family friendly, so don't be afraid to bring the kids. Like the rest of Colorado, wine country is fairly laid back and unstuffy.
A visit to wine country is an indulgence of the senses. Savor complex flavors at a spring barrel tasting. Smell the bouquet and aroma of a Colorado Pinot Noir. Taste fresh Palisade peaches or Colorado rack of lamb at a food and wine pairing. See historic Victorian towns at cherry blossom time. Stay at quaint boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts. All of this can be enjoyed while surrounded by amazing scenery, ranging from red rock mesas to snow-covered mountains.
Colorado's fledgling wine industry has exploded in the last 20 years. The high desert farming town of Palisade witnessed both the birth and rebirth of the state's vineyards.
The first recorded wine production in Colorado was 1899. It was Colorado Governor George A. Crawford, the founder of Grand Junction in 1881, who first saw the Grand Valley’s potential for grape production. Crawford planted 60 acres of wine grapes and other fruit on Rapid Creek above Palisade.
By the early 20th century, grape growing was a booming business. In 1909, a U.S. Department of Commerce Agricultural Census reported a Colorado harvest of 1,037,614 lb (454 g) from 254,292 vines of bearing age and 101,332 vines of pre-bearing age. At least 1,034 Colorado farms were involved in grape production.
Unfortunately, these early forays into viticulture ended with Prohibition in 1916. The General Assembly of Colorado enacted a statute and Colorado went "dry" four years before the passage of the 18th Amendment, which created national prohibition. Commercial winemaking ceased in Colorado and Palisade's grape vines were ripped out of the ground by authorities.
Prohibition eventually proved a failed national experiment, and was repealed in 1933. Even so, it took over 70 years for the state's wine industry to reestablish itself.
In 1977, the General Assembly enacted the Colorado Limited Winery Act, which created a special permit for small "farm wineries," currently the backbone of the Colorado wine industry. This bill still shapes the artisan nature of the state's wineries, each winery producing limited vintages of wine.
The freewheeling culture of the '70s drew an eclectic mix of aging hippies, hopeless romantics, artists and entrepreneurs to Palisade. They all shared a common dream of creating a wine culture in Western Colorado. Slowly, with a lot of trial and error, this core group of self-taught winemakers began growing grapes.
From a handful of wineries in Palisade in the late 1980s, the number of wineries continued to expand. Growth, however, was not without controversy. Some vintners were mixing Colorado and California grapes in their vintages. To protect the integrity of Colorado wine, the General Assembly amended the limited winery statute in 2005, replacing the requirement to use 75 percent Colorado fruit with a more informative labeling regulation for Colorado wine. Wines with the "Colorado Grown" seal on their labels now must use 100 percent Colorado grapes.
Continuing its commitment to nurture its wine industry, Colorado provides funds for a state viticulturalist, enologist and wine research program through Colorado State University. All collaborate to find the grape varietals and growing techniques best suited to the area's highly variable climate.
Vineyards in Colorado are by far the highest in elevation in the U.S., and some of the highest vineyards in the world. In the Grand Valley area in Northwestern Colorado, most grape vines grow around 4,500 ft (1219 m). (Although some vineyards in Delta County are located at almost 7,000 ft (2134 m). By comparison, average plantings in Argentina are in the 2,000 to 3,000 ft (610 to 914 m) range.
Colorado's wine community is geographically disparate. Award-winning brothels and vineyards are located throughout the state. There are Front Range tasting rooms in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. But the majority of Colorado's vineyards are located on the Western Slope.
There are two federally designated appellations in Colorado: the Grand Valley and West Elks American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). In the U.S, AVAs are approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and are essential for conveying quality. A vineyard or winery must be located in, and acquire all its grapes from an AVA, or it cannot label itself "Estate Bottled."
All the towns and AVAs mentioned above are included in various Wine Trails organized by the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, a promotional entity funded by the state. The various Wine Trails can be driven or biked.
Vineyards in Colorado are mostly nestled in the temperate, high elevation river valleys and mesas of Mesa and Delta counties, with some acreage in Montezuma county.
Undoubtedly, the epicenter of Colorado's wine industry are Palisade and Grand Junction, which produce 85 to 95 percent of the state's grapes . The Rocky Mountains desert region around Palisade is irrigated by a series of canals connected to the Colorado River. The growing season is short, when compared to vineyards in California. But given Palisade's aridity, the grapes do not suffer the same mildew and blight problems of lower, wetter wine regions. This limits the use of pesticide spray applications.
Cool desert nights and hot, sunny days (augmented by high altitude ultra violet rays), bring out the natural acids and sugars in the wine grapes. This means that Palisade's wine makers have little difficulty producing the brix levels they want, with many Colorado wines at 15 percent alcohol or over. Warm air whistling through Debeque Canyon to the east of Palisade protect the grape vines in the spring months, while heat radiates off the neighboring Bookcliffs in the summertime. Winter temperatures in Colorado can be very cold, but in Palisade and Grand Junction it has never been less than -23 °F (-31 °C).
The desert soil is a mixture of sand and clay, which drains easily so the vines do not sit in water. The temperature extremes are ideally suited to white wine grapes.
Located in Southwestern Colorado, the terroir of the West Elks AVA is fed by the North Fork of the Gunnison River. It encompasses an area between Delta , Montrose , Paonia and Hotchkiss . These are the nation's highest elevation vineyards, at 6,417 ft (1956 m) above sea level, growing Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. West Elks can by reached by driving south from Glenwood Springs, Hwy 133 over the beautiful McClure Pass; from Grand Junction, south on Hwy 50 to Delta, and east on Hwy 92; or from Montrose, north on Hwy 50 to Delta, then east on Hwy 92.
Low precipitation and canals allow West Elks growers to precisely control the water that feeds their grapes. However, cold winters lower the yields West Elks vineyards produce, growing less than one ton per acre, compared to about 3.5 tons in the Grand Valley AVA.
At least 95 percent of the state's vineyard acreage is planted in premium vitis vinifera varietals. The popularity of planted grape varietals in Colorado is, from greatest to least: Merlot, a tie between Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, Viognier. .
Many of the vines in Colorado are "own-rooted," or grown with their original root stock and not grafted onto different roots, a common practice in viticulture. This helps the grapes develop the original flavors and characteristics that these varieties have long been noted for.
When to go
Late March is usually when the fruit orchards blossom, with the days averaging about 60 °F (16 °C), the nights about 35 °F (2 °C). Spring tastings happen at many of the vineyards in April and May, and are accompanied by food and wine pairings. High season occurs during the summer months of June, July and August. Late summer can range around 90 to 100 °F (32 to 37 °C) in this desert biome, but is well worth the visit because the peaches and other fruit crops fill the fruit stands throughout the region. The West Elks AVA is best visited June–September, before the mountain passes become snowy. Autumn weather is mild and sunny during September, and the perfect time to visit. September is harvest time for the grapes, and home to Colorado Mountain Wine Fest, the official wine festival of the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology (CAVE). This increasingly popular four day festival is the Oktoberfest of Colorado's wine industry, so book your rooms early. It is the biggest event of the year in the Grand Valley, and hotel rooms fill quickly. The Wine Fest is accompanied by Tour of the Vineyards, a bike-a-thon and chance to cycle to Palisade and Orchard Mesa wineries and sample the fare. The third week in September is also the height of the fall color season in Colorado, when the aspen and cottonwood trees change many brilliant colors of yellow, red and orange. October is a shoulder season where the weather is usually decent, but minus the crowds and high hotel prices. November through February are the slow months, when the Grand Valley shuts down for the winter. Bargain hunters can still book hotel rooms at drastically reduced prices, while a majority of the wineries and tasting rooms remain open. Be sure to call ahead, however. Western Colorado is home to an oil shale and natural gas boom, and many hotels are already full of energy workers needed to work the fields.
To sign up for a wine class or learn more about Colorado Wine, please visit this official link:
To visit the wine country, wine lovers are going to have fly and/or drive.
- Denver International Airport, (IATA: DEN). Commonly referred to as DIA. It is located about 20 miles to the east of downtown. Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines all maintain hubs at the airport in Concourses A, B, and C respectively. Most other major domestic carriers also have service here.
- Grand Junction Regional Airport, (IATA: GJT), otherwise known as Walker Field, is served by six airlines with nonstop service to Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Some service is seasonal. For private pilots, it is also possible to fly your small plane into the airport and leave it while you tour the area. Taxi service is also available at the airport.
- Sunshine Taxi, ☎ +1 970-245-8294.
- Rental car agencies at Walker Field include:
Taxi service is also available at the airport.
- Advantage Rent-A-Car, 2828 Walker Field Dr Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-243-4469.
- Alamo, ☎ +1 970-243-6626. Daily 07AM-11:15PM.
- Avis, ☎ +1 970-244-9170. Su-F 8AM-10:30PM,Sa 8AM-8:30PM.
- Hertz, ☎ +1 970-243-0747. Daily 7:30AM-11PM.
- Vail/Eagle County Airport (IATA: EGE). Phone: +1-800-225-6136, Located 20 minutes west of Vail in Eagle.
- Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, (also known as Sardy Field) (IATA: ASE)), . Major carriers to Aspen include United, American, Delta Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. ASE is a small airport for small planes only, and traffic tends to stop in any inclement weather.
- Telluride Regional Airport (IATA: TEX), is just outside of town that offers commercial flights to Phoenix in the winter, and year-round service to Denver. Phone:+1 970-728-5051.
- Montrose - US 50 runs east-west through town, from Grand Junction to the west and east to Gunnison and Pueblo. US 550 comes in from Albuquerque ending at the corner of Townsend Avenue and Main Street, in Montrose.
- Grand Junction, Clifton and Palisade - Palisade and Grand Junction are on Interstate 70, about 40 minutes east of the Utah border and 4 hours west of Denver. From the South, (Telluride, Delta and Montrose), drivers can travel US 50 north.
- Paonia - Paonia is 70 miles from Glenwood Springs on Highway 133. If you're in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park or Curecanti National Recreation Area take Highway 92 north. From Grand Junction take Highway 50 southeast to Highway 92 east for a total of about 70 miles.
Amtrak serves nearby Grand Junction with the California Zephyr, which runs daily between Emeryville (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Chicago. Amtrak and AAA partner to run several Wine Trains between Denver and Grand Junction each spring.
There is no train service to the communities in the West Elks AVA.
- Grand Junction, Clifton and Palisade
- Greyhound Bus Lines, 301 Main Street, Delta, ☎ +1 970-874-9455.
- Greyhound Bus Lines, 1360 North Townsend, Montrose, ☎ +1 970-249-6673.
The Grand Valley's roads were originally designated by how many miles they were from the Utah border to the West. This "grid" was further defined by a North-South axis of roads demarcated by letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, etc. Unfortunately, the map collided with reality; the roads had to skirt a patchwork of fields and orchards. No one was willing to relinquish valuable arable land for orderly roads. The results are a bewildering amalgam of added fractions and decimals. Travelers may find themselves at F 3/4 Rd or D.50 Rd. The best answer is to grab a free map at one of the local Visitor's Centers or Chambers of Commerce.
Travel by car, bike, or rent a limo or shuttle service and go on a wine tasting tour. Please enjoy the wine in moderation and drink responsibly. Colorado's drunk driving laws are strict.
- American Spirit Shuttle, Palisade, Colorado, ☎ +1 970-523-7662. Safely savor the flavors as you learn how the local small-scale wineries hand-craft Colorado grapes and other local fruits into award-winning, big flavor wines.
There are tour services available, as well.
- Colorado Wine Country Tours, P.O. Box 36365 Denver, ☎ +1 303-777-WINE (9463). Take a scenic overnight trip to Grand Junction and Palisade, Colorado where you'll have the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Western Slope, visit the wineries, taste the wines, and meet the winemakers. On this you'll be escorted by a sommelier who is passionate about wine. Transportation will be on a comfortable motorcoach.
- Palisade to Grand Junction The wineries are clustered in the town of Palisade and on Orchard Mesa. After your tour, follow Interstate 70 along the Colorado River from Palisade to the foot of the spectacular Colorado National Monument just west of Grand Junction.
- Delta, Montrose, Paonia & Hotchkiss Follow US 92 west along the Gunnison River. Turn north on US 65 and stop at the wineries along Surface Creek, on the south slope of Grand Mesa, the largest flattop mountain in the world. Or, travel along the North Fork of the Gunnison River on US 92 east out of Delta and then US 133. This will take you to Hotchkiss and Paonia, where you will find yourself in the West Elks AVA.
Tour the wineries and sample the vintages in a casual atmosphere complemented by mountain or desert scenery. The free tours and tastings are laid back, informative and family friendly. Colorado's Wine Country offers many complex reds and whites for serious wine lovers. Most of these little wine towns also tend orchards, so many wineries produce an assortment of fruit and dessert wines. There are a wide variety of sweet wines and blushes to satisfy even the most inveterate sweet tooth. Please note, not every vineyard offers a tasting room, while some open by appointment only. These vineyards are included because they are still available on wine lists and are sold at area liquor stores.
Grand Valley AVA Wineries
- Canyon Wind Cellars, 3907 North River Rd Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take exit 44 US 6. Make a slight right at Rapid Creek Rd/North River Rd. Continue to follow North River Rd. Destination will be on the left.), ☎ +1 970-464-0888. Grapes: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot. One of the best wineries in the area, founded by a geologist who traveled five continents to find the right terroir for his vineyard.
- Carlson Vineyards, 461 35 Rd · Palisade (From I-70 East or West, Take Exit 44/US 6. Left on 38 Rd at East Orchard Mesa sign. Winery is on the right.), toll-free: +1-888-464-5554. Grapes: Lemberger, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer. Fruit Wine: Cherry, Peach, Plum. Dessert Wines: Muscat, Cherry & Chocolate. Laid back, funky atmosphere with playful wine names: T-Red (a Lemberger named after the Grand Valley's dinosaur heritage) and Prairie Dog Blush. "No wine snobs" is their motto.
- Colorado Cellars Winery, 3553 E Rd Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 44/ US 6. Follow the Wine Trail signs through town to Orchard Mesa and E Rd. Winery will be on the left.), ☎ +1 970-464-7921, toll-free: +1-800-848-2812. Grapes: White Zinfandel, Riesling, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit wines: Cherry, Plum, Blackberry, Chokecherry, Peach, Raspberry, Elderberry, Pomegranate. Other: Champagne, Mead, Port. Founded in 1978 as Colorado Mountain Vineyards, this is Colorado's oldest and largest winery. Manicured grounds and a pleasant tasting room.
- Colorado Wine Room, 455 Kokopelli Blvd Unit A Fruita, ☎ +1 970-858-6330. Grapes: Semillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot. Fruit wines: Strawberry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate. Dessert wines: Muscat. Part of the Talon Wine Brand family along with St. Kathryn Cellars, Confre Cellars, and Meadery of the Rockies. With a rotating wine selection of over 25 wines, chosen from among 60 Colorado wineries, this is a chance to taste a lot of different varietals in one place.
- Confre Cellars, Inc., 785 Elberta Ave Palisade (From I-70, East or West, take Exit 42. Winery will be on the right.), ☎ +1 970-464-1300. Grapes: Concord. Fruit wines: Cherry, Plum. Few things go together as well as wine and chocolate. Eat homemade fudge while browsing their gourmet gift shop.
- DeBeque Canyon Winery, 144 Kluge St Bldg 3 Palisade (From I-70, East or West, take Exit 42 toward Palisade. Turn left at 37 3/10 Rd (signs for Palisade). Turn left at W 1st St/G 4/10 Rd Turn right at Kluge Ave Destination will be on the right.), ☎ +1 970-464-0550. Grapes: Chardonnay, Gerwürztraminer, Merlot, Viognier, Tempranillo, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert wines: Claret, Port. Situated in a rustic, log-faced store front in the mouth of DeBeque Canyon, this winery offers a down home, personable tasting experience.
- Desert Moon Vineyards (Take the Arrapahoe Exit from I-25, go left (if going south) or right if going north, and make a right hand turn on Peoria St. (you'll see Centennial Airport sign), then you'll pass the airport and soon come a sign at a stoplight- Adam Aircraft Rd., make a right here then a left onto Jamison Court, Unit 12), ☎ +1 303-884-5044. hours of tasting room, Wed-Saturday (12-6PM & Sun (12-5PM). Desert Moon Vineyards tasting room & winery is now open to the public in Englewood, CO (the Front Range). The vineyards are still located in Palisade, but tours are not offered there as of now. Grapes: Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Altitude red blend, SHIVER ice wine, and Cab Sav/Merlot blend Fireside Ruby Port.
- Garfield Estates Vineyard & Winery, 3572 G Rd Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Palisade Exit 42. Turn South onto Elberta/CR-37.30 and travel one mile to G Rd/US 6. Turn right and go west for 1/2 mile, Turn Right onto G Rd and cross over the railroad tracks. Vineyard is on the right.), ☎ +1 970-464-0941. Grapes: Semillon, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah. A gravel yard, green roofed barn and neatly-stacked wine barrels at this winery. Tours include a walk through the winery and crush pad, where they will tell you about their vineyard, harvest and winemaking processes.
- Grande River Vineyards, 787 Elberta Ave Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Palisade Exit 42. The winery will be on the immediate right.), ☎ +1 970-464-5867. Grapes: Meritage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc , Semillon. Awesome summer concert series of folk, rock and jazz on the back lawn makes this winery well worth the trip. Convenient location just off I-70 for travelers who don't have time to fully explore Colorado's Wine Country.
- Graystone Winery, 3352 F Rd Clifton (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37 and turn left at the first intersection. The Tasting room and gift shop are one mile on US 6 East.), ☎ +1 970-434-8610. Other: Port. A good stop for horse lovers and port, since this winery celebrates both.
- Hermosa Vineyards, 3269 3/4 C Rd Palisade, ☎ +1 970-434-8766. Wholesale only, no tasting room at this time. Grapes: Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvingnon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Riesling.
- Meadery of the Rockies, 3701 G Rd, Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Palisade Exit 42. Turn South onto Elberta/CR-37.30 until it intersects with US 6/G Rd. The meadery will be in front of you.), ☎ +1 970-464-7899. Other: Dry, medium sweet and semi-sweet meads. Fruit meads: Blackberry, strawberry, cherry, peach, raspberry. A snowy white gazebo and covered front porch complement this Medieval tasting experience.
- Mesa Park Vineyards, C Rd Palisade (Turn left at C Rd. Destination will be on the right. Grapes: Cabernet Franc.), ☎ +1 970-434-4191. Grapes: Cabernet Franc. The winery's owners, the Neals, are 4th and 5th generation Western Colorado farmers. A latticed front porch, plus polished wood counters and wine racks in the tasting room.
- Plum Creek Cellars, 3708 G Rd Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Palisade Exit 42. Turn South onto Elberta/CR-37.30 until it intersects with US 6/G Rd. Turn right. Winery will be on the right.), ☎ +1 970 464-7586. Grapes: Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvingnon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Riesling. In front of the winery, local artist Lyle Nichols has built a giant rooster out of rusty tractor parts and other farm implements. Enjoy a high ceilinged, Tuscan-style tasting room with granite counters.
- Ptarmigan Vineyards, 221 31 3/10 Rd Grand Junction (From CO Hwy 141 turn west on B Rd. Drive one mile then turn north on 31 3/10 Rd.), ☎ +1 970-434-2015. Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Port, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Riesling. Owners are big believers in minimal pesticides, hand picking the fruit as well as sustainable viticulture.
- Reeder Mesa Vineyards, 7799 Reeder Mesa Road Whitewater (Take Hwy. 50 South to town of Whitewater and go just past fruit stand. Turn left on Reeder Mesa Rd (at the wine bottle sign) and go 8 miles. Turn right at the sign onto a gravel road. The winery/tasting room is in the first building.), ☎ +1 970-242-7468. Grapes: Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot. Wine bottle shaped signs mark the way into this vineyard. Back porch with patio tables for relaxing and taking in views of the surrounding mesas.
- St. Kathryn Cellars Winery & Gift Shop, 785 Elberta Ave Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Palisade Exit 42. The winery will be on the immediate right.), ☎ +1 970-464-9288. Grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot. Fruit wine: Apple, pear, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, cranberry. This place takes the whole "My mother was a saint" thing seriously. The winery is named after the original owner's mother, Kathryn. Large yellow Victorian building within walking distance of Grande River's tasting room. Both are easy stops off I-70 for those pressed for time who still want to sample Colorado wines. St Kathryn offers one of the largest wine gift shops in the region.
- Varaision Vineyards and Winery, 405 W. 1st St Palisade (From I-70 East or West, take Palisade Exit 42. Turn left on First Street. Winery will be on the right.), ☎ +1 970-464-4928. Grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot. Dessert wines: Muscat. Other: Champagne. Historic Victorian gingerbread house on a street lined with fine old homes. Visitors are greeted by a veranda and an heirloom rose garden. Inside, the floors are all polished pine wood. An old-timey cash register sits on the tasting bar.
- Whitewater Hill Vineyards, 220 32 Rd Grand Junction (32 Rd (Hwy 141) 3.5 miles south from I-70 Business loop in Clifton OR 32 Rd (US 141) 1.5 miles north from US 50.), ☎ +1 970-434-6868. Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Riesling. Other: Port. Large windows with views of the mesas frame the tasting bar. There are benches, tables and chairs surrounded by a low brick wall on the back patio.
West Elks AVA Wineries
- Alfred Eames Cellars at Puesta del Sol Vineyards, 11931 4050 Rd, Paonia (From I-70 East or West, take exit 116 for US 82 East toward Aspen. Turn right at CO-82/Laurel St. Turn right at CO-133 Turn left at CO-187. Continue on Grand Ave. Turn left at 1st St. Turn right at Lamborn Mesa Rd. Continue on 4100 Rd. Slight right at N25 Rd. Slight left at 4050 Rd.), ☎ +1 970-527-3269. Visitors welcome by appointment. Grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangre del Sol, Syrah. The winery boasts a cozy vaulted aging room worthy of California or France.
- Black Bridge Winery, 15836 Black Bridge Rd, Paonia (Just northeast of Paonia on US 133.), ☎ +1 970-527-6838. Grapes: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon. Named for a historic bridge over the Gunnison River outside the winery's front door. The structural steel framework in their wine cave was salvaged from a local mining operation.
- Black Canyon Vineyards, 1102 3000 Rd Hotchkiss (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50 for 32 miles. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn left at CO-92. Turn left at Payne Siding Rd. Turn left to stay on Payne Siding Rd. Turn right at North Rd/Sage Rd. Turn left at North Rd. Turn right at 3000 Rd. Winery is on the left.), ☎ +1 970-872-4250. Grapes: Riesling. The vineyards are within sight of the Gunnison Gorge, which lies just below the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
- Blossomwood Cidery, 794 North East Indian Camp Ave.Cedaredge (From the intersection of US 65 and Main St in Cedaredge, go north and take a right onto Indian Camp Ave. The cidery is on the left.), ☎ +1 970-856-3220. Other: Hard cider and Perry. Located in an old farm house in the Surface Creek Valley of Western Colorado, minutes from the Grand Mesa. An unusual chance to drink fermented pear juice.
- Cottonwood Cellars (Tasting Room), 443 East Main St Montrose (From Grand Junction, head South on US 50. Turns into North Main St. Continue on North Townsend Ave. Turn left at CO-90. Continue to follow East Main St/US 50. Make a U-turn at South Uncompahgre Ave. Winery is on the right.), ☎ +1 970-275-6602. Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Pinot Noir. Other: Claret. On Main Street in historic downtown Montrose, the winery is in the middle of an art gallery. Exposed brick walls and original artwork make this a memorable visit.
- Cottonwood Cellars/The Olathe Winery, 5482 Hwy 348, Olathe (US 50 to Olathe, west on US 348.), ☎ +1 970-323-6224. (Cottonwood Cellars produces the label for the Olathe Winery). Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Pinot Noir. Other: Claret. A prefab building with beveled glass front doors, the simple setting belies the great wine to be tasted inside.
- Delicious Orchards Organic Tasting Room & Market, 39126 Hwy 133 Paonia (From Grand Junction, head South on US 50. Turns into North Main Street. Continue on North Townsend Ave. Turn left at CO-92. Slight left at CO-133. Turn left at Bowie Rd.), ☎ +1 970-527-1110. (Remote tasting room for Jack Rabbit Hill). Grapes: Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc. Natural foods store and cider house smells more like apples than wine. Try the fresh produce while tasting.
- Jack Rabbit Hill, 26567 North Rd Hotchkiss (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn left at CO-92. Turn left at Payne Siding Rd. Keep left to stay on Payne Siding Rd. Turn right at North Rd/Sage Rd. Turn left at North Rd. Winery is on the left.), ☎ +1 970-835-3677. Grapes: Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc. The owners are true believers about creating organic wines, using biodynamic methods of composting. An idyllic mountain vineyard with the West Elks Range as a backdrop.
- Leroux Creek Vineyards, 12388 3100 Rd, Hotchkiss (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn left at CO-92. Look for the blue sign), ☎ +1 970-872-4746. Grapes: Chambourcin, Cayuga, Chardonnay. Other: Port, Cherry, Rose. Luxurious bed and breakfast and restaurant make this a complete wine experience.
- Liliputian Winery, 31424 Hwy 92 Hotchkiss (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn left at CO-92. Turn left at 3140 Ln.), ☎ +1 970-872-3019. Mon - Sat. 10-6. A small family operated winery hand producing Riesling, Viognier, Merlot, Cherry and Apricot wines. We also are a tasting room for locally produced Peak Spirits distilled products.
- Mountain View Winery, 5859 58.25 Rd, Olathe (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn right at West 5th St/CO-348. Continue to follow CO-348. Turn right at 58 Rd/5800 Rd. Winery is on the left.), ☎ +1 970-323-6816. Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay. Fruit wines: Wild plum, cherry, apple raspberry, sweet apple. Dessert wines: Cherry Port. Winery sits on 4th generation orchard and vineyard. In the fall, let the kids run amok in a corn maze.
- Red Mountain Ranches, 19458 Hwy 65 Cedaredge (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 49 for CO-65 South toward CO-330 East/Collbran. Turn left at CO-65 (signs for CO-65 South. Winery is on the right.), ☎ +1 970-856-3803. (Remote tasting room for Stoney Mesa Winery).Grapes: Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat. A fruit market with exposed wood beams and well tended flower beds out front. Offers regional fresh fruits and vegetables, and hundreds of Colorado-made specialty foods.
- S. Rhodes Vineyards, 13450 Chickory Rd, Hotchkiss (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Tasting room is northeast of Paonia on Hwy. 133. Look for), ☎ +1 970-872-4925. (Winery open by appointment only). Grapes: Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc. Other: Claret.
- Stone Cottage Cellars, 41716 Reds Rd, Paonia (From Grand Junction, head South on US 50 37.5 miles. Turns into North Main St. Continue on North Townsend Ave. Turn left at CO-92. Slight left at CO-133. Turn left at Garvin Mesa Rd. Turn left at R Rd.), ☎ +1 970-527-3444. Grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Gewurztraminer. The winery and outbuildings are constructed of local field stone, giving the place an established European ambiance.
- Stoney Mesa Winery, 16199 Happy Hollow Rd Cedaredge (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto 70/CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn left at CO-92. Turn left at CO-65. Turn left at SW 11th Ave. Turn left at Happy Hollow Rd. Winery is on the right.), ☎ +1 970-856-WINE (9463). Grapes: Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat. You are greeted by rounded, solid oak doors and a relaxed tasting room. Tours available.
- Surface Creek Winery, 12983 Hwy 65, Eckert (From I-70 East or West, take Exit 37. Merge onto 70/CO-141. Turn left at 32 Rd/CO-141. Turn left at CO-141/CO-50. Continue to follow CO-50. Continue on N Main St/US-50. Turn left at 1550 Rd. Turn right at I Rd. Continue on 1825 Dr. Turn right at North Rd. Turn left at 2025 Dr. Turn right at 2030 Ln.), ☎ +1 970-835-WINE (9463). Grapes: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer. Fruit wines: Cherry. Located in an old stone building, the tasting room is also home to the Surface Creek Gallery, which features the original works of watercolorist, Dale Russell Smith.
- Terror Creek Winery, 17445 Garvin Mesa Rd Paonia (From Grand Junction, head South on US 50. Turns into North Main St. Continue on North Townsend Ave. Turn left at CO-92. Slight left at CO-133. Turn left at Garvin Mesa Rd. Winery is on the right.), ☎ +1 970-527-3484. Grapes: Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir. This small family-owned winery overlooks the North Fork Valley from Garvin Mesa. Terror Creek offers visitors a chance to savor Alsatian-style wines.
Festivals & Events
This is strictly a list of wine events; there are many great food festivals in Colorado, as well:
- April Taste of Vail, Palisade “Barrel Into Spring” Barrel Tasting (first weekend)
- May Palisade “Barrel Into Spring” Barrel Tasting (second weekend)
- June Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival, Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Telluride Wine Festival, Boulder Food and Wine Festival
- July Castle Rock WineFest
- August Taste of Grand County Wine, Mesa Verde Country Wine & Art Festival, Corks & Forks in Westminster
- September Snowmass Wine Festival, Vino & Notes - A Wine, Food & Jazz Festival in Woodland Park, Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade
- November Denver International Wine Festival
In addition to art galleries throughout the region, Colorado's Wine Country is also home to several unique art centers, museums, theater troupes, orchestras and concert halls.
As of 1 July 2006, it is no longer necessary to have visited a Colorado winery prior to ordering wine to be shipped. However, as each state's shipping laws are different, whether a winery can ship directly to a buyer depends on whether the buyer's home state will allow it and whether the winery has purchased a shipping license for that state. Many of those licenses are prohibitively expensive for small wineries with very limited production. So please check with each winery about shipping to a location prior to ordering.
Colorado's Wine Country is home to many succulent local foods: Sweet corn from Olathe, peaches from Palisade, as well as cherries, apples, apricots, plums, pears and honey. There are numerous produce stands where you can shop for fresh fruit and vegetables in season. Also, many of the stands sell locally made brands of salsa, jam, preserves, and other condiments that are flavorful and unique. Fine restaurants and homey diners abound throughout the region. Be sure to ask for Colorado wines on wine lists and any unique Colorado food and wine pairings.
- Inari’s Palisade Bistro, 336 Main St Palisade, ☎ +1 970-464-4911. A neighborhood bistro with a seasonally changing menu, using the locally procured ingredients wherever possible. Casual and friendly Premium spirits are served. Patio seating is available.
- il Bistro Italiano, 400 Main St Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-243-8622. Excellent brick kiln thin crust pizzas. The pastas, breads, sauces, and desserts are all made at the restaurant from fresh ingredients. Wine list features a large selection of wines from Italy and from Colorado, and whenever possible, the chefs use local ingredients.
- The Winery Restaurant, 642 Main St Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-242-4100. Grand Junction's original fine dining experience. Located in a 90 year old building that used to house a horse drawn carriage fire station. Steak and seafood and an extensive Colorado wine list. Reservations recommended.
- Moulin Rouge, 317 Main St, Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-257-1777. Real French food prepared by an expat chef from the Loire Valley in France. Owner also gearing up to open his very own Maison la Belle Vie Colorado winery in summer 2009.
- Garlic Mike's, 103 Rose Ln, Montrose, ☎ +1 970-249-4381. New Jersey-style Italian cuisine. Red-checked tablecloths, outdoor dining. Menu ranging from escargot to veal scalopinne picata. Cell-phones off policy makes for a relaxed, slow-paced atmosphere.
- Flying Fork Cafe & Bakery, Corner 3rd & Main St Paonia, ☎ +1 970-527-3203. Fresh baked artisan breads and pastries. Pasta, grilled muscovy duck, beef tenderloin, daily fresh fish or homemade lasagna and ravioli. Wines from Colorado and Italy.
- Coal Train Coffee House, 330 W. Bridge St #101 Hotchkiss, CO 81419, ☎ +1 970-872-5282. Organic and fair trade coffees, fresh roasted. Pleasant atmosphere -- red French doors wine-barrel flower pots and outdoor cafe tables.
Basics of Wine Tastings
Don't just drink wine; look, smell, taste, savor, learn and enjoy. Tasting wines is an adventure that will grow your appreciation for both wines and winemakers. Depending on the size of the winery, you may need to pay in hard cash. In theory, you can pay by credit card, but the option is usually unavailable. Colorado's Wine Country is also home to many meaderies, microbreweries and hard liquor distillers.
- Palisade Brewery, 200 Peach Ave Palisade, ☎ +1 970-464-7257. Locally hand-crafted beer and soda. In addition to microbrews, the Palisade Brewery offers panini sandwiches, bratwurst, BBQ pulled pork and brisket sandwiches every day of the week. Expanded smokehouse/BBQ menu offered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12PM - 8PM, with spareribs, smoked chicken and burgers and more. Brewery tours available by appointment.
- Peach Street Distillers, 200 Peach Avenue Palisade, ☎ +1 970-464-7257. Artisan makers of Colorado whiskey, vodka, gin and bourbon. Be sure to try their grappas, made from the Gewurztraminer and Viognier pomace straight from the press of Debeque Canyon Winery.
- Kannah Creek Brewing Company, 1960 North 12th Street Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-263-0112. Stout, Hefeweizen, Pilzner, Irish Red, porter, Stout and other hand-crafted beers. Brewpub grub of grilled burgers and paninis, plus pasta. pizza and calzones.
- Smuggler's Brew Pub & Grill, 1571 Ogden Rd Montrose, ☎ +1 970-249-0919. Gyros, Philly Cheese steaks, grilled burgers, burritos, pasta and baby back ribs. Pale Ale, Wheat, Stout and Porter, as well as Martinis and Cosmopolitans.
- Revolution Brewing, 325 Grand Avenue Paonia, ☎ +1 970-527-3304. Stout, Pale Ale, Porter and Apple-Ale (flavored with local organic apples). A tasting room in a white clapboard farm house with an attractive front porch.
Your visit can include a stay at any number of comfortable hotels, inns or area bed & breakfasts. Other than Montrose and Grand Junction, hotels are few and far between in the more sparsely populated parts of the region. Check out individual city/town listings for more information. Here are a few top picks:
Tools for Tasting Wine
- Los Altos Bed & Breakfast, 375 Hill View Dr Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-256-0964. Elegant surroundings, tastefully appointed. Sits on a bluff, so unobstructed views of the Grand Mesa, Colorado National Monument, and the city of Grand Junction.
- Leroux Creek Inn & Vineyards, 12388 3100 Rd ~ Hotchkiss, ☎ +1 970-872-4746. Adobe-style inn offers peace and seclusion in the middle of 47 acres of private land. Views of the surrounding vineyard, West Elk mountains, canyons and mesas. Continental breakfast prepared with fresh fruit from the organic farms of Delta County. Restaurant serves classic French cuisine made with local ingredients. Southwestern-style rooms.
- Smith Fork Ranch, 45362 Needle Rock Rd Crawford, ☎ +1 970-921-3454. High end, secluded mountain retreat straddling the Smith Fork River valley, midway between Aspen and Telluride. Rustic rooms with alpine views. Cuisine using local organically grown vegetables, fruits, poultry and regional game. Fly fishing, stable, hiking and other outdoor activities.
- Two Rivers Winery, 2087 Bdwy Grand Junction, CO 81507, ☎ +1 970-255-1471. French chateau-style stone mansion located in its own vineyards with views of the Bookcliffs, Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument. Tasting room, small bed and breakfast of eight rooms.
- Colorado Wine Country Inn, 777 Grande River Dr Palisade (Located just off Interstate 70 Exit 42. Take a short drive just west of Grande River Vineyards), toll-free: +1-888-855-8330. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Colorado’s first wine-themed hotel located in Palisade. Stroll through the working vineyards that surround the inn, an 80-room Victorian style hotel, which sits in the middle of two wineries with 21 acres of vines.
- Mt. Garfield Bed and Breakfast, 3355 F. Road, Clifton (2 miles off the I-70 at Clifton Exit), ☎ +1 970-314-7744. Check-in: 4-6PM, check-out: 11AM. Nestled amongst a 7 acre Peach Orchard, this B & B provides 4 large private rooms all with private bathrooms, queen size memory foam beds, full breakfasts every morning. Very private. Come visit with "Kookie" the 23 yr old cockatoo bird and many other animals on the place. Or, have your picture taken with "Miss T" the 1914 Ford model T, and take a ride if she is running the day of your stay! Views of Mt. Garfield, The Grand Mesa and Orchard Mesa all around this property. Peaceful and serene is what you will find here. Wineries are walking distance or a very short drive down the road from this B & B. 139.00-179.00.
- Palisade Wine Valley Inn, 588 W. 1st St Palisade, ☎ +1 970-464-1498. Victorian gingerbread house within walking distance of fruit stands, wineries and downtown Palisade. An interesting chance to learn more about the town, since this bed and breakfast is run by the current mayor and his wife. Large spa set in a garden, bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. Grapevines grow along a fence in the cloistered backyard.
- Canyon Creek Bed & Breakfast, 820 Main St, Montrose, ☎ +1 970-249-2886. Convenient Main Street location in an old farmhouse. Social setting since this bed and breakfast also has a cocktail lounge. Massages available with reservations. Sunny, coffee-colored rooms with ensuite bathrooms and flat panel TVs.
- Bross Hotel, 312 Onarga St Paonia, ☎ +1 970-527-6776. An authentic 100 year old lodging, the Bross first opened in 1906 by Deputy Sheriff W. T. Bross. At the time it was considered "the only really first-class hotel in the county". Homemade quilts on the beds. Ask about the Ghost Room, haunted by the friendly ghost of Mother Bross.
- Willow Pond Bed & Breakfast, 662 26 Rd, Grand Junction, Co 81506, ☎ +1 970-243-4958. Check-in: 4-6PM, check-out: 11AM. Located on the Western Slope in Grand Junction, Colorado, Willow Pond B&B is a beautiful 1916 farmhouse offering eco-friendly lodging with pastoral views, an old willow tree and a little pond. Willow Pond B&B is a venue for Grand Valley artists and musicians to offer their talents. Locally made paintings, ceramics, photography, handmade crafts, soaps and music CD's are available at the inn. Willow Pond Bed and Breakfast features monthly musical house concerts, gourmet cooking classes, and special vacation packages. 115-165.
Most Starbucks, hotels and coffee shops throughout the region offer wireless Wi-Fi access. But if you don't have a computer, try the public libraries.
- Mesa County Public Library, 530 Grand Ave Grand Junction, ☎ +1 970-243-4783.
- Montrose Public Library, 320 South 2nd St Montrose, ☎ +1 970-249-9656.
- Delta County Public Library, 211 W 6th St Delta, ☎ +1 970-874-9630.
- Cedaredge Public Library, 180 SW 6th St Cedaredge, ☎ +1 970-856-3518.
- Hotchkiss Public Library, 1st and Main St Hotchkiss, ☎ +1 970-872-4153.
- Paonia Public Library, 140 Grand Ave 81428, ☎ +1 970-527-3470.
- Crawford Public Library, 545 Hwy 92 Crawford, ☎ +1 970-921-3500.
The Five Parts of Wine Tasting
- Pamper Yourself. There are a handful of day spas outside of the resort towns, offering facials, manicures, pedicures, hot stones, body wraps, massages, aromatherapy and other indulgences.
- Binge on Chocolate. If things aren't going according to plan, medicate yourself with some premium handcrafted sweets.
- Soak in a Hot Spring. Relax in a heated geothermal pool. A good reward for children who have been dragged along to wineries all day.
The rural communities in Colorado's Wine Country are relatively safe compared to the Front Range.
Don't underestimate the Colorado climate. Temperatures swing wildly in the spring and fall, with warm days and cool nights. If you go for a hike, don't forget to bring a waterproof jacket. Most cases of hypothermia in Colorado occur in the summer. Even though this area is green and irrigated, it's still a desert. Stay hydrated, especially while sampling wine.
One note of caution - some people find that their alcohol tolerance is lower at higher altitudes. Drink slowly until you acclimate, or you may end up with nausea and a killer hangover.
Wine tasting easily combines with any Colorado itinerary. After seeing the wine country, drive to Telluride, Aspen or Vail. Or see a national park in the area: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.