Many wine lovers might not consider Colorado a destination, but there are over 60 wineries located around the state. And TripAdvisor just named Palisade, a remarkable little valley on the Western Slope, as one of the Top 10 Wine Destinations in the United States.
Predictably, California dominated the TripAdvisor rankings, with five of the 10 top spots. But Palisade, coming in at #9, was the only location listed for the interior U.S.
Palisade, like many wine growing areas around the country, was booming in the early 1900’s until Prohibition brought production to a screeching halt. Vineyards throughout the area were replaced with fruit trees. It wasn’t until 1970 that the region began replanting grape vines. Now there are 15 major wineries, and events such as Colorado Mountain Winefest draw well over 6,000 celebrants.
Here are a few of our favorite Palisade winemakers - All are open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. No appointment is required:
CANYON WIND CELLARS
3907 North River Road
Sunset over the vineyards of Canyon Wind Cellars.
Jennifer and Jay Christianson are the owners of Canyon Wind Cellars. Significantly, they are the first second-generation winemakers in the area. And, in yet another testament to Palisade’s arrival on the viticulture scene, they produced Colorado’s first $100 wine, called IV.
The 35-acre winery is named Canyon Wind for what the Christiansons call “the million dollar breeze,” a crop-saving draft blowing year-round out of De Beque Canyon, that cools the grapes in summer and protects them from frost in winter.
Jennifer and Jay Christianson check grapevines to evaluate their latest production.
2009 Canyon Wind 47-Ten Red
There are 16 Canyon Wind wines, under three labels. All are produced with the assistance of renowned winemaker Robert Pepi:
Three 47- Ten vintages (named for the vineyard’s elevation); seven varietals under the Canyon Wind label; a Port; IV; and the Anemoi line, which offers four blends -- Boreas (North wind), Zephyrus (West wind) -- and a late-harvest Pinot Grigio called Iapyx (north-west wind).
Jennifer came up with the idea for the Anemoi brand referencing the Greek wind gods and, of course, their own canyon breeze. The Anemoi line also reflects the couples’ love for red blends. Moreover, each bottle of Boreas, the flagship of the Anemoi line, is hand numbered -- more proof of their passion for wine making and Palisade terroir.
Entryway to Canyon Wind Cellars tasting room
Jennifer and Jay Christianson ready to pour at their Canyon Wind tasting room.
As for this year’s production, Jennifer and Jay report that “2012 was our earliest harvest ever! We picked our first grapes, Pinot Gris, on August 15th, which is about two weeks earlier than normal and a month earlier than last year.”
“Having harvest end so early allowed us to bottle our 2012 whites: Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, 47-Ten White and 47-Ten Rosé. We're really pleased with how they turned out -- nice fruit, crisp and well-balanced. We'll be bottling the 2012 Chardonnay -- our first ever 100% oaked Chardonnay and Anemoi Iapyx in February or March. All in all, we produced nearly 5,500 cases for both Canyon Wind and Anemoi this year.”
Clearly, Palisade’s second-generation winemakers are well on their way to expanding the reputation and prominence of the Colorado wine industry.
3352 F Road
Graystone Port IV
Graystone Winery tasting room
Graystone Vineyards offers only 3 ports, but they are exceptional! The winery is named for the gray shale bluffs surrounding the valley and uses a wild horse as its logo, in homage to the large groups of mustangs that still inhabit the area.
The Lupizzan White Port is an intense Pinot Gris fermented with skins to give a blush color. Port III is aged four years in oak for a mildly spicy flavor. Port IV is a rich berry and chocolate indulgence, intensified with 19% alcohol.
The bottles are slim, French-style, with double hand-waxed tops -- well worth the $25.00 price tag.
3572 G Road
Relatively small, at 16 acres, Garfield is big on quality and intense flavors. Grape varieties planted at the vineyard include: Viognier, Muscat-Ottonel, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
The 2010 Malbec is especially lovely -- hand picked and aged for 16 months in French oak. The 2010 Cabernet Franc is a medium-bodied red with soft tannins. The 2009 Estate Syrah is a traditional Rhône style with “whole berry” fermentation. The 2003 Syrah won a Gold Medal at the 2005 Taster Guild international competition.
MAISON LA BELLE VIE
3575 G Road
French chic meets cowboy kitsch at Maison La Belle Vie
Tiny or rather petite -- since owner John Barbier is originally from the French Loire Valley -- Maison La Belle Vie is a must for anyone sampling Palisade vineyards. The wines are tasty and the decor is a quirky “Cowboy kitsch meets Paris” hybrid.
Maison la Belle Vie produces a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Red Table Wine, and delicious Rosé. The Vin de Pêche, made from a recipe in John’s family since the 1800’s, is a specialty and of particular interest since Palisade is famous for its luscious peaches. Whatever you do, don’t leave without a bottle of the uniquely handcrafted walnut liquor!
Maison La Belle Vie wines are tasty! The Vin de Pêche and Vin de Noix are standouts.
3708 G Road
Chardonnay Chicken, a 7 1/2 foot-tall metal sculpture marks the entry to Plum Creek winery.
Winemaker Jenne Baldwin has captured a number of awards and medals for her great vintages, including the Denver Post’s wine of the year, a 2004 Riesling. Other winners include the 1998 Redstone Chardonnay and 1999 Riesling Ice Wine.
Founded in 1984, Plum Creek was one of the early wineries to locate in Palisade. As proof of their commitment, they hold Colorado Winery License #10, the oldest of all the state wineries currently in operation.
Plum Creek 2001 Grand Mesa
1998 Redstone Chardonnay
The entry to the winery tasting room is distinctive for its 7 1/2 foot-tall metal sculpture of a rooster made out of rusted farm tools. Known affectionately as Chardonnay Chicken, the rooster provides a convenient landmark for tourists.
MEADERY OF THE ROCKIES
3701 G Road
Immediately across the street from Plum Creek is Meadery of the Rockies. The Meadery produces honey-based wines and offers a relatively unique tasting experience. For historians, Mead wines are regarded as the precursor of all fermented drinks, dating back to 7000 BC.
The Palisade Meadery wines are made from raw honey, yeast and blends of fruit wines such as blackberry, strawberry and peach. The dessert meads, Blackberry Satin and Chocolate Cherry Satin, are especially noteworthy and make memorable holiday gifts.
Click on the map pins for information about locations mentioned in the article.