Curious & Thirsty: Palisade Wines
by Marla Norman, Publisher
Many wine lovers might not consider Colorado a destination, but there are over 100 wineries located around the state. And TripAdvisor has named Palisade, a remarkable little valley on the Western Slope, as one of the Top 10 Wine Destinations in the United States.
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. Appointments are not required to visit. All are open daily, but do check web sites for possible closings during holidays.
CANYON WIND CELLARS
3907 North River Road
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.
There are 14 Canyon Wind wines, under three labels. All are produced with the assistance of renowned winemaker Robert Pepi: 47- Ten (named for the vineyard’s elevation); eight varietals under the Canyon Wind label; and the new Anemoi line, which offers two earthy red blends — Boreas (north wind), Zephyrus (east 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 — a testament to their passion for wine making and Palisade terroir.
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
The only vineyard in Colorado to produce port, Greystone offers 3 selections – each 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.
MAISON LA BELLE VIE
3575 G Road
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!
3708 G Road
Plum Creek Winery is Colorado’s most award-winning winery. Winemaker Jenne Baldwin has captured a number of medals for her great vintages in international, national and regional wine competitions.
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.
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.
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.
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.