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While the Rocky Mountain State is famous for its outdoor adventures like skiing and hiking, it’s also becoming increasing popular for wine tasting and tour. Colorado is home to more than 100 producers and the highest altitude vineyards in the nation. Come check out some of the best it has to offer for wine enthusiasts.
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Two Rivers Winery & Chateau is a boutique winery that offers a taste of Southern France in the Western Slopes of Colorado in the Redlands area. As it focuses on consistently producing a small number of outstanding wines, it grows just three varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay, but its dedication has paid off. Since opening in 1999, its wines have earned over 60 honors and awards, including silver medals for the 2013 vintages of both the Riesling and the Chardonnay at the San Diego International Wine Competition. Two Rivers’ wines can be tasted and purchased in the intimate tasting room, and visitors can also take a tour of the facility as well as sip while appreciating the spectacular views from the base of the Colorado National Monument.
One of the most lauded wineries in Colorado, awarded over 400 medals in international, national and regional competitions, Plum Creek Cellars was founded in 1984 and is considered one of the state’s pioneers when it comes to producing fine wines exclusively from grapes grown in Colorado. All of its vineyards are situated within five miles of the small farming community of Palisade in the Grand Valley AVA, primarily on the East Orchard Mesa. The focus is on growing grapes in the areas best suited for each variety, and as Plum Creek notes on its website, “all grapes are harvested by hand, row by row, as optimum ripeness and maturity are reached.” Visitors can enjoy the wide range of wines in the elegant tasting room with antique furnishings, fine art, and Oriental rugs, or head outside to the covered patio or the picnic area. Winery tours are available too.
Bookcliff Vineyards, founded in 1999 by husband and wife John Garlich and Ulla Merz, includes a 37-acre vineyard in a region of western Colorado known as “the Vinelands,” where grapes were grown since the early 1900s, but their tasting room can be found in Boulder. It sits inside the fermentation and bottling facility and offers an ideal atmosphere for sampling vino. Bookcliff grows 10 varietals, and has a rather impressive range for its size, with a dozen and a half or so offered for tasting. The top sellers are Friday Folly White and Red, which are non-vintage, value wines, while its Cab Franc has been a part of the repertoire since 2002 and has won several gold, or double gold, medals. The winery recently added a special guided tour that includes wine tasting and tastes of chocolate and cheese, including a tour of the winery and virtual tour of the vineyard.
Tucked within the foothills just outside of Fort Collins, Ten Bears Winery is an ideal place to stop, enjoy some tasty wines, and sit on the patio reveling in the sights and sounds of nature. Ten Bears is best known for its red wines, particularly its best-selling Poudre River Red, a smooth, medium-bodied table wine made from a blend of Conkling’s estate-grown Marquette grapes combined with Alicante Bouschet, Merlot, and Zinfandel varietals. Whenever possible, Colorado-grown grapes are used to the produce the wines, including the winery’s own small crop of Marquette and La Crescent, two cold-hardy hybrid varietals. There are actually two tasting rooms, one in downtown Fort Collins, and the other in Laporte, where you can enjoy wine flights Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m.
Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, opened in 2005 and uses only handpicked, Colorado-grown grapes to produce its wines. They’re grown around Palisade and Paonia, on the Western Slope, as well as on Worden Farms in Burlington, but all of the wines are handcrafted in Estes Park and primarily sold in the tasting room and on Snowy Peaks’ website. Two of the most popular wines are the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2011 Rhone-style blend of Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah, both of which won medals in Colorado’s 2015 Governor’s Cup competition. The tasting room is open seven days a week and includes comfy outdoor and indoor seating for sampling some of the award-winning wines, and occasionally live music too.
This small farm, solar-powered winery has been producing wines just above the town of Palisade and the Colorado River on East Orchard Mesa since 1988. One of Colorado’s oldest vineyards and biggest fruit wine producers, it produces 10,000 cases a year, a third of which are fruit wines and made entirely of Colorado fruit. Vintner Parker Carlson says the winery made its name in Rieslings, with the area’s climate, hot days and cool nights, ideal for fruit ripening. His 2003 Riesling was awarded the World Riesling Cup at the 28th International Eastern Wine Competition, and won “Best Favorite Locally Made Wine” in the 2008 Best of the West competition. Carlson makes a dozen other varieties, all using locally grown grapes, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and fruit wines. Visitors can stop by the vintage tasting room and enjoy free samples, as well as relax in the backyard and enjoy the scenic views of Grand Valley. Tours, tasting, and purchasing can be enjoyed daily all year long, except on major holidays.
While you probably wouldn’t think that Denver would be home to a vineyard, Balistreri hosts a small, family-owned vineyard in the city. Since 1988, the vineyard has been producing wine “the old fashioned way,” like their grandparents from Italy used to make – all are handcrafted, a barrel at a time, without sulfites, filtering agents or clearing agents. The results are incredibly tasty, and they can be enjoyed with the winery’s outstanding Italian gourmet fare, including seasonally inspired small plates and lunch. When you visit, you’ll be welcomed by John Balistreri, his wife Birdie or their daughter Julie. You can not only taste the award-winning wines, but take a tour of the wine cellar and wine-making facilities.
This Palisade vineyard was started by Ken Dunn in 2001, after years of growing premium grapes for other wineries in the Grand Valley. Today, this small, family-owned and operated winery is dedicated to crafting the finest wines with grapes grown in the high mountain desert of western Colorado. Dunn says his goal isn’t to be one of the biggest wineries, but one of the best, with all of the wines produced in very limited quantities and it has been increasingly gaining a cult-like following. Visit the tasting room to sample some amazing wines in a laid-back atmosphere, and perhaps even enjoy a chat with the incredibly welcoming, friendly and knowledge vintner himself.
This small artisan winery tucked within the Upper Arkansas River Valley, produces its handcrafted wines from grapes grown in Palisade and Paonia. It focuses on Colorado-grown wines with a small carbon footprint, with all wine’s sold only within the state. Chardonnay, Albarino, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Carignan are the main wines it produces, although it also produces high quality mead with local Salida Mountain Honey. The winery hosts a tasting room and a wine bar with over 20 varieties, as well as serving charcuterie and veggie plates and hosting live music on Fridays and Saturdays. You can also take a tour to explore the wine and mead production facility, learn about Colorado viticulture, and sample a variety of handcrafted wines and mead with the winemaker, Steve Flynn.
Grande River Vineyards, nestled at the base of the Bookcliffs Mountain Range in western Colorado, is the largest winery in the state as well as producing Colorado’s largest grape crop. It’s been creating award-winning, hand-crafted wines, rich in flavor made in traditional styles, since 1987, and to date has nearly 300 awards, both nationally and internationally. It not only offers tours and tastings, with the tasting room build in the middle of the vineyards on a south-facing slope, but it also features an amphitheater for concerts on the lawn during the summer months. Visitors can enjoy great live music, tasty food and fabulous wine throughout the season, and kids are welcome as well. Even better, is that concert proceeds benefit local charities.