Where the wine flows in Palisade
ALISADE» Clusters of grapes are swelling to final sweetness on the vines. Vintners are readying the crushers to begin turning this year’s healthy crop into 2017 vintages. And preparations are in full swing for the annual arrival of the wine festival crowd that will pack into Grand Valley wine country in another month.
It’s the full-on hustle-and-bustle season in the Grand Valley’s vineyards and wineries. But for visitors, that means a good time to sneak in a leisurely visit. No need to elbow one’s way through crowds to sample wines. Parking and lodging won’t be an issue. And there is the bonus of being able to still enjoy peaches and farmstand produce while making one’s way through the rolling vineyard and orchard countryside locals call the “Fruit Loop.”
While the winemakers toil, guests will have all the time in the world to sit back on winery patios and savor a crisp Riesling or a big-bodied Cabernet Franc. Late summer and early fall is an especially good time to drink in the scenery over a glass of wine: The rocky folds of the nearby Bookcliffs are often outlined in golden light as summer wanes.
Many of the wineries are small and casual enough that winemakers will welcome curious guests who also want to view some picking and crushing. Casual is a defining attribute of the Grand Valley American Viticul- ture Area: Visitors will be hardpressed to encounter any swish-andspit snobbery.
Plan to spend a couple of days so there will be time to enjoy the regular series of winery events that bring out the locals. Hit it right, and catch a Food Truck Friday gathering at St. Kathryn’s or Red Fox wineries. Take in some music with wine at an evening Live in the Vines concert at the Wine Country Inn, Music in the Grapevines at Two Rivers or Hear It Through the Grapevine at Grande River.
If there are any slivers of time left, visitors can take a hike. There is a scenic trail at the east end of Palisade in an area called Rapid Creek. A climb to the top brings a panorama-view-ofthe-valley reward. Scenic side trips to the Grand Mesa or the Colorado National Monument are also good options. Hire a limo from Absolute Prestige and bring along a local rosé to give a color-coordinated salute to the sunset on Rimrock Drive. It’s the perfect way to experience wine country, and the Grand Valley, with an exceptionally memorable outing.
Here are eight wineries to check out on a late summer or early fall Grand Valley wine tour:
Grande River Vineyard
This iconic Palisade winery, with its tidy rows of vines lining up to Interstate 70, is a good place to start. Since 1987 this winery has let interstate drivers know they are entering wine country. Steve and Naomi Smith are the well-known faces of a winery that produces a wide array of Bordeaux-
style wines. Mount Garfield towers over Grande River and makes a dramatic backdrop for visitors who want to linger on the patio or on the large lawn outside the well-stocked gift shop and tasting room. This is a good stop for visitors looking for an introduction to the wide range of wines available in the valley — and to a good historical perspective on the valley’s wine history.
787 N. Elberta Ave., Palisade, 800-CO-GROWN, granderivervineyards.com
Talon Wine/st. Kathryn Cellars
This is another just-offthe-interstate stop in Palisade that offers a largetasting room with samples for wine drinkers on every end of the spectrum. St. Kathryn specializes in fruit and botanical wines that likely won’t appeal to the dry crowd — the lavender Riesling is a top seller. The Talon brand produces the more traditional Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Viogniers and Rieslings. Talon and St. Kathryn’s are housed together in the easy-to-spot, butter-yellow building along the main exit into Palisade. The gift shop that shares space with the two tasting bars is one of the largest in the valley. For those with a sweet tooth that stretches beyond fruit wines, the gift shop sells a full menu of house-made fudge.
785 Elberta Ave., Palisade, 970-464-9288, talonwinebrands.com
Plum Creek Cellars
With 65 acres of scenic vines and a famous “Chardonnay chicken” — a 7K-foot-tall metal rooster made out of rusted farm tools — this 33-year-old winery is a must-stop when locals are squiring around wine-tasting guests. Owners Doug and Sue Phillips have assembled one of the fancier tasting rooms in the valley with a redwood bar, a sandstone fireplace, antique furniture and handwoven rugs. They have an admirable art collection on display. The landscaped grounds around Plum Creek include lavender and roses interspersed with a few more sculptural surprises. Be sure to sample the Chardonnay. Winemaker Jenne Baldwineaton recently garnered the attention of Robert Parker’s Wine Enthusiast for that award-winning white.
3708 G Road, Palisade, 970-464-7586, plumcreekwinery.com
Red Fox Cellars
Bold, adventurous and fun are words to describe both the vibe and the wines at one of the Grand Valley’s newer wineries. Red Fox has made a social splash in the valley with events at its large outdoor arena and rustic patio. Energetic visitors can compete in bean bag toss and other games. In the tasting room, try the unique bourbon-barrelaged merlot. Red Fox is also a cidery, and there are always eight on tap. The selection of Red Fox fruit wines rotates with the seasons as does a changeable menu of wine and cider cocktails. Red Fox owners — the Hamiltons — have a philosophy that visitors seem to pick up on and enjoy: “Good food and good drink can make a good day.”
695 36 Road, Palisade, 970-464-1099, redfoxcellars.com
Maison La Belle Vie
Buy a glass of wine and a plate of charcuterie, settle into one of the patio chairs in the lush gardens and let your imagination take you to the Loire Valley of France. Owner John Barbier hails from there and makes his wines in the same Loire Valley style as Barbier’s French family has been doing since the late 1800s. The inviting gardens of Amy’s Courtyard (named for the owner’s daughter) make it a very easy place to linger. With the charcuterie offerings that include everything from meats and cheese to chocolate and fruits, this is good lunch stop on a wine-tasting day. Or, if you are traveling as a clan and looking for a special treat, groups of 10 or more can call ahead and schedule dinners prepared by Barbier.
3575 G Road, Palisade, 970-464-4959, maisonlabellevie.com
Nestled is such an overused word when it comes to prime Colorado locations, but the original Colterris winery really is nestled in peach orchards and vineyards with a stunning promontory view of Mount Garfield across the Colorado River. A tasting room contains a serious array of estate-grown and bottled wines ranging from dry rosés to standout Cabernet Francs. The latest offering is wines in a can, appropriately called “Canterris.” Colterris recently purchased the Canyon Wind winery at the east end of Palisade and now has two locations for tasting. Take your pick: the wines are the same. It all depends on whether you prefer a shaded courtyard and a unique wine cave at Colterris Winery (the new acquisition) or a breathtaking overlook at what is now called Colterris Overlook.
3548 E K Road and 3907 North River Road, Palisade, 970-464-1150, colterris.com
Carlson Vineyards Winery
This bucolic winery is a perennial favorite with wine country visitors. Since 1988, Carlson has been putting fun in bottles — and on labels. (Look for prairie dogs and dinosaurs.) The wines aren’t just fun — they have won international awards. Youngsters Garret and Cailin Portra took over the winery from Parker and Mary Carlson several years ago and continue the Carlsons’ down-home friendliness while adding some new, on-the-dryspectrum grape wines. The backyard is a delight with its towering shade trees and nooks for picnicking and sipping. The Portras have started stocking a cooler with salads and antipasto plates from the popular Café Sol restaurant in Grand Junction, so this is another good stop for calorie replenishing.
461 35 Road, Palisade, 970-464-5554, carlsonvineyards.com
Mesa Park Winery
Front Range visitors to this East Orchard Mesa winery will find kindred spirits in the Price/webb family — the owners of Mesa Park. The Webbs had come from Denver for an innocent wine-tasting weekend in 2008 when they stumbled across a winery for sale. They bought it, lock, stock and barrel. Brooke Webb’s parents jumped on the idea, and it’s been a family-run operation since. Their beautifully labelled wines include a popular merlot, a big Cabernet Franc and a dessert wine (look for the shark fin on the label). The Price/webb family members are more than happy to reveal the stories behind the labels, and to tell their tale of transition from city folk to rural vintners. Look for a big red winery barn tucked at the end of rows of vines.
3321 C Road, Palisade, 970-434-4191, mesaparkvineyards.com
More: For a pretour video peek into all the wineries in the Grand Valley, go to visitpalisade.com/wineries-and-spirits/
Chris Blastos and Katie Welch enjoy a bottle of red wine on the outdoor patio at Maison La Belle Vie winery in Palisade.
Winemaker Corey Norsworthy puts CO2 inside bottles before filling them during the hand-bottling process at Maison La Belle Vie winery in Palisade.