Where the wine flows in Pal­isade

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Nancy Lofholm

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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

Colter­ris Wines

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/

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Chris Blas­tos and Katie Welch en­joy a bot­tle of red wine on the out­door pa­tio at Mai­son La Belle Vie win­ery in Pal­isade.

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Wine­maker Corey Nor­swor­thy puts CO2 in­side bot­tles be­fore fill­ing them dur­ing the hand-bot­tling process at Mai­son La Belle Vie win­ery in Pal­isade.

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