COLORADO MAY BE KNOW FOR MANY THINGS, BUT WINE TYPICALLY ISN’T AMONG THEM. MAYBE IT SHOULD BE.
Colorado is synonymous with mountains. So much so that the mountains are the economic driver in the state. People come year round to see, walk, ride, run and just be in them and communities survive or thrive based on them. In addition to the biking trails, the ski runs, the scenic byways and the numerous beautiful towns nestled among their peaks, the mountains give Colorado something else - wine. And not just any wine, but good wine, award winning even.
Colorado's vineyards range in elevation from 4,000 to 7,000 feet making them some of the highest in the world. In conjunction with around 300 days of sunshine every year, Colorado has ideal growing conditions for many grape varieties. Then there is the soil. It is generally more alkaline which makes it more similar to Europe than the more acidic soils of California. This means that Colorado merlot tastes more like it does in Bordeaux than in California. Similarly, syrahs are more like Rhone Valley reds than Australian shiraz. The relative lack of humidity is another factor as the dry climate keeps problems like pests and diseases to a minimum which in turn means pesticides and other chemicals are used much less frequently.
That isn't to say that wine grapes can be grown everywhere, far from it. In fact, the perfect storm of conditions come together in two main areas, both of which have been designated American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) by the US government - The Grand Valley and the West Elks. Together, these two AVAs produce upwards of 90 percent of the wine grapes grown in Colorado. The rest are grown in several pockets that have their own unique climates and conditions.