WEST ELKS

West of 105 Magazine - - Drinking & Dining -

FOL­LOW­ING the North Fork of the Gun­ni­son River from the old min­ing town of Bowie, the West Elks

AVA con­tin­ues on through Pao­nia and Hotchkiss un­til it reaches the Adobe Bad­lands Wilder­ness Study Area, an other­worldly place of slop­ing hills dis­sected by rugged, ser­pen­tine canyons, iso­lated mesas and a maze of deeply­carved canyons, washes and ravines just out­side of Delta. As the el­e­va­tion here ranges from about 5400 feet up to 7000 feet, the grow­ing sea­son starts about two weeks later and has 30 per­cent fewer days be­tween the last spring frost and the first fall frost than the Grand Val­ley. As a re­sult, ries­ling, pinot gris and pinot noir grow par­tic­u­larly well here.

With some of the high­est vine­yards in North Amer­ica, the area is con­sid­ered to be a some­what un­usual place to grow wine grapes, how­ever, the re­sult is fan­tas­tic wine that is roundly con­sid­ered to be some of the best in the state. The high el­e­va­tion and low hu­mid­ity works in con­junc­tion with cool nights to re­tain a high de­gree of acid­ity as the grapes ripen which is par­tic­u­larly good for ries­ling and gewurz­traminer. pinot gris and chardon­nay also grow well here. As for red wines, pinot noir has turned out to be quite at home in the West Elks.

WHERE TO GO

AZURA CEL­LARS

A bou­tique win­ery, Azura was es­tab­lished in 2007 by artists Ty and He­len Gille­spie, so it should come as no sur­prise that the tast­ing room dou­bles as their gallery. With fan­tas­tic views over­look­ing the North Fork Val­ley, Azura also boasts 2016's Colorado Wine­maker of the year, Brett Neal, as their wine­maker. As a bou­tique win­ery, Azura only sells from their tast­ing room where tast­ings are com­pli­men­tary.

Of­fer­ings change ev­ery year, and this year they have a pinot gris, a ries­ling, pinot noir, mal­bec, mer­lot and a sweet wine ap­pro­pri­ately named “Sweetie Pie” as well as their Yacht Club Red (the 2016 vin­tage is a blend of Grand Val­ley mer­lot and is so named to cel­e­brate their love of sail­ing).

Events

Mi­cro Magic Ra­dio Con­trolled Sail­ing Re­gatta, Oc­to­ber 6 & 7

Tast­ing and hol­i­day shop­ping, Novem­ber 3

Open ev­ery day from May 1st through the first week in Novem­ber Azu­raCel­lars.com

LEROUX CREEK INN & VINE­YARDS

A small win­ery run by French­man Yvon Gros and his wife Joanna, Leroux Creek pro­duces two grape va­ri­eties - a French hy­brid red cham­bourcin and the Amer­i­can cayuga across four acres of their 54acre farm. Orig­i­nally from the French Alps and NYC re­spec­tively, the pair have been in Colorado for 30 years where they love to share this pas­sion and love for wine and wine­mak­ing with their guests.

Leroux Creek has won many ac­co­lades in

Colorado but they have also re­ceived recog­ni­tion from com­pe­ti­tions in Sonoma and in the Fin­ger Lakes.

Events

Paella din­ner and con­cert, Septem­ber 14 and Oc­to­ber 12

Open daily from May and Au­gust and week­ends in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber ler­oux­creekinn.com

BLACK BRIDGE WIN­ERY

Tak­ing its name from the cen­tury-old bridge that spans the North Fork of the Gun­ni­son River that bor­ders the farm, Lee and Kathy Bradley first planted their wine grapes in 1997 and were soon hooked.

Sit­u­ated at 5,800 feet, with 13 inches of pre­cip­i­ta­tion an­nu­ally, 150 frost-free days, a three per­cent slope and agua fria stony loam, Black Bridge is ide­ally lo­cated to grow sev­eral of the clas­sic va­ri­eties in­clud­ing chardon­nay, ries­ling and mer­lot. They also grow the no­to­ri­ously fickle pinot noir which they have won awards for in the past. The pinot along with chardon­nay and ries­ling have also re­ceived awards at the Colorado Gover­nor's Cup.

Pro­duc­ing a lim­ited quan­tity of clas­sic reds, whites, blends and a pinot noir rosé which sells out quickly. They also have fruit wines made from fruit grown on their own or­chards, Or­chard Val­ley Farms.

Open from Memo­rial Day week­end through Oc­to­ber or­chard­val­ley­farms.com

MESA WINDS FARM & WIN­ERY

Mesa Winds is an­other small win­ery in the West Elks with just six acres of cer­ti­fied or­ganic vines (as well as 14 acres of peaches and ap­ples) which are mon­i­tored and kept trimmed by a flock of Baby­doll South­down sheep. The es­tate's first vin­tage was back in 2011 and on av­er­age they turn out around 400 cases a year of pinot gris, pinot me­u­nier, pinot noir, rose, cham­bourcin, and peach wine.

Ev­ery au­tumn vol­un­teers are in­vited to share in the “Glory Work” of pick­ing grapes. Pick­ers are re­warded with din­ner and wine.

Open Memo­rial Day week­end through Oc­to­ber www.me­sawinds­farm.com

Pho­tos (this page): Azura Cel­lars

Photo: Leroux Creek Inn & Vine­yards

Photo: Black Bridge Win­ery

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