I spent the last four days drinking wine in Vail. I know, hard life. Lucky for me, Taste of Vail has been an event I’ve been attending as a member of the media for a number of years.
Last year, I was excited to see Colorado presenting for the first time. Yes, we make wine here! Some very good wine. In fact, there are 162 wineries in Colorado. We cultivate under 1000 acres of vines, but there is an industry here, and it has actually been happening since the 1800s.
However, for the past 45 years, the industry has been steadily growing and two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) have been established, the Grand Valley AVA and the West Elks AVA.
The first is in the region of Grand Junction and Palisade, and the second, the east part of Delta County including a place we love, the North Fork Valley. Go HERE to see a map.
We got to taste seven, yes SEVEN, wines, most from the Governor’s Cup 2022, which I wrote about here.
The Governor’s Cup took place in November 2022 in Denver.
See the entire list of this year’s Double Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists here. Spoiler Alert: Carboy Winery did really, really well.
All the wine we tasted was tasty. However, being in a bit of a spring patio time frame of mind, I loved the 2021 Dry Rosé of St. Vincent by Whitewater Hill Vineyard. With or without food, this would be a fabulous wine to enjoy al fresco and I’m not usually a rosé lover. By sheer coincidence, it was the cheapest of the bunch, at $17 a bottle, and a double gold medal winner at the Governor’s Cup.
I got to be a full-on fan girl of Colorado wine, meeting Kyle Schlachter, marketing director for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and real-life mayor of Littleton, Colorado.
I have loved Colorado wine for many years, but during Taste of Vail I realized why I love this particular field of craft makers so much. It’s because Colorado’s wine industry has a soul. In this state, it’s not unusual to visit the winery and run into the winemaker. In fact, he or she may be pouring your wine.
The best way to experience this soul is to visit the source. A trip to visit Colorado wine country can be fancy or done on the cheap. You can even visit Denver’s wineries (for many of us, this can be accomplished on a weekend afternoon).
Visiting the source though, means heading west for those of us on Colorado’s Front Range. Ryan and I absolutely adore the North Fork Valley (West Elks AVA) for the rolling green countryside and the sheep. If you were somehow unaware, I love sheep and goats and all livestock in general. I grew up in cow country in the Pacific Northwest and this pocket of Colorado reminds me of home.
We have been to the Grand Junction and Palisade area several times (most recently, last spring). On our first visit in 2013, we skied in the morning at Powderhorn Mountain Resort and tasted wine in the afternoon. What could be better than that?
Colorado’s wineries aren’t snobby. You don’t need to know anything about wine to go, but you’ll probably learn a thing or two from those individuals pouring your wine. You can wear jeans, but floppy hats are recommended for the ladies!
Always a sellout, “USA Today” named the Colorado Mountain Winefest as the best wine festival in the United States. Taking place on the third weekend in September in Palisade, the festival has been running since 1992.
The prime time to visit Colorado’s Western Slope is now (or after Memorial Day when all the wineries officially open). Whether it’s Paonia and Hotchkiss in the West Elks or Palisade and Grand Junction in the Grand Valley AVA, I can answer any questions you may have.
The ColoradoWine.com website is also a helpful resource. There are even maps that can help you plan your travel.
Now go forth and enjoy the soul of Colorado wine.