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Ten Bears Winery is located on a beautiful parcel of land nine miles north of downtown Fort Collins. Photo by Terri Cook

Behind the Vines: Ten Bears Winery

This low-key winery north of Fort Collins offers a diverse choice of delicious wines with distinctly local flavors.

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The Winery: Ten Bears Winery

Opened: 2007

The People: While working for 16 years at one of Fort Collins’ breweries, William Conkling never gave up his dream of becoming a winemaker. So in 2006, after finding a beautiful, 12-acre parcel near the town of Laporte, just north of Fort Collins, he quit his job to begin planting grapes and building a winery.

The Space: The simple tasting room has a comfortable, country feel that reflects Conkling’s relaxed and personable character. It’s a great spot to sip outside and enjoy the views or relax indoors at one of the large oak tables surrounded by Mission-style chairs.

The Grapes: Whenever possible, Conkling uses Colorado-grown grapes, including his own small crop of Marquette and La Crescent, two cold-hardy hybrid varietals. He believes that Colorado grapes develop more character than those grown in other states and give the wine more distinct flavors.

The Wine: Ten Bears Winery is best known for its red wines, particularly its best-selling Poudre River Red, a smooth, medium-bodied table wine made from a blend of Conkling’s estate-grown Marquette grapes combined with Alicante Bouschet, Merlot, and Zinfandel varietals. Its black cherry notes contrast sharply with the white pepper aroma of his flavorful, full-bodied Grand Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Buzzed Trivia: Bears have been an ongoing theme in Conkling’s life. Born in Illinois and a life-long Cubs fan, Conkling also attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, whose mascot is the Bears. So when the developer suggested that the road to his property should be named Ten Bears, Conkling decided his winery should “bear” the same name.

Taste it: Ten Bears Winery has two tasting rooms: one at the Laporte vineyard, which is open Tuesday to Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon until 7 p.m., and a smaller room in downtown Fort Collins, which is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A flight of six wine samples costs $5.99. If you enjoy whites, sample Conkling’s American Symphony, a blend of two Old World grapes with a lovely peach nose that’s perfect served chilled on a summer day.

Take Home: If you enjoy sweet wines, ask Conkling for a taste of one of the vinos in his “Roaming Bear” series. These light, fruity wines are made from a base blend of three white varietals, to which he’s added raspberry, pomegranate, or huckleberry flavoring. In addition, don’t leave Ten Bears without trying Conkling’s impressive Nutty Laporte Dessert Wine, a port aged in American Oak to which he’s added a bit of hazelnut flavoring. The result is a smooth drink with hints of coffee and cherry that’s best savored while curled up next to a crackling fire.

Visit: Ten Bears Winery is located at 5114 County Road 23E in Laporte and also has a tasting room in downtown Fort Collins at 123 N. College Ave., Ste. 170; 970-566-4043

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