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Bethany Rhine welcomes visitors to the cozy Winter Park Winery in Fraser. Photo by Terri Cook

Behind the Vines: Winter Park Winery

Owned by a devoted Grateful Dead fan, Grand County’s only winery is a great place to relax, soak up some local color, and "share the wine."

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The Winery: Winter Park Winery

Opened: 2004

The People: This cheerful mountain winery is owned and operated by Jon Brickner, a pro cyclist who grew up in Aurora, where his dad ran a small co-op winery in which neighbors shared in the work—as well as the rewards—of winemaking. Before he was even old enough to (legally) drink, Brickner was making batches of wine on his own, so in 2002, when he relocated to Fraser, starting his own venture seemed like a logical next step.

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The Space: Housed in a building on the west side of U.S. 40 in downtown Fraser, the tasting room is a welcoming space with burgundy and yellow walls adorned with the colorful mountain paintings of Steamboat Springs-based artist Julia Dordoni. In addition to a barrel-sheathed bar, which has standing room for about eight people, there are half a dozen high-top tables with Craftsman-style chairs ideal for settling in after a full day of skiing or biking.

The Grapes: Brickner typically uses California-grown grapes for his red wines and Palisade-grown varietals for his whites. All wines are made on-site and fermented in the gleaming stainless tanks that line one side of the tasting room.

The Wine: Brickner’s white wines tend to be dry, which means they lack the residual sugar that makes them sweet. His best-selling white is the Gewurztraminer, a cool-weather varietal originating from the Alsace region of France. Brickner’s delicious 2015 vintage has a light, melon nose and a lingering, gingery taste.

Buzzed Trivia: To highlight Fraser’s gorgeous setting, Winter Park Winery’s vibrant labels feature Dordoni’s paintings of fox, elk, and moose, as well as towering, snow-capped mountain peaks. The only label that doesn’t fit this nature theme is the skull and lightning bolts emblazoned on the “Grateful Red.” Like the label, this wine is distinctive; each year, Brickner uses different varietals to craft the next batch. The 2014 vintage, of which there are only a few cases left, is made entirely from Tempranillo grapes aged for a year in Hungarian oak. The resulting garnet-colored wine has a light cherry nose and a delightful, earthy taste.

Taste it: The tasting room is open Sunday through Thursday from 12:30–6 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 12:30–9 p.m., although these hours may vary during mud season. The cost is $10 for five tastes. If you enjoy whites, try the 2015 Viognier, a sweeter wine with a slight pear scent. If you prefer spicy reds, don’t miss the 2014 Zinfandel, a fruit-forward wine with hints of plum and raspberry and a strong, peppery finish.

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Take Home: All the colorful prints on display are for sale, and the price includes a bottle of wine. Even if you don’t usually indulge in after-dinner drinks, you may want to choose a bottle of the 2014 White Port, a smooth, semi-sweet dessert wine with fragrant scents of pineapple and citrus and a luscious almond taste.

Visit: Winter Park Winery is located at 395 Zerex St., Fraser; 970-726-4514

Terri Cook, 5280 Contributor

Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.

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