Rev Up: Temperatures in the Grand Valley have cooled off just enough in September that you don’t need to worry about beating the heat with an early morning bike ride. Instead, spend a leisurely morning at breakfast at the Wine Country Inn, an 80-room Victorian-style hotel nestled in 21 acres of vineyards.
Get Going: The 25-mile Fruit and Wine Byway starts in downtown Palisade with a short, but steep climb up 38 Road to the East Orchard Mesa. After a big breakfast at the Wine Country Inn, we needed a warm-up before tackling that hill. We started from the inn (located near mile marker 20), and covered the flat roads along the river to mile marker 25. Our now-ready legs thanked us when we got to mile marker 1 and began climbing up to the mesa. The grade is tough for about a mile, but your efforts are rewarded with an incredible wine-country view: rows of green vines set against the iconic sandstone Book Cliffs and a deep blue sky.
Shop Around: We stopped at several fruit stands on the mesa and compared the prices with those in town. It turns out that biking (or driving) just a few miles out of downtown Palisade earns you a discount of about 20 percent, plus a better view. In addition to the fruit stands and wineries atop the mesa, you’ll find Suncrest Orchard Alpacas and Sage Creations Organic Farm, which both offer tours.
Pit Stop: The reigning king of the East Orchard Mesa is Colterris Wines (and its award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon), which is located just before mile marker 5 inside High County Orchards. Owners Scott and Teresa High say that the threat of an early freeze is what makes creating award-winning wines challenging in Colorado. As a vineyard owner, it’s easy to get spooked by the risk of losing everything to a frost. Some end up harvesting prematurely, when the grapes aren’t quite ripe enough for the sugars to have balanced out the acids. They may save the crop, but doom themselves to mediocre wine. High and her husband choose to leave the grapes on the vine until they’re ready, no matter what. The couple focuses on Bordeaux-style reds. “We can absolutely produce premium world-class wine in Colorado,” says High. “It’s just a matter of matching the right varietal with the right conditions.”
Take It to Go: We packed two bottles into our panniers and rode out. Check back tomorrow for Part 3 of the series. We’ll cover what not to miss on the second half of the Fruit and Wine Byway.
—Jayme Moye writes about all things adventure. Follow her on Twitter (@JaymeMoye).