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Sweet Heart Winery is located along the Big Thompson River just west of Loveland. Photo courtesy of Sweet Heart Winery

Behind the Vines: Loveland’s Sweet Heart Winery

This Napa-style winery’s romantic, riverside setting and lovingly crafted wines make it a heartfelt choice for Valentine’s Day outings and gifts.

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David Burks and Jack Cantley are living proof of the French proverb that “In wine, one beholds the heart of another.” Decades ago, David moved into Jack’s neighborhood, and the two quickly became friends. They started making wine together—coincidentally, both come from wine-making families—slowly progressing from kits to non-grape to “real” grape wines, which they crafted in small batches in Jack’s garage. With friends clamoring for more, the easygoing duo, along with their wives, Kathy Burks and Lindsay Cantley, took a leap and purchased property west of Loveland on which to build a California-style winery and tasting room. While David and Jack still have full-time careers, this winery has become a labor of love.

The Space: The winery is located on a gorgeous 8-acre parcel adjacent to the Big Thompson River. The 2013 floods temporarily derailed the winery’s construction, but after hauling in tons of dirt to raise the site several feet, the duo erected a gorgeous building that was originally intended to be the showpiece for a timber-framing business. The contemporary, barn-style space has great views of the Devil’s Backbone, and the sunny back patio is a comfortable spot to savor a glass of wine, enjoy views of the foothills, and, if you’re fortunate, spot a local elk herd.

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The Grapes: Most of Sweet Heart’s grapes come from small-lot vineyards in California, including both the Napa and Sonoma regions. With the help of Colorado State University’s viticulture and enology program, Jack and David have also planted cold-tolerant white Aromella grapes on the property.

The Wine: Sweet Heart’s current offerings include four whites and seven reds. Their signature wine, the 2013 “Courtship” Cabernet Sauvignon, is made from grapes grown in Lodi, California and aged in Hungarian oak. The result is a fruity, berry laced wine with slightly smoky notes. Their second-most-popular varietal is a 2014 Yolo County Tempranillo, an easy-drinking wine with a lovely cinnamon-and-allspice nose that will pair well with almost any type of food.

The winery is located in a gorgeous timber-frame building. Photo courtesy of Sweet Heart Winery

Buzzed Trivia: The winery is housed in a beautiful, 6,600-square-foot timber-frame building constructed without the use of nails. The 50-by-80-foot barrel room—which is also used to host Wednesday-night yoga classes, a “Valentine and Wine” party on February 9, and other events—has the largest span without a center post of any such building in Colorado. It’s also sided with beetle-kill pine and both heated and cooled geothermally, making it one of the state’s most environmentally-friendly wineries.

Taste it: Sweet Heart Winery’s tastings cost $6+ per flight, but this fee is waived with the purchase of two or more bottles. I recommend starting with their refreshing 2016 “Captivating” California Viognier, whose floral nose and peaches-and-honey flavor pair well with poultry.

Take Home: Sweet Heart Winery offers a small selection of wall hangings and other whimsical wine paraphernalia in addition to bottles of their vino. The 2011 Russian River Valley Syrah is the perfect bottle to take to your sweetheart. Its smoky aromatics, layers of bold plum and berry flavors, and white pepper finish are the perfect complement to the intense dark chocolate so ubiquitous on Valentine’s Day.

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If you go: Sweet Heart Winery is located at 5500 W. Highway 34, Loveland. The tasting room is open from noon to 8 p.m. seven days a week. 

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