This story is part of the 5280 Guide to Colorado Wine. Read the full feature here.
In 2017, Denverites Jayme Henderson and Steve Steese left sommelier gigs and city living to settle on their newly purchased vineyard in the West Elks AVA and become full-time winemakers for their own fledgling label, the Storm Cellar. We caught up with them as they prepared to release their first bottles in the spring.
5280: Give us the highlights so far.
Henderson: [The property] has been through a crazy history of replantings and different managers. There were trellises falling over and vines lying on the ground. We’re still doing minor repairs.
Steese: In 2017, we sold our grapes to various wineries—the Infinite Monkey Theorem’s 2017 Chardonnay and Carboy Winery’s 2017 Pinot Gris and Riesling come from our vineyard. But in 2018, we made our own wine. And began figuring out how to use a wind machine and combat the weather.
How is the lifestyle adjustment going?
Henderson: Working at a restaurant, you go full throttle until 10 or 11 p.m., but then you close the book on the day. Changing our pace to farming has been very different. It’s work all day, every day. We wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. and realize we didn’t turn off the irrigation.
Your vineyard sits at 5,880 feet, about 2,000 feet higher than most vines in the Grand Valley AVA and 3,200-plus feet higher than many vineyards in, say, California. What does that mean for your grapes?
Henderson: We see white wines really shining here, and there’s great potential for sparkling wine, too. Our goal is to be the premier sparkling wine house for Colorado.
Steese: We grow Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, some of which are wild cards because [the Storm Cellar] is one of the highest elevation
vineyards in the Northern Hemisphere. We’ll never make wines that taste like anything from California. We want to show what grapes taste like at 5,880 feet.
What happens next?
Steese: This summer, we’ll do tastings by appointment on the property and maybe at a farmers’ market. By 2021, we want to have a tasting room and new winery built.
Henderson: One of our missions is to bring high-quality wine from West Elks to Denver tasting rooms and restaurants.