This story is part of the 5280 Guide to Colorado Wine. Read the full feature here.
High and dry Colorado has been luring California winemakers away from the land of vino and honey for a few years now. Though their motivations vary, these makers’ passions for Centennial State wine are true. We caught up with a few recent transplants (and one returned native son) to ask what compelled them to make the move.
Richard McDonald, Bookcliff Vineyards
“Colorado presents an opportunity to be at the forefront of a small, committed industry making some truly outstanding wine,” says McDonald, winemaker for award-winning Bookcliff Vineyards in Boulder. After years spent making wine at California’s historic Beaulieu Vineyards, as well as the Prisoner Wine Co., Leviathan, and Flowers Vineyards & Winery, McDonald says it’s refreshing to take part in an industry that’s “still discovering its story and willing to experiment.”
Joe & Shamai Buckel, Buckel Family Wine
Alpine living enticed the Buckels to trade California, where Joe made wine for BR Cohn Winery, Flowers, and Rutz Cellars, for Crested Butte, where they bought their own production facility. The transition has been an education. “Colorado is unlike any other region,” Shamai says. “With its finicky microclimates and elevation challenges, you have to be adaptive to the growing season and willing to listen to its unique needs.” They find the quiet minerality in their Colorado wines to be one of the region’s greatest assets.
Bo Felton, Colterris Winery
A Centennial State native, Felton spent eight years at Duckhorn Vineyards, a renowned California winery—until one Blind Wine Friday gathering with friends, at which he tasted a Colterris Cabernet Franc among a lineup of California wines. It was love at first sip, and he knew it was time to come home. Bo is now head winemaker at Palisade-based Colterris, where he produces award-winning estate-grown wines. “Cabernet Franc is one of Colorado’s most promising varieties,” Bo says. “It ripens earlier—ideal for a shorter growing season—and intense high-altitude ultraviolet rays temper the varietal’s crunchy-green-bell-pepper aroma and flavor, giving it character and finesse.”