If it feels like you’ve been seeing and hearing the name Carboy Winery everywhere these days, you’re not wrong. The fast-growing brand has covered a lot of ground in Colorado, opening three locations in the last four-and-a-half years—its flagship Littleton winery, plus outposts in Breckenridge and Denver.
Now, the company is expanding yet again, this time to Colorado’s Grand Valley wine region on the Western Slope. Carboy plans to open its new winery at Mt. Garfield Estate in Palisade this fall, taking over the location from Garfield Estates Vineyard and Winery; Garfield’s owners are moving back East to be closer to family. The new location already features an 11.5-acre vineyard and, after this year’s harvest, Carboy plans to build a new production facility and renovate the existing winery building on the site, adding a rooftop patio that will deliver 360-degree views of the valley.
The Carboy team has big plans for the vineyard, too. They plan to plant Teroldego, a cold-hardy red grape that’s already proving popular among Colorado wine drinkers, as well as Zweigelt, a red grape that’s popular in Austria, according to Kevin Webber, one of the winery’s managing partners. Carboy also plans to plant several white hybrid grape varietals that will help support Carboy’s growing line of sparkling wines, a style that Webber believes will someday boost the state’s wine-making reputation. (Carboys also plans to open its sparkling wine-focused “bubble barn” private event space, located in a historic stable built in the early 1900s, at the Denver location in May.)
“When I think of New Zealand, I think of Sauvignon Blanc. When I think of Oregon, I think of Pinot Noir. When I think of Napa Valley, it’s Cabernet. The one thing that Colorado has always struggled with is not having a varietal identity,” says Webber. “Sparkling could be the thing that puts Colorado on the map. We feel like sparkling is the future of the state.”
Though Carboy’s leadership team has long wanted to expand to the Western Slope, they weren’t actively pursuing any such plans. But, Webber says, the opportunity “snuck up” on them when the owners of Garfield Estates decided it was time to sell. Carboy’s Palisade facility will mainly produce Carboy’s sparkling wines, while the Littleton location, which recently expanded by 6,000 square feet, will continue to serve as the winery’s main production hub.
From a wine-making perspective, the new Palisade location offers Carboy a chance to make wine from the ground up, though it will still partner with other grape growers around the state and country. “We get to control the grapes from ground to bottle, so that’s exciting,” says Tyzok Wharton, Carboy’s head winemaker, who came to the wine industry after serving in the U.S. Army. “What this allows us to do is have control of our own destiny in that we can plant other varieties that we might be interested in working with.”
When Carboy first launched in 2016, it was a so-called “négociant” winery that mostly sourced grapes and juice from out-of-state growers. In 2017, Carboy experimented with making wine from 15 tons of Colorado-grown grapes, a fateful decision that would ultimately shift its entire approach and business model. The team took those 2017 wine vintages to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in 2018 and were blown away by the response. After that, Carboy went all-in on Colorado viticulture. “That’s all anybody wanted to talk about,” Webber says. “They couldn’t care less about what we were making from California grapes, they wanted to taste the Colorado stuff. It was really well received.”
Today, not only are Webber and crew focused on making wine from Centennial State grapes, but they’re also passionate champions and advocates for the state’s wine industry. They hope to help push it forward with their aggressive growth, partnerships with local growers and wine-makers, experimentation with new varietals, and sustainability initiatives, which include pouring Carboy wine from stainless steel kegs to help cut down on bottling and waste. “We’re at the forefront, even though there are challenges, from climate issues to water issues and forest fires,” Webber says. “We’re at the beginning of something really great out here.”