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Colorado wine is having a moment. Case in point: Colorado Vineyard Specialists—a grower that supplies fruit to some 25 wineries across the state—already sold out of grapes for the upcoming 2022 harvest. While the company also sends its clusters to winemakers in Alaska, California, Nebraska, and Texas, the majority of its customers are in the Centennial State, where demand is particularly high this year, says Kaibab Sauvage, a veteran Western Slope farmer and the company’s owner. “I think Colorado has just really embraced wine in the last five years,” he says. “I think there’s just a lot of new consumers who are coming in, and that’s a great thing.”
But boom follows some challenging years in the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), a region that spans 75,990 miles along the Colorado River from the mouth of De Beque Canyon to the foot of Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. In October 2020, frost killed or damaged the majority of the state’s Vitis vinifera, European grapevine species that include well-known varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. That led many winemakers and grape growers to begin experimenting with grapes that were previously less commonly used in the AVA—fruit harvested from cold-weather-tolerant vines such as Teroldego, Chambourcin, and Aromella that survived the unexpected temperature drops. Now visitors can savor the innovation of the state’s resilient wine industry at tasting rooms across the valley.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Palisade wineries and recommendations for what to sip at each.
Sauvage Spectrum Estate Winery & Vineyard
In 2019, Sauvage teamed up with winemaker Patric Matysiewski—formerly of Denver’s Infinite Monkey Theorem and Carboy Winery—to launch Sauvage Spectrum. The estate winery only makes bottles with grapes harvested on-site and focuses on lesser-known, experimental varieties. The results are day-drinking-friendly pétillant naturels (or pét-nats, natural sparkling wines) and robust white and red blends. Also look for peaches, apricots, and other farm-fresh produce from Sauvage Fruit, a stand open Friday to Sunday, and a second Sauvage Spectrum tasting room location in Ouray, which the team plans to open soon.
What to Drink: The 2021 Cerø, a crisp, gently spicy white zinfandel (only available for a limited time); and the bubbly 2021 Sparklet Candy Red, with strong notes of black cherry and cotton candy. 676 38 ¼ Rd., Palisade
This April, nearly six-year-old Carboy Winery added a fourth location to its fast-growing portfolio. The company purchased Garfield Estates Vineyard and Winery from its previous owners, who moved to the East Coast to be closer to family. While its tasting rooms in Capitol Hill, Littleton, and Breckenridge also serve vintages produced with Grand Valley–grown fruit, the Palisade location is definitely the most scenic. The team, which includes CEO Kevin Webber and head winemaker Tyzok Wharton, added a rooftop deck to the existing building so visitors could take in breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding Bookcliff Mountains while sipping Carboy’s easy-drinking offerings.
What to Drink: The 2021 rosé, a dry elixir with aromas of ripe strawberry and hints of citrus; and 2020 Albariño, a bright white with complex flavors of lemon rind and starfruit. 3572 G Rd., Palisade
Ordinary Fellow—a winery from Ben Parsons, the mastermind behind RiNo’s Infinite Monkey Theorem—invites patrons to lounge in industrial-chic digs furnished with leather and velvet couches. Housed in a former peach-packing plant, the venue pours sips infused with grapes from Parson’s 12.5-acre vineyard in Cortez, Colorado, and Washington state. This summer, chef Michael Winston and Megan Silvertooth opened Le Snack, an on-site restaurant at Ordinary Fellow; try the pork smashed burger with onion jam and bacon mayo on sourdough toast.
What to Drink: The 2020 Riesling, a gently acidic wine with notes of apple, lemon, and star anise; or the 2021 Pinot Noir, a red with undertones of cranberry and strawberry. Both are made with Cortez-grown grapes. 202 Peach Ave., Palisade
Flanked by beautiful views of the Roan Plateau, Colterris is a must-visit for lovers of Vitis vinifera wines. Since owners Scott and Theresa High released the vineyard and winery’s first vintage in 2008, they’ve earned many nods at the renowned San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We recommend booking a tour and tasting ($65 per person), which includes a guided walk through the wine-making facility, barrel cave, and library; the opportunity to sample seven wines; and a snack board.
What to Drink: The Bordeaux-style, blueberry-scented 2019 Coloradeaux or gold-medal-winning 2019 Malbec, which has flavors of black plum and peppercorn. 3907 North River Rd., Palisade
Colorado Vintner’s Collective
This white-walled, farmhouse-style tasting room serves its own line of small-batch wines and selections from other local wineries, such as Hotchkiss’ Jack Rabbit Hill Farm and Peonia’s Peony Lane. After working for Bookcliff Vineyards in Boulder and wineries in New Mexico and Napa Valley, winemaker Richard McDonald opened the spot with his wife, Aly, in 2020. Watch the sunset over the mountains from the blue-umbrella-shaded patio; or drop by on Taco Tuesday, when the Armando Taco truck slings Mexican street fare out front.
What to Drink: Colorado Vintner’s Collective’s 2021 Ghostdance Rosé, a light and dry, Provence-inspired creation; or the 2019 Cliff Dweller, a Malbec rife with notes of blackberry, vanilla, and tobacco. 3674 G Rd., Palisade
Plum Creek Wine
In 1984, Sue Phillips and her late husband, Doug established Plum Creek, now the oldest continuously operating winery in Colorado. Following the devastating frost of 2020—which decimated 80 to 90 percent of the 2021 grape harvest—the company expanded its long-standing lineup of traditional Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons to include whites and sparkling wines made with blends of the cold-tolerant hybrid varieties that survived from Palisade’s Talbott Farms. This year, look for a newly released rosé produced from a combination of white and red grapes and a five-year-oak-aged Merlot.
What to Drink: The 2021 Festival White, with bright fragrances of orange blossom and lemon zest and bursts of ginger, orange, and lemon; and the 2021 Pét-Nat Rosé, rich with scents of strawberry and watermelon. 3708 G Rd., Palisade
Parker and Mary Carlson planted their first vines on East Orchard Mesa in 1981 and started Carlson Vineyards seven years later in a 1930s-era fruit-packing shed. Now husband-and-wife team Garrett and Caitlin Portra—Missouri transplants who purchased the winery in 2015—are continuing the Carlsons’ legacy by churning out a vast roster of wines, from sweeter, stone-fruit-enriched varieties to approachable red, white, and rosé blends. Order a flight to enjoy on the tasting room’s vineyard-adjacent back patio.
What to Drink: The best-selling 2021 Laughing Cat Sweet Baby Red, a balanced, medium-bodied wine with rich notes of ripe berries, and the smooth, perfect-for-summer 2021 365 Rosé. 461 35 Rd.