Rich soil and a temperate climate unite with the mountains and plains of the Grand Valley for the perfect place to discover some of the country’s most captivating wineries. The Grand Valley American Viti-cultural Area is the hub of Colorado’s Wine Country.
Just a four-hour drive west of Denver, the Grand Valley is rightfully positioned as one of the state’s most beautiful outdoor areas. There’s no limit to the number of canyons, rivers and mountains to explore. Situated amongst all the beauty is wine production that dates back to 1890, when 60 acres of vines were planted near Palisade.
Situated along the Colorado River between Palisade and Grand Junction Grand Valley is one of the state’s two American Viticultural Areas. Framed by the red sandstone mesas, rows of grapevines sit over 20 wineries where visitors relax and sip local blends. Colorado’s soils are similar to Europe and generally more alkaline than the acidic soils of California. The dry climate and 300 days of sunlight with low humidity prevent pest and disease issues, and there is little need for pesticides and chemicals. Colorado wines are uniquely Colorado. In fact, the Grand Valley made Wine Enthusiast’s “2018 Top 100 Wine Destinations in the World.”
Groups choosing to do a float or paddle trip on the Colorado River can scope out the wineries they’ll be visiting after their two-hour journey on the water. A cycling hotspot, the One Riverfront Trail begs riders to explore the area’s vineyards and orchards. What paddlers experience from the river, cyclists are seeing on land. For groups, there is a wealth of options available for guided winery tours. There are limousines and minivans and even horse-drawn tours. Whether it’s your own coach or locally provided transportation, it certainly adds to the experience when a local guide shares stories about the region.
Here are just a few wineries to consider for your trip to Colorado Wine Country.
GRANDE RIVER VINEYARDS • PALISADE
The largest grape crop in Grande River Vineyards makes traditional Bordeaux-style wines. Whites are dry and fermented in both stainless steel and oak barrels to showcase the right flavors. The reds are made in both dry-styled Rhône and Bordeaux varietals and exemplify the art of award-winning wines. A variety of dry white, red, sweet, off-dry and dessert wines in addition to port make the Grande River portfolio world-class. Groups are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the demonstration vineyard that is followed by a complimentary tour of the crushing area, fermentation tanks, barrels and bottling area before ending at the tasting room.
DEBEQUE CANYON WINERY • PALISADE
After years of designing and nurturing vineyards throughout Colorado wine country, Bennett and Davy Price founded DeBeque Winery in 1997 with a title that suggests Western hospitality, beautiful vistas and good wine. Named for DeBeque Canyon (through which the Colorado River flows), the winery naturally parallels the Prices’ involvement in the industry and passion for wine-making.
The winery is best known for its full-flavored, oak-aged Bordeaux and Rhône verietals, premium white wines and rich ports. Featured are merlots, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnays, cabernet franc, malbec, pinot noir and others. The tasting room is open for groups with advanced reservations. The Wine Maker Dinner is a special group experience for up to 28 guests. These five-course dinners include house wine and appetizers prepared and catered by some of the valley’s most distinguished chefs.
RED FOX CELLARS • PALISADE
Red Fox Cellars is family-owned and operated. Like most families, they do not agree on everything, but they all believe that good food and wine make a good day great and good food and wine make a bad day good. Although none are classically trained in wine-making, they’ve spent time experimenting and perfecting the technique.
Red Fox Cellars has a nice variety of wines, ciders and fruit wines, from Bourbon Barrel Merlot, Grapple Jack and Dos Loco Port to Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose and Dolcetto. Warm days and cool nights during the growing season are perfect for grapevines and numerous other fruits. It just makes sense to make wine from the fruit bounty of the valley The inviting tasting room was created for a comfortable, relaxing experience. Groups are welcome with reservations. You’re invited to enjoy unique fruit wines and ciders from their 8-tap draft system or a traditional tasting of featured wines. Be a little adventurous and enjoy a wine cocktail.
The wineries shared here are just a few of the more than 20 wineries with tasting rooms and tours that are open to the public and groups. Like most wineries in the Grand Valley, gift shops feature wine and fruit products, accessories and clothing. Most of the area’s wineries close between 5 and 6 p.m., while some are open later on weekends, and all have hours posted on their websites. When visiting those websites, make sure to check out events at the individual wineries. There’s always something fun and exciting going on in the Grand Valley. One event that should not be missed is the annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Grand Valley.
Taking place in late September, the four-day Winefest has been declared the “Best Wine Festival in the U.S.” by USA Today. Events include daily Food & Wine Pairings; Wine, Dine & Paint on Thursday; the Grand Mesa Wine Country Bus Tour, Wine & Glass Experience; a Chocolate & Wine Tasting on Friday; and Saturday’s Festival in the Palisade Park, which features 60 wineries and plenty of activities. This festival sells out, so begin planning now for the 29th Annual Winefest in September 2020. coloradowinefest.com
Whether you’re being adventuresome on the Grand Mesa or simply enjoying the red rock landscape of the Colorado National Monument from an air-conditioned vehicle, the Grand Valley is a place of inspirational beauty. Regardless of how you experience the area’s natural beauty, take time to slow down, relax and enjoy the rich bounty of this oasis in a winery or two. Begin planning by calling Visit Grand Junction at 970-244-1480, or go online at visitgrandjunction.com.