Colorado Wine Country 8

Our Very Own Wine is Among the Best

Coloradans have been growing grapes and making wine since way back in 1860, when settlers reportedly brought European stocks to plant small grape vineyards near Penrose and Canon City.

By 1882, Paonia, Hotchiss and Vineland were also home to various vineyards and orchards. Then, in 1890, Gov. George Crawford planted 60 acres on Rapid Creek, above the Town of Palisade, to begin the creation of what is now known as the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area.

By the turn of the century, an estimated 1,035 farms were involved with grape production.

Then prohibition hit. In fact, Colorado adopted prohibition in 1916 – four years before the rest of the nation – marking the beginning of the peach industry in the Grand Valley.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that grapes were re-introduced to that area. Colorado State University led the way after receiving a grant from the federal government. Designed to look at the viability of growing wine grapes throughout the Four Corners area, the grant led to the birth of the current industry in those four states.

One of the test plots that was planted in 1974 is located directly in front of what is now Colorado Cellars, formerly Colorado Mountain Vineyards, which was founded in 1978 in Palisade.

The industry in Colorado has grown from the one winery in 1978 to five wineries in 1990 to more than 120 today all across the state. Here is a brief look at some of Colorado’s finest.

Garrett Estate Cellars

Located in Olathe, owner Mitch Garrett has worked hard to distinguish Colorado wines since he and his parents started growing grapes on their family farm in 2008.

With about 35 acres of vineyards, Garrett Estate Cellars produces wines that are second to none. Garrett’s goal is to expose Colorado to its own great luxury – wines that rival the best not only in the United States but also the world.

“We actually have Californians coming to the Western Slope to purchase wines,” states Garrett. “In a blind comparison, people choose our wines, which contain 99 percent Colorado grapes.”

However, when Colorado residents return from his vineyard, the buying habits do not always follow.

“We’re available at most Parker liquor stores, and we have just not seen the support that warrants the respect deserved,” Garrett says. “I actually sold more bottles after removing the ‘Made in Colorado’ label, and I cannot understand why our own state won’t support our grapes.

“I’ll put our wines against any in the world,” Garrett continues. “In fact, we know that our reds and whites will make any wine drinker happy.”

Colorado has the grapes and the talent to produce excellent wine, Garrett says, adding that “we just want a chance to show people that our wine is the best.

“We will go head-to-head with any vineyard in the world to show you how great our wines are,” Garrett continues. “My mom wanted to create something that makes people from Colorado proud, and she did. People from California and the rest of the country are seeing how wonderful our wines are.”

Garrett Estate Cellars is a proud partner of Parker Lifestyle magazine and has a true passion for sharing knowledge about Colorado wines so that the state’s grape and wine industries can sustain growth.

“Garrett Estate wines are some of the best that I’ve ever tasted,” says Lifestyle Publisher Brad Howard.

“Mitch wants his family’s business to continue to give back to our fantastic state, and he does so with red or white options,” Howard continues, “If someone hasn’t given their wines a taste, then they are missing out on why we live in the best state in our country.”

Grand Valley Vineyards

The Palisade/Grand Junction area continues to provide some of the state’s finest wines and is home to some of Colorado’s oldest commercial vineyards in existence.

The wineries’ tasting rooms give visitors a vast array of wine options, many grown with only Colorado grapes – a feat that can become quite difficult during freeze years, such as 2013 and 2014.

If you go a little off the beaten path, you’ll find two of the state’s older wineries – Colorado Cellars and Carlson Vineyards.

As the state’s oldest winery still in existence, Colorado Cellars was the first to produce and sell Colorado wines made from Colorado grapes.

Current owners, Richard and Padte Turley, along with their sons, Kyle and Cory, produce more than 20 wines – everything from sweet fruit wines to semi-sweet Rieslings and a Gewurztraminer, to dry white and red wines.

Its tasting room on E Road offers a pleasant setting for tasting its selections. While unlimited sampling used to be available, the winery has recently started to limit the number of free tastes – due to too many people taking advantage of their generosity without purchasing any wine.

Just down the road is Carlson Vineyards, founded by Mary and Parker Carlson, who say it is the third oldest in Colorado. It has been serving up an incredible array of wines since 1988 out of its tasting room on 35 Road.

The Carlsons and their staff offer unlimited samplings of their many wines. Visitors are often surprised by a special treat – their cherry wine, which is put in a glass with a melted dark chocolate on the rim for a wonderful taste sensation.

They will give you tips and recipes for enjoying their wines, which run the gamut from sweet fruit wines to several Riesling and Gewürztraminers and a Chardonnay to a sweet baby red that goes great with barbecue.

These older, established wineries have been joined in recent years by some new additions, such as Red Fox Cellars on 36 Road, the area’s newest addition, which opened in 2014.

Scott and Sherrie Hamilton moved to Palisade from Littleton after purchasing their vineyard at the end of 2011, experiencing the freezes of 2013 and 2014. With sons Chad, Kyle and Eric helping, the family quickly learned how to re-grow grapes after a freeze.

Because of the type of grapes they grow, Red Fox currently focuses on red wines. But they are set to release an agave-barrel Chardonnay in the near future, and are working on two carbonated fruit wines.

To learn more about the great wines that Colorado has to offer, visit ColoradoWine.com and plan a tour and tastings that are friendly and informative.