Colorado Wine and Vineyards
By Emma Parker
When you think of wine and vineyards in the United States, you probably think of Northern California, not Colorado. When you think of Colorado, you probably think of beer. Colorado is famous for the number of craft breweries and beer brands that exist. You might be surprised to learn that Colorado has plenty of wineries worth checking out!
Colorado’s “wine country” exists on the Western Slope of the state. As you venture past the ski resorts and busy towns on the front range and along the continental divide, you will reach the beautiful desert mountains of northwest Colorado that run into Utah. Palisade and Grand Junction are some of the main towns located in Colorado’s desert landscape. The unique climate of Colorado’s Western Slope paves way for beautiful wineries and delicious wine!
Great Wineries on the Western Slope
There is a surprisingly high number of wineries in Colorado, here are some of our favorites located on the Western Slope.
Carlson Vineyards is located in Palisade, Colorado. Carlson Vineyards was started in 1988 and remains family-owned today. They are best known for making easy-drinking regional wines. Palisade is located just about 4 hours west of Denver and definitely worth the visit if you are in the mood to get out and explore something new!
You may recognize the name Palisade from the famous Palisade peaches that are sold at just about every market and farmers’ market in Denver come spring. When you take a trip to Carlson, you should plan to see a few other vineyards as well! Carlson Vineyards has their original winery in Palisade, which is open for tastings and tours. They have another location in Grand Junction where you can do tastings and purchase the wine directly from the Vineyard.
Whitewater Hill is located in Grand Junction. According to the founders, Nancy James and John Behrs, what makes their wine so unique is the fact that they grow their grapes in mineral-rich limestone soils at 4,600 feet. The high elevation paired with warm days and cool nights paves way to a really unique flavor of wine.
They plant a combination of familiar grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay with some more unique ones like Chambourcin and St. Vincent. This repertoire of grapes means that there is something for every kind of wine drinker at Whitewater Hill. At the winery, you won’t only enjoy views of the stunning winery and establishment, but also of the Grand Valley and the desert surrounded mountains located around Grand Junction.
The Storm Cellar
The Storm Cellar was founded in 2017 by Denver sommeliers Jayme Henderson and Steve Stesse. Located in Hotchkiss Colorado, The Storm Cellar’s grapes are planted at a high-elevation which creates a unique flavor profile. When grapes are planted at such a high-elevation, they build a thick skin to protect themselves from intense UV exposure that leads to an extreme concentration and aromatic intensity that leads to delicious wines.
The Storm Cellar’s tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 7:00pm through the end of October. Located in Hotchkiss, Colorado you won’t just be traveling here to taste some great wine, but also for the stunning views located in and around Hotchkiss. If you can’t make it out to the tasting room, they are sold in plenty of liquor stores around Colorado!
Colorado Wineries Outside the Western Slope
The Western Slope is not the only ideal location in Colorado for vineyards. Parts of the Front Range and southern Colorado also offer some great opportunities for making wine. Here are some great wineries that are not along the Western Slope.
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is located in Cañon City. This winery has a long and rich history that begins with two Benedictine monks coming to Colorado from Pennsylvania. Once they arrived, they built a boarding school and started to establish the winery. The boarding school closed in 1985, forcing the monks to start to build the winery’s business further. In 2002 they open a tasting room at Holy Cross and that grew their popularity and experience to lead them to win Winery of the Year in Colorado in 2019.
The tasting room at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is open daily and is designed to make your wine experience very memorable. If you visit in the spring and summer you will enjoy the outdoor garden seating situated to have a perfect view of the sprawling vineyards. If you go in the winter, you can enjoy a cozy indoor setting next to the warm fireplace. In addition to an extensive wine tasting list, you can also enjoy some food prepared by partnering restaurants of the winery.
Black Forest Meadery
Black Forest Meadery is located in the Black Forest of Colorado just outside of Colorado Springs. Here, the grapes are growing at 7,500 feet in elevation, causing the vines to grow extremely fast and the grapes to develop a thick skin and aromatic taste.
Black Forest Meadery can be a nice day trip from Colorado Springs or even Denver. Located conveniently in southern Colorado, there is so much to see and do! Black Forest Meadery does not only offer its visitors a tasting room, but also a full farm with farm animals to look at!
No matter where in Colorado you are located, you should think about expanding your idea of Colorado alcohol from only craft beers to wine as well. There are plenty of vineyards and wineries to check out. Take a weekend trip to the Western Slope and explore Palisade and Grand Junction, or just drive a little south and visit the vineyards outside of Colorado Springs and Cañon City.