Archive for the ‘Wineries and Travel – Delta/Montrose/West Elks Region’ Category

All about Arizona Wineries

Would you answer this question “true” or “false”…..There are wineries in Arizona and they are growing their own grapes. I suspect most people would answer “false” given the hot climate of Arizona, but the answer is actually “true.” Recently I had the opportunity to explore the Sedona area, and while there learned about nearby wineries. So, of course, I had to visit and sample!! Here is what I discovered….

There are over 50 wineries throughout Arizona. The wineries are located in 4 areas….Verde Valley (near Sedona), Sonoita / Elgin Wine Country and Willcox Wine Country (both near Tucson) and Phoenix. All but Phoenix are grape growing regions. The regions all grow a variety of grapes….from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel. Similar to Colorado, the wine regions are at a higher elevation and have that hot day and cool night temperature change.

What is interesting to note, is that Arizona was going grapes and making wine before it was a USA state. Unfortunately all the grape vines were destroyed in order for Arizona to become the 48th state in 1912.  Because of this, winemaking is only a few decades into the process.

In the Verde Valley wine region there are 4 wineries just a ½ hour drive west of Sedona, near Cornville and very close to I-17. Three of these wineries have their own tasting rooms that are open for sampling. All of them are growing their own grapes.

Since I don’t have to be “politically correct” regarding my comments on AZ wineries, here is my review…..My first stop was at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery. Tastings are $2 each or $3 for premium wines. Of the 4 wines I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel received a very good rating. Their bottle prices range between $28 and $44. My next stop was at Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery. They received the best ratings for not only their wines, but also the friendless of the tasting room staff and cost of tastings….$10 for 5. In my ratings, only 1 wine received less than a very good or higher. Their bottle prices range from $24 to $35. My last stop was at Page Springs Cellars. It was packed with people, had a waiting list for both the tasting room and its restaurant, and I felt like I was in Napa versus Arizona. The winery has chosen the wines for your tasting in 3 categories….chilled, reds, or a combination. Most of their wines were blends and rated a good or lower score. I don’t know what their bottle prices are and could only sample a small selection of the wines they produce. Tasting price was $11 for 5 samples and you got to keep the glass.

Visiting the wineries in Arizona was a fun and educational experience. I hope the next time you are in the state you take the opportunity to explore a winery or two!!

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Jacob Helleckson of Stone Cottage Cellars

I would like to introduce you to Jacob Helleckson, who is the son of Stone Cottage Cellars’ owners Karen and Brent. The winery is located in Paonia and has been in operation since 2003.

Jacob is a senior at CU-Boulder in the Leeds School of Business. He is combining his talents of photography and marketing, and his experience growing up with a winery and vineyard in his back door into a blog. In fact, it is Jacob’s picture that appears on the back cover of my book!! Jacob’s blog (click here for link) is about his “winery life” that I think might be of interest to you.

If you are interested in learning more wine info and/or would like to view some exceptional photography, I suggest you connect with Jacob’s blog site!!

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Catriona Cellars – Winery Visit

For Woody and Catherine Woodworth, owners of Catriona Cellars, it’s all about “love and balance.” In fact they even have a marble statue out front of the winery emphasizing that viewpoint. It is that attitude that started them on their journey 20+ years ago when they opened a garden center in historic downtown Monument. Did you even know that Monument has a historic downtown area?? You should stop by for a visit!! About 15 years ago Woody began sourcing grapes from California to make wine for personal use and also began teaching classes as part of his homebrew shop for beer and wine making. If you have ever met Woody, you know that for him it is all about “the passion” and “following your dream.”

But after a while Catherine wasn’t following “the dream” of the garden center anymore and told Woody to turn his hobby into something more….so Catriona Cellars was born! After 2 years of planning, designing, re-designing, obtaining custom-made items, and turning a garden center into a winery, an incredible establishment was built. Here you can sample Catriona’s delicious 9 wines at their tasting bar, have lunch or dinner inside or on the patio and shop in the gift store.

But let’s talk about the wine! For Woody, it’s all about blending wine together to apply his passion and creative side into making delicious wines for the people. He uses both the California and Bordeaux philosophies of blending wines to make his own blends. During Catriona’s inaugural year 7 wines received 9 awards at the Colorado State Fair, including Best of Show Overall! Their top seller is “Orchard White,” an off-dry Riesling, and their Moscato is blended with Palisade peaches. They have both a sweet and dry Rosé. Their second biggest seller is the Cellar Reserve Red Limited, which is a blend of Malbec, Syrah, Cab and Merlot. An interesting note is that Woody uses Italian Chestnut barrels for his barrel select blends….I didn’t think anything but oak was ever used for barrel fermenting and aging!

A unique dining experience is called “The Chef’s Table” and is held in Catriona’s rebuilt and restored cellar. Chef Jonny prepares a special 5-course meal that is paired with Catriona’s wine. The table seats up to 10 and the cost is $75 per person.

The winery’s future includes 5 new wines being created this year, so the next time you are driving along I-25, take a ½ mile detour at the Monument exit and visit Catriona Cellars….you will be glad you stopped!

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Winery Visit – Mesa Winds Farm & Winery

As we enjoy a glass of wine most of us never think about what came before and the process involved to take a grape and turn it into wine.  Not so for owner and winemaker Philip “Wink” Davis and his wife, Maxine “Max” Eisele of Mesa Winds Farm & Winery. For them they “believe delicious wine starts in the soil, and with good soil you have healthy plants, which produce exceptionally good grapes.” They also practice the philosophy of “letting the grapes express themselves in the wine and use minimal intervention throughout the vintage process.” Mesa Winds’ fruit production is certified organic and they practice biodynamic farming. Only the grapes they grow are used to produce their wines.

Moving from Colorado Springs 8 years ago Max and Wink obtained a farm in Hotchkiss, which had 1 acre of Pinot Noir grapes planted. Due to a virus with those vines, they removed them and planted 6 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier. FYI – these are the grapes of the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France. In fact, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are the 3 grapes that are used to produce a “true Champagne” from Champagne. Mesa Winds uses Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chambourcin to create their Rosé wine, a light-bodied, dry wine with fruity essence.

In addition to their Rosé wine, they are also selling their 2011 Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris, which is from their first vintage. Their 2012 Peach wine comes from their peach orchard, and is a great wine to serve as an aperitif  or as a dessert wine.

Being a “new kid on the block” their distribution is limited, so my suggestion is to stop by their tasting room between mid-May and mid-October. They are open every Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. You can also purchase their wines at Delicious Orchards in Paonia and Coal Train Liquors in Colorado Springs. Wink is just about to bottle his 2012 Pinot Gris, so stop on by the winery for a sampling of Mesa Winds delicious wines.

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Azura Cellars

Beginning this month the Delta/Montrose/West Elks AVA wine area opens for another season. If you haven’t been to Paonia, Hotchkiss and the surrounding area in awhile, it is definitely worth a visit, as it has some of the most beautiful views in Colorado. And, what better than to stop at the wineries and fruit stands along your drive! There are 20 wineries in this region, as well as many places to purchase or pick-your-own fruits and vegetables. I’ve blogged about several of the wineries in this area, and would like to highlight Azura Cellars for today’s post.

Azura Cellars is both a winery and an art gallery. Owners Ty and Helen Gillespie left Vail to expand their studio space and wound up in Paonia….then “got bit by the wine making bug!”  Helen’s medium is photography and Ty’s forte is sculpture and boat hulls. In fact, his boat interest has led to the development of the “Azura Model Yacht Club,” which offers racing model boats and radio-controlled sailboats. Bring your boat on a Wednesday night during the summer, as Ty says everyone is welcome.

But on to the more important stuff…wine! Azura produces two white wines – Pinot Gris, fruity and perfect as a summer wine, and Riesling, a flavorful sweeter wine. Their red wines consist of a Syrah and Cabernet Franc, and a delicious blend of  Cab Franc, Merlot and Syrah called Montage. Azura’s “pièce de résistance” is its Merlot Chocolate Sauce. The Merlot has aged in both French and American oak for 18 months. Try it over ice cream or a bowl of strawberries….incredible!!

You can only taste and purchase Azura wines at their tasting room, so stop on by for a sampling of their delicious wines and peruse the art work!


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Winery Visit – Mountain View Winery

For all you “multitaskers,” here is a place where you can taste wine, pick your own fruits and vegetables and shop, all at the same time! Mountain View Winery produces a large selection of wine that is made from their own grapes as well as fruit and vegetables from their farm and the surrounding area. As owner, Wendy Young says, “we make wine out of anything people bring us.” An interesting wine that was sold out within a few months was a Strawberry Rhubarb wine!! Their wines vary from whites to reds to fruit and dessert wines.

Winemaker and owner, Mike Young makes a large selection of the standard wines, but it is his blends and fruit wines that sets Mountain View apart from the others. As an example, their Uncomprahge is a blend of cherries and Merlot and their Ash Mesa is a blend of apple wine and Chardonnay. Not being a huge fan of fruit wines, I was very impressed with their Chokecherry Wine…made from 100% Colorado chokecherries.

In addition to growing a variety of grapes….Barbara, Pinot Noir and Riesling, that are all acclimated to the Olathe weather, the Youngs grow a variety of fruits and vegetables on their 40 acres of land that has been in their family for over 50 years. If you are so inclined, you can “pick your own” fruits and vegetables in addition to sampling wine. Their vineyard is organic and they use Nigerian Dwarf goats as a natural weed control in the vineyard. Wendy says they are voracious eaters and eat everything they can.

Mountain View Winery has 3 tasting rooms….one at their vineyard/production facility in Olathe, one at Red Mountain Ranches in Cedaredge and their new one at Brenda’s Boutique in Woodland Park. You can also sample and purchase their wines at Farmers Markets in Montrose, Ridgeway and Gunnison. For the shopaholics out there, the tasting room in Olathe offers a wide assortment of locally produced products.

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Winery Visit – The Apple Shed

What has a wine tasting room, western art, a clothing boutique, holiday decor, jewelry, local products and a deli…The Apple Shed in Cedaredge. For 20 years this store has been providing both locals and tourists a unique place to shop. I first have to talk about the western art. Never in my travels have I seen a store with as much western decor…from art to furniture to accessories….this store is your one-stop shop!! And the prices range from $10-$13,000 for the art, so there is something for every budget.  The Apple Shed offers art, pottery and sculptures from many local and regional artists.

The new women’s boutique offers clothing, accessories, handbags and jewelry, of which many items are from local crafters. Additionally the store contains a culinary section and a holiday tree area.  Since you could shop in the store for hours, you can take a break and refuel at the Loading Dock Deli. Owner Connie Williams says, “the deli is all about good old fashioned food – healthy, hearty and good tasting!” During the summer and fall you can enjoy your meal on their outdoor patio.

In addition to managing the store, Connie is an artist herself and has several of her paintings available for sale. She has also been part of Delta’s “City of Murals” project. Her three murals are a tribute to agriculture, the Utes and clothing labels. The next time you are in Delta, take a few minutes to stop at each of the dozen murals along Main Street, they are incredible.

As you can see The Apple Shed offers something for everyone…so lets talk wine! Currently The Apple Shed is a tasting room for many of Delta/Olathe/West Elks AVA wineries. The tasting room provides you an opportunity to sample several wineries all under one roof. Connie and her husband, Dan, along with their son Ty and his family, own and operate a 180-acre orchard just outside of town. They grow primarily peaches and apples. About 3 years ago, they contacted Black Bridge Winery to assist them in organizing their own winery, and very shortly will be pouring their own wine under the Williams Cellars label.

Whether you want to wine or shop, The Apple Shed is a must stop while in Delta County.

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Winery Visit – Black Bridge Winery

So why do some grapes grow better than others? According to Lee Bradley, owner of Black Bridge Winery, “vines need a good view, and our Pinot Noir grapes have an incredible view of the West Elk mountains.” Now, I’m not sure if that’s true, but I must admit the view of the West Elk mountains is spectacular and their vines were filled with grapes! But the land of Black Bridge Winery was not always a vineyard, it was actually an apple orchard and owned by the Cyprus /Westmoreland Coal Mine. It was used as a railroad buffer and to maintain water rights. Lee managed the property for a while and then kept buying up the land…and that’s when things began to change.

Lee and wife, Kathy, removed the apple orchards and planted cherry and peach trees along with wine grapes. The Bradleys own 50 acres of land and have been supplying grapes to area wineries for many years. Eleven years ago they opened up a market, selling local produce and products, and included a tasting room for several area wineries. In 2004 the Bradleys took the plunge and became a winery themselves.

Black Bridge Winery has three estate-bottled wines – Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They also make two delicious red wine blends. According to Lee, due to the elevation of Paonia, the wines have more acidity. And let’s not forget about the warm days and cool nights of the West Elks AVA that help make their wines superb.

A stop at Black Bridge Winery, to sample some delicious wines, and Orchard Valley Market, to purchase some local fruit and products, is a must when traveling along Highway 133 through Paonia!

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Winery Visit – Stone Cottage Cellars

I don’t think a winery could be better named than Stone Cottage Cellars. Located in Paonia on top of Garvin Mesa, Stone Cottage Cellar’s buildings are all built from the field stone on the property. Owners Karen and Brent Helleckson and their two children, Jacob and Stephanie, have laid each building’s stone from ground to peak. They began in 1994, spending 4 days in Boulder and 3 days a week in Paonia, until 1997 when they officially moved to the property. Coming from corporate backgrounds, they decided to move from the city and get back to a rural environment, and discovered Paonia. And did they chose well…the view from the top of Garvin Mesa is spectacular!! (see pictures below). In fact, the back cover of my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries – was taken at their property by Jacob.

When they purchased the property there were 2 acres of neglected Gewurztraminer that they cut back and then retrained the vines. Due to the terroir, these grapes are high in both sugar and acidity. The Helleckson’s  produce the wine in an Alsatian-style, meaning it is crisp and food friendly. In addition to Gewurztraminer, they also grow Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir grapes on 4.5 acres, and in the future plan to double their acreage.

A new concept for me is the way they produce their Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah….whole berry fermentation. For a quick overview, this basically means during the crush they only remove the stems and do not crush the grapes, but rather leave them as whole as possible. Since red wine receives most of its tannin from the skin, by leaving the grape whole, it lessens the tannin and accentuates the dark fruit flavors.

In addition to making wine, the Hellecksons are a musical family….Karen teaches piano and the rest of the family plays a variety of stringed instruments. Karen and Brent make you feel right at home in the tasting room and are able to provide  information about wine and the area. As you make your way to the winery, definitely keep your eye on the road, as its an “interesting” drive to the top of Garvin Mesa!

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Winery Visit – Stoney Mesa Winery

If you’ve never been to Cedaredge or haven’t been there in a while, its a great little town that has a lot to offer. And one of the “must stop at places” is Stoney Mesa Winery. Just a few minutes southwest of downtown, it offers beautiful views of the surrounding area.  On their patio you can sip some of their delicious wines and also enjoy a BYOLunch. Afterwards ask owner, Bret Neal for a tour of the vineyards, winery and entire operations.

Bret is a second generation owner and winemaker. For over 2 decades the Neal family has been growing grapes on their properties in Cedaredge, Grand Junction and Palisade. In 1982 they planted Riesling, which if not the oldest vines, are the second oldest Riesling planting in Colorado.  As Bret says, “Riesling is King at Stoney Mesa.” For the past 10 years this has been their most planted grape. It is a strong grape that can survive the cold winters, and produces a consistent, quality grape year after year.

Stoney Mesa also produces Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a Blush wine. Additionally, the winery produces two blends…a Blanca del Mesa (a blend of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris) and Rojo del Mesa (a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot). Bret wanted to try something new and to create a new line of wine, which would forge Stoney Mesa’s future, and so produced these two blends, and also introduced a new label.

With only a small portion of their 50-acre property in Cedaredge devoted to grapes (a good portion is leased to a cattle rancher), Stoney Mesa’s future in the wine business is a definite, and for that we should be thankful!

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