Our last winery stop in the Cortez area was at Pleasant View Vineyards. Here we were welcomed by owners, Elizabeth and Allan Bleak, who are the nicest people you would ever want to meet. Their warmth, hospitality and graciousness made us feel right at home, which is a good thing since we noticed Elizabeth toting a 357 magnum. But don’t let that scare you….that’s for the mountain lions and other predator animals that live in the area, not the guests!
The vineyard and their home is 8+ miles outside of Pleasant View and the back way into Hovenweep National Monument. Pleasant View doesn’t have an actual tasting room, but they are working in that direction with a grocery store in town and possibly offering tasting samples at the local Farmers Market.
When we arrived the Bleaks were pruning and tending to their 10+ acres of vines. Their vineyard sits in a little micro-climate, and they are able to grow a variety of grapes. We only tasted their Chardonnay, as we had a 7 hour drive back to Denver, and it was absolutely delicious! In fact, Pleasant View just received a bronze medal for their Chardonnay at the Governor’s Cup Colorado Wine Competition. I think we will be seeing a lot more from Pleasant View Vineyards in the near future.
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Another winery near Cortez is Guy Drew Vineyards, who along with Sutcliffe Vineyards is nestled in the McElmo Canyon. The winery is located about 4 miles from the intersection of Hwy 160/491 and G Road. I point this out because you need to keep an eye out for the WINERY sign on the right/north side of the road. Once there you are warmly invited into Guy and Ruth Drew’s home, which is also their tasting room. Guy and Ruth are very welcoming, friendly and ready to answer any questions you might have.
Guy and Ruth left the corporate Denver world in the late 1990s and built their straw bale house, winery and facilities. And remember, that’s a STRAW bale house, not a HAY bale house….big difference we were told!! Guy took us on a tour of his state-of-the-art winemaking facility. Here, Guy is producing delicious wines at affordable prices and winning many awards in the process.
In his two winemaking buildings he has stainless steel tanks, oak barrels and a new type of maturation container that takes up less room than nine oak barrels. His wine bottling, labeling and corking machine allows Guy to complete the process himself. Guy uses both corks and screw tops for his wines. His crush machine is very impressive, and the crushing speed can be controlled depending on what variety of grape he is crushing.
We sampled several of Drew’s wines both in the bottle and still maturing in the tanks. My two favorites are his Unoaked Chardonnay and Meritage (pronounced like heritage).
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After the Durango Wine Experience, I visited the three wineries near Cortez. Most people find it hard to believe that there are wineries there, let alone that they grow their own grapes. While the terroir does not afford ideal growing conditions, and they deal with high-altitude and cold, winter temperatures, these three wineries are making great strides in producing excellent grapes to make delicious wines.
John Sutcliffe, owner of Sutcliffe Vineyards planted his first grape vines in 1995 and has been producing delicious wines ever since. John also raises livestock and grows hay as well as other orchard fruits.
Visiting with John Sutcliffe was one of the most enjoyable two hours I have spent in a while. Besides the beautiful McElmo Canyon and nearby Ancestral Pueblos, the vast openness of the countryside, can take your breath away. From Cortez, its a 10-mile drive to Sutcliffe Vineyards tasting room, but half the fun is getting there and once you arrive you will not be disappointed.
John is a gracious host and toured us around his tasting room and adjacent home, his vineyards and farmlands and we even took a 3-mile drive to his “cave.” Now I’m not sure if everyone gets a tour of the cave, but this is a remarkable cold storage space for Sutcliffe and I think the only Colorado “cave” of its kind!
After the tour, we basked in the sun, experienced the serenity of the area and enjoyed a sampling of Sutcliffe’s incredible tasting wines. My favorite was the Cinsault….something rare to Colorado wines. John Sutcliffe has definitely stepped forward as someone producing excellent Colorado wines.
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It was my pleasure to spend the Durango Wine Experience’s two main events with Dean Fagner, owner of Four Leaves Winery. I set up my book display at Four Leaves during the DWE Walk About on Friday, May 4, 2012. For one price you receive your DWE glass and walk around downtown Durango stopping at several predesignated places to taste. The big event is the Grand Tasting held on Saturday, May 5th under the festival tent in the First National Bank parking lot. Again, for one price you sample Colorado wines from the Four Corners region as well as hundreds of wines, beers and spirits from mostly the USA, but other areas as well.
Four Leaves Winery is the newest winery in the Four Corners region and opened for business in January, 2012. Its location is perfect for both locals and tourists alike…right across the street from the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad at 528 Main Avenue, Durango.The tasting room is beautifully decorated and you feel right at home the minute you walk through the door. On Friday nights they have live music, tastings and food.
Owners, Tracy and Dean Fagner, are the friendliest people you will ever meet, and their staff is welcoming as well. Four Leaves Winery is a little different than most wineries in the fact that the Fagners are making their own wine, but you can also make yours as well. Tracy makes a delicious Chardonnay that you must sample! If you are thinking about making your own wine, just for fun or for a special occasion, this is the place to be. The Fagners also own D’Vine Wine in Manitou Springs, which is a similar concept.
Enjoying wine with Tracy and Dean is a delightful experience!
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My visit to Fox Fire Farms took me from the hustle and bustle of metro Denver to the peacefulness of the country. Fox Fire Farms winery sits on over 1000 acres of farmland near Ignacio, about 30 minutes southeast of Durango. The farm has been in the Parry family since 1913. For most of those years sheep has been the prime business….and if you look closely at their label you will see a sheep logo.
Richard Parry and his family are ranchers, viticulturalists (grow grapes), winemakers and event planners. Their new tasting room sits a top a little hill where you can look out over the Parry farm. You can enjoy the view on their patio or taste wine inside their beautifully decorated tasting room. They charge $5 per person for tasting.
Fox Fire Farms has two different “brands”….one where the grapes come from California and then are produced and bottled on-site and the other is their Riesling and Fox Fire Red where the Parrys use their own grapes to produce the wine. My favorites were their Merlot and Pinot Noir.
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Arts and Entertainment Editor, Ted Holteen, of the Durango Herald wrote a spectacular article about my new book – Exploring Colorado Wineries – Guidebook & Journal. The article appeared on the front page of the Arts & Entertainment section as I launched my book during the Durango Wine Experience.
Read the article
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My new book – Exploring Colorado Wineries – Guidebook & Journal – was launched at the sixth annual Durango Wine Experience. The 3-day event took place May 3-5 (so put this on your calendar to attend in 2013). The two most popular events are the Walk-About on Friday afternoon, which consists of taking your special Durango Wine Experience glass, walking around and tasting delicious wines, beers and spirits at numerous locations in downtown Durango. The Grand Tasting is the culmination of the 3-day event. Positioned under a huge festival tent in the First National Bank parking lot were 50 vendors and 12 restaurant tables. Samplings of wine, beer and spirits as well as food was offered for one price.
Four out of the five Four Corners Region wineries were pouring their wine – Four Leaves Winery, Fox Fire Farms, Guy Drew Vineyards and Sutcliffe Vineyards. The other vendor tables consisted of distributors who represented “beverages” from all over the world. Many of the local Durango restaurants were on hand to offer some of their delicious fare.
The Durango Wine Experience was a huge success again this year, and provided net proceeds to United Way of Southwest Colorado.
Mark your calendars for the first weekend of May, 2013 as the seventh annual Durango Wine Experience will take place. If you haven’t been to Durango in a while, its a great area to visit and experience its world-class biking trails and blue ribbon water, take a ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train or step back in time at Mesa Verde National Park.
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