Archive for the ‘Wineries and Travel – Grand Valley Region’ Category

A winery with a craft brewery feel??!!

A new winery in Palisade is growing exponentially, and the reason may be connected to their attitude of utilizing a craft brewery model instead of a winery strategy. Red Fox Cellars’ motto of “respectful, but unbound by tradition” emphasizes this unique approach. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the Hamilton family and learning about their interesting journey into the wine business.  It began when parents Sherrie and Scott were looking to move from Denver to the Grand Valley area. Their objective was to find a fruit or vineyard agri-property, and they accomplished that goal by purchasing 7 acres of vineyards. Then came the idea of a winery!

It is son Chad who is utilizing his home brewing background to create the unique wines and ciders that Red Fox produces. Have you ever sampled a bourbon barrel-aged Merlot? It is the winery’s best-selling wine, and I can attest that it is absolutely delicious!! Their “Bourbeaux Blend” is a spin on the classic Bordeaux-style blends, but uses a rye whiskey barrel-aged Cab Franc in the mix, along with some of that delicious Bourbon Barrel Merlot. Red Fox produces 2 Rosés. One is a traditional, dry-style Rosé, using a cold soak method and their estate grown Tempranillo grapes and the other is a Saignee style Rosé. Click here to learn more about Saignee and why the French usually discard this. Red Fox uses the sometimes discarded bled off juice as a vehicle for experimentation, aging this Rosé lightly in a rye whiskey barrel that was also used to age tart cherry wine. I’m personally looking forward to tasting a 2013 Estate “field blend” of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto that were all fermented together (as opposed to blending the wine after fermentation). The winery is waiting to release it until it reaches perfection!

Again using Chad’s beer background, the winery also produces 8 ciders, 7 of which are dry. I had the privilege of sampling their Roasted Chile Cider, which has a nice apple taste with a subtle chili taste (not like some where you are overpowered by chili pepper spice!). In addition to making several varieties of apple cider, Red Fox also makes a “champagne-like” cider called Cidre Grand Cru that is spiced with orange peel and coriander, like in a Belgian Wit beer.

What can we look forward to from Red Fox Cellars?? Ask daughter-in-law Kelly, who heads the marketing for the winery. She says to check out their website for details on their new patio events, which will include movie nights and Friday Food Truck Night. Son Kyle, who is a jack-of-all-trades around the winery says to look forward to “Beer de Champagne,” which is a collaboration with Black Project Spontaneous Ales using just over 50% Riesling and the balance a Lambic wort (similar to a sour type beer). Also coming soon to the menu are a “bourbon barrel-aged, sparkling, tart cherry wine” and a “rye whiskey barrel-aged, sparkling, peach wine” (wow, that was a mouthful!), which will be made from the Palisade peaches growing just outside the tasting room. Obviously a stop at Red Fox Cellars offers some delicious and unique tasting experiences, so stop on by soon!!

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My Incredible Wine Weekend!!

What an incredible “wine weekend” I just experienced!! It all centered around the Grand Valley Winery Association’s Barreling into Spring event. This annual happening is held in April and repeats again in May. Unfortunately tickets for 2016 are sold out, so mark your calendars for 2017. A piece of advice….purchase your tickets early!! The weekend includes unlimited tastings at 7 wineries and tons of food paired with the wineries’ wines. What is really special about the event is the opportunity to talk with the winery owners/winemakers as well as sample wine right out of the barrel, hence the name of the event.

The 7 wineries that encompass the Grand Valley Winery Association are Carlson, DeBeque Canyon, Garfield Estates, Grande River, Graystone, Plum Creek, and Two Rivers. Click on their name for a link to each winery’s website.

I had the privilege of being at DeBeque Canyon Winery for the weekend selling my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries. For many years DeBeque was located on Kluge Street in downtown Palisade, but 2 weeks ago moved their tasting room and production facility to 351 West 8th Street (aka Hwy 6 or G Road) in Palisade. This new facility, housed in a former restaurant, offers them a much larger tasting room (see pictures below). The production facility is currently under construction and will be located right next door.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about DeBeque’s owners….Davy and Bennett Price and their daughter, Theresa, as well as the tasting room staff. In my opinion and not to offend anyone, Bennett knows more about growing grapes and making wine than anyone else in our state…plus he’s a really nice man! He was part of the original group that created Rocky Mountain Vineyards back in 1978, which helped launch Colorado’s present day wine industry. He has helped numerous other grape growers plant vines and has provided helpful insights and information to new wineries.

As we all know, visiting Palisade / the Grand Valley is a fun experience, and it is convenient that the 27 wineries are in close proximity to each other. I love driving into the valley and seeing all the vineyards and fruit trees as well as the beautiful Book Cliff Mountains. Plan a weekend get-a-way to the area soon….you will be glad you did!!

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Changes at Carlson Vineyards

There are changes taking place at Carlson Vineyards, but things are also staying the same. So what does that mean?? After many years in the winery business, Parker and Mary Carlson have sold their business…the change! What isn’t changing…according to new owners Garrett and Cailin Portra is “the spirit and soul of Carlson Vineyards.” For those of us familiar with Carlson we know their top seller is Sweet Baby Red, which is a blend of 8 grapes (primarily Merlot, Lemberger, Syrah, and Orange Muscat, and the rest a secret!). The winery is known for its fruit wines, semi-sweet and sweet wines as well as their dry whites and reds.

Garrett isn’t a “newbie” at Carlson, having worked at the winery for over 5 years. During that time Garrett experienced every aspect of the business….from cellar assistant to tasting room to management, and additionally took courses at UC-Davis and online certificate courses through Washington State. Garrett grew up in Missouri’s livestock and hay business and earned his degree in environmental science. When he met Cailin in college, whose father owned a small winery in Missouri, their destiny was sealed!

Carlson’s fruit wines are made with 100% Colorado fruit and its Peach Wine is produced from Palisade’s own delicious variety. Carlson Vineyards grows its own grapes on 3 acres and sources its other grapes primarily from the local area. Garrett says he will continue to produce their “world class fruit wines” and balanced sweet wines as well as their top selling Gewürztraminer and Riesling whites, and of course, Sweet Baby Red!

So what will be new at Carlson? Garrett is working on a Lemberger / Cab Franc blend and will be “re-vamping” some of the other reds, using a barrel fermenting and blending approach. Also coming soon is a dry Rosé made from 100% Lemberger. Since Sweet Baby Red is so popular, Garrett is working on a Sweet Baby White made from Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Orange Muscat.

Stop by Carlson Vineyards located in an old peach packing shed, although plans are in the works for a remodeled tasting room. Carlson is also part of the Grand Valley Winery Association, who will be having their “Barreling into Spring” event this April and May. Click here for details.

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Who says Colorado doesn’t make incredible wine!!

I just sampled one of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted! My daughter and I spent a few days touring around the Grand Valley’s wineries…a special mother/daughter weekend as she is now 21 and wants to learn more about wine….guess I did something correct in my parenting!

One of our winery stops was at DeBeque Canyon Winery located in downtown Palisade. Bennett Price is the owner (along with his wife Davy) and winemaker. Bennett’s talents not only encompass his winemaking skills but he has planted more vineyards and grapevines in the state of Colorado than any other person I know. Click here for a link to his accolades and his story – it is very interesting as he is one of Colorado’s pioneers of the present-day wine industry.

But back to the wine!! There we are tasting his wines when he tells us the story of “BLT” and pours us a sample. It seems back in 2005 Bennett made a Pinot Noir varietal and decided to hold back 4 barrels. He wanted to see what would be the effects of further aging the wine in French oak. Somehow the barrels got lost in the shuffle and it wasn’t until recently that he found them and was convinced to open up a barrel and give the wine a try. To Bennett’s delight he discovered a delicious dinner wine! His grandson, Levi, called it “Bennett’s Lost Treasure” and that is why the name “BLT.”

You won’t be able to find this wine at the liquor store, so make a stop at DeBeque Canyon Winery and try a sample….you will then say: Colorado DOES make incredible wine!

Bennett Price

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Plum Creek Winery

Ever wonder about all the various aromas and bouquets associated with wine?? Plum Creek Cellars had an incredible display of “smells” at their “Barreling into Spring” event last weekend — May 18 and 19. (see pictures below) Its amazing to think how many smells and tastes can be experienced in a wine. Plum Creek’s display included fruits such as black current, raspberry and cherry as well as those associated with oak aging such as smoke, tar, chocolate and leather and samples of herbal and floral aromas. Anytime you have the opportunity to experience a “wine aroma wheel” take advantage of this as it will help you increase your nose’s ability to perceive a variety of smells.

But let’s talk about what Plum Creek Cellars really has to offer…delicious wines! In case you are not familiar with Cabernet Franc its a grape that grows very well in Colorado, in fact it could be Colorado’s signature grape. Many wineries here as well as around the world use Cab Franc more in their red wine blends. It was in 1992 that a former winemaker at Plum Creek was the first to bottle the grape on its own in Colorado, and since then Plum Creek has continued this practice. The winery offers a variety of  other wines….Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc for their whites and a wide variety of reds including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah. They are also known for their “Palisade” series….Red, Festival and Rosé and their Grand Mesa Meritage.  Since 1998 all these wines are produced under the watchful eye and expertise of winemaker Jenne Baldwin-Eaton.

Plum Creek is in the heart of Palisade, being one of the first to open up a tasting room and plant their vineyards in the area. Owner Sue Phillips and her late husband, Doug, were pioneers in producing wine from only Colorado-grown grapes. The winery has vineyards in the Grand Valley AVA and West Elks AVA (near Paonia). FYI – AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, a USA  designated area for growing grapes, of which Colorado has two.

The tasting room staff is knowledgeable and welcoming, and Sue Phillips makes you feel like you just arrived at her home to share a good time and a delicious glass of wine. Plum Creek Cellars is a “definite stop” when in Palisade!! Their wine is also available at many liquor stores throughout Colorado, so if you can’t get to Palisade in the near future, pick up a bottle of their wine and hold your own tasting party!


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DeBeque Canyon Winery

Combine tasting wine right out of the barrel, delicious food, talking with the winemaker and what do you have?? “Barreling into Spring!” The Grand Valley Winery Association‘s event is over for 2013 (happens once in April and once in May) but you can put it on your 2014 calendar to make sure you don’t miss it next year. The event is limited to 400 people for each month and sells out quickly, so check the association’s website often for ticket sales.

I had the privilege of selling and signing my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries at both DeBeque Canyon Winery and Plum Creek Cellars during the May event. Today’s blog is about DeBeque and my next blog will highlight Plum Creek.

DeBeque Canyon Winery is one of the “old guys” in the Grand Valley region, having begun their operation in 1997. Owner and winemaker Bennett Price along with his wife, Davelyn (Davy), are two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. Bennett was one of the original 12 investors in Rocky Mountain Vineyards, the first winery here in the state to make wine from Colorado grapes. He has also planted many of the Grand Valley’s wineries’ and vineyards’ grape vines over the years, so needless to say…he knows his stuff!!

The Price’s make a variety of wines. To name a few… Chardonnay, Riesling and Viognier as examples of their whites and Cab Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo for their reds. They also had two port-style wines they were offering during the barrel tasting…one was a port made with just Merlot that had spent 6+ years in French oak, and they offered dark chocolate to accompany it. I wish my vocabulary had better words to describe it than just “delicious.” I guess you’ll just have to taste it for yourself!!

The first stop/table at DeBeque’s was sampling their white wines, the second stop was sampling a few of their reds. You then stopped at the food table where chicken tacos and lamb puffs were featured to pair with the wine. The food was catered by Craving. Owner and chef Jonathan Rashleigh operates a mobile catering service. Contact him at 970-640-5114 to have him cater your next event!

The next and best stop, and the real reason for the “Barreling into Spring” event is to taste wine right out of the barrel! Bennett explained his wine making process and answered questions. He is thoroughly knowledgeable about what it takes to make exceptional wine in Colorado.

It was a fun day and the people attending the event had a wonderful time. Whether its barrel tasting or just sampling their wines (no fee!!) a stop at DeBeque Canyon Winery is a “must do” when you are in Palisade!!

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Barreling into Spring!

Its going to be busy in the Grand Valley this weekend….the “Barreling into Spring” event is taking place! The event is organized by the Grand Valley Winery Association, which includes 8 wineries:

  1. Canyon Wind Cellars
  2. Carlson Vineyards
  3. DeBeque Canyon Winery
  4. Garfield Estates
  5. Grande River Vineyards
  6. Graystone Winery
  7. Plum Creek Cellars
  8. Two Rivers Winery

Each winery offers a little different variety…from fruit wines to traditional wines to port. I would tell you to get your ticket and stop on in at theses wineries, but the event is sold out! If you are in the mood for a visit to the Grand Valley this weekend, there are 15 other wineries that will have their tasting rooms open and invite you to stop on by.

I will be selling and signing my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries-Guidebook & Journal at DeBeque Canyon Winery on Saturday, May 18 from 11 to 3 and Sunday, May 19 also from 11 to 3 at Plum Creek Cellars.

With our warm weather and the beginning of summer approaching, its time to “Explore and Enjoy” Colorado wines!!


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Book Signing – St. Kathryn Cellars and Talon Winery

In addition to all the festivities during the Colorado Mountain Winefest, I will be doing a special book signing at St. Kathryn Cellars and Talon Winery on Sunday, September 16. I’ll be at their tasting room from 10 – 11:45 a.m.

If you are into fruit-based wines, St. Kathryn Cellars produces a wide variety…. from cherry to lavender. If you enjoy the more traditional wines, Talon Winery produces some awesome classic wines.

Stop on by to sample some of their delicious wines and grab a copy of my book – Exploring Colorado Wineries.

See you there!


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Winery Visit – Garfield Estates Vineyard & Winery

Whether you are in Palisade or Denver, you can stop at Garfield Estates Vineyard & Winery for a taste of their delicious wines. Garfield Estates’ main tasting room along with their production facility and vineyard is located in Palisade. Here they produce their award-winning ALL estate-bottled wines. As owner Carol Carr says “we are growing great wines.” She explained to me that most growers want to produce 6-8 tons/acre of grapes. This allows them to achieve the maximum yield. However, a winemaker wants the grapes grown at  3-4 tons/acre, which allows the grapes to be more concentrated on the vines. Carol and Jeff Carr, being both grape growers and winemakers, can achieve the ultimate with their grapes, and actually grow grapes and then pick them for a specific wine they have in mind.

Carol says Garfield Estates is actually 3 businesses….farming, the winery and the tasting rooms. For 12 years Jeff has turned his passion about wine into being the winemaker and Carol turns Jeff’s passion into a working business. The Carr’s passion is all about making world-class wines from 100% estate-grown grapes. They are also part of the Grand Valley Winery Association, which includes 8 wineries that grow their own grapes and make their own wine.

About 2 years ago, the Carrs decided to add an additional tasting room and chose the Denver area. They joined Bonaquisti Wine Company and Verso Cellars to form Colorado Winery Row (just off I-70 & Pecos), and was later joined by Cottonwood Cellars. CWR makes for a fun, urban setting, where Thursday through Saturday you can sample wines from 4 different wineries. They also have several events during the year.

Stop by Garfield Estates for a taste of delicious estate-grown wines….my favorite is the Syrah!


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Winery Visit – Plum Creek Cellars

The last stop on my Grand Valley tour was at Plum Creek Cellars. I had an amazing time with owner, Sue Phillips, and learned about the history of Plum Creek as well as how the Colorado wine industry began. Plus I had the opportunity to taste some of their delicious wines.

Plum Creek holds Colorado winery license #10 and began in 1984. They didn’t start out in the Grand Valley like you would imagine, but in Larkspur where they built their winery and tasting room. Hence the name…Plum Creek, which by the way, flooded in 1965 and that is why Chatfield Resevior was built. In a picture below you can see an etched glass that was the front window of the tasting room and is the only remaining item. Doug and Sue Phillips were pioneers in the early days of Colorado winemaking. In 1980 they leased land in Garvin Mesa near Paonia (which later would become a wine mecca of its own!) and realized they could grow grapes there. Their basic premise was to make estate bottled Colorado wine…something that was new and different for Colorado. And have they succeded!!!

In 1989 they moved their winery and facility to Palisade. Sue says when they chose the land and began planting their vines, there was nothing around them. Its hard for us to imagine all that has happened in the Grand Valley in the past 23 years! In 1994, the Phillips hired current winemaker Jenne Baldwin, who certainly knows her trade. Jenne makes an incredible Chardonnay, something you don’t always find in Colorado. The Palisade Red is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. My favorite was the Grand Mesa.

Plum Creek’s tasting room is a fun experience. You can check out their “mascot” at the entrance – known as the Chardonnay Chicken (see picture below). But if you can’t get to their tasting room in Palisade, their wines are available  in numerous liquor stores across the state.

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