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A Wine Lover’s Guide to Western Colorado

While Colorado is justifiably famous as an outdoors enthusiasts’ dream (hello, 14,000 high peaks to climb!) and a beer drinker’s paradise (cheers to the 348 and counting breweries in the state). However, wine lovers appreciate the Western part of the Centennial State which is home to a flourishing wine scene. Those seeking an alternative to Napa, Sonoma, or Willamette Valley should consider visiting the North Fork Valley and Western Slope, including the towns of Palisade, Paonia, and Grand Junction. Pair your wine tasting and peach picking with the unique sights of Western Colorado, where the Colorado River flows alongside stunning red rock mesas and the peaks of the West Elk Mountains reach towards the big skies of the American West.

Hop Along Beer: Make Room for Wine

Before you head out on your wine tour, it might help to learn a bit about the wine scene in Colorado. While beer is quite popular, there is also a robust wine production community in Colorado, with 140+ producers located throughout the state. Many are located in the Western part of the state, where the climate is ideal for growing and the scenery is one-of-a-kind. The Western Slope, in particular, is a strong agricultural hub for the state, which can be seen in the unique wines coming out of that region; peach, watermelon, and plum are just a few of the rare varietals you can enjoy in tasting rooms.

Start Here: Grand Junction

Located four hours from both Denver and Salt Lake City, Grand Junction is the gateway to this wine tour. The town is the perfect place to rent a bike if you’re opting to bike along the Fruit and Wine Byway, warm up to hiking at altitude at the nearby Colorado National Monument, and start your wine tasting at any of the wineries in town. Some of the favorites include:

Desert Sun Vineyards

This winery offers amazing mesa views and delicious Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon vintages. Their tasting room is open in summer and fall from 11am-5pm daily.

Whitewater Hill Vineyards

Follow a tasting at this winery with a picnic on their terrace. Wine aficionados can appreciate their tasting room all year-round; there, you can taste many varieties, including the rare Riesling Icewine.

Two Rivers Winery

This family-owned winery is open year-round and offers privately scheduled tours for groups larger than 8. Located just west of town, the winery neighbors the Colorado National Monument, making it the ideal stop after a day hike (or the perfect place to admire the Monument from afar, wine glass in hand!)

Next Stop: Palisade

Drive twenty minutes down the road to Palisade, a quaint town known for its world-class peaches and creative wines. The Fruit and Wine Byway connects Grand Junction and Palisade and then meanders through Palisade’s side roads. Visitors can choose to drive or bike the byway; biking is a fun way to make your way between stops, while driving allows you to see more in a day. Either way, consider incorporating these favorites into your itinerary:

Maison La Belle Vie Winery

Established in 2009, this winery offers Merlot, Syrah, and other traditional wines. They also offer unique wines such as Muscat, a French dessert wine, and the Vin de Peche, which uses the famous Palisade peaches to make a Muscat fortified with peaches. Wine lovers can start with a complimentary tasting, then sit on the patio for a lazy afternoon filled with wine, cheese, and charcuterie.

Talon Winery

With 30 wines and two tasting rooms on site, everyone can find the wine that suits their preferences at Talon. They are open 10am-5pm daily. Stop by to try their apricot honey wine, classic chardonnay, or chocolate cherry dessert wine.

Talbott’s Hard Cider Tap Room

Take a break from wine to try a crisp and refreshing hard cider. Talbott’s started serving apple cider in 1907; since their founding, they’ve expanded their offerings to include the “IPC,” a cider inspired by IPAs found at breweries, and the “Grow a Pear,” which is a, well, pear hard cider.

The Finale: Paonia

Your final stop on this wine tour of Colorado is Paonia, a hidden gem nestled in the North Fork Valley. Located an hour and a half drive from Palisade, Paonia is home to award-winning wineries, beautiful views, and a strong agricultural and foodie scene. Stock your picnic basket with local cheeses from Western Culture Farmstead, bread from Paonia Bread Works, and produce from Lizzy’s Market. Visitors can stay at a quaint bed and breakfast just out of town before striking out to taste the local offerings. Some of the favorites in the area include:

Azura Cellars and Art Gallery

Drive up a gravel road until you reach the best views–you’ve made it to Azura Cellars. Enjoy perusing the beautifully curated art as you enjoy your complimentary tasting, and then buy a glass or bottle to split on the patio. They offer five red varietals and two white; one local favorite is the Yacht Club Red, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Wine lovers should plan their trip in advance as their tasting room is only open seasonally, from May to October, from 11am-6pm.

Stone Cottage Cellars

Drive just down the road from Azura until you stumble across the winery’s namesake stone cottage. While you can sip on many standard offerings at Stone Cottage, such as Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay, make sure you don’t leave before trying their unique wine, the Gewürztraminer.

Black Bridge Winery

Family-owned and operated since 1976, this winery is located on the Orchard Valley Farm, which offers seasonal produce, olive oils, aged balsamic vinegar, and, of course, wine. Try their “Tape Label” pinor noir, “Pearamour” pear wine, or the “Farmer’s Ditch” red blend. All tastings are complimentary.
If you only have time to pick one town for your first wine vacation in Colorado, well, plan your next trip now, because all three towns have something to offer! That said, Grand Junction is fantastic for wine lovers to include more intense outdoor adventures with a select few wineries; Palisade’s cute downtown is perfect for families who want to combine a wine tour or two with peach picking and park picnics for the whole family. Couples seeking a romantic getaway may prefer Paonia, with its stunning views and cozy bed and breakfast vibe. Wherever you decide to visit, please drink responsibly and plan ahead for safe transportation between locations and enjoy. Cheers!
 
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4 Unforgettable Destinations for Wine Enthusiasts

Unforgettable Wine Destinations

Take an unbelievable journey to these 4 must-see destination’s to experience ancient traditions and cutting-edge techniques that fuse each region’s uniquely charming history into the finest vintage lines to create an unforgettable travel adventure for the oenophile in everyone.

Stellenbosch, South Africa

With over 160 regional wineries to choose from and a historic status as South Africa’s second oldest city, the nearly 350-year-old Stellenbosch lays claim to the country’s first wine route that takes you along the breathtaking Precambrian granite mountains and lush scenic valleys of the Western Cape. The local winemakers’ long-running experience is reflected in their award-winning Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage creations, as well as their warm and inviting vibe. Here, mineral-rich, delectable wines are augmented by the deeply rich cultural heritage which includes numerous art galleries and museums, as well as celebrated restaurants that have garnered the district its fitting moniker as “The Gourmet Capital.”

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Stellenbosch

Where to Visit: The historic 1690 Stellenbosch Vineyards feature multi-tiered food and wine fusions that offer a one-of-a-kind dining experience, including a delectable new Chocolate & Wine Pairing. The estate is just 5 minutes from the innovative tasting room of Thandi Wines, the first fair-trade brand in the world. If you’d like some wildlife with your wine, head over to the elegant minimalism of Remhoogte Estate, where the succulent summer tastings overlook a park stocked with zebra, springbok, and wildebeest. Many of the area’s vineyards have their own on-site, full-service restaurants, including Simonsig, Delheim, and Warwick, and the wide array of accommodations feature the most modern hotels mixed in with rustic lodges, quaint cottages, and centuries-old homesteads. The Vine Hopper Tour takes you on an enlightening outing to 15-20 vineyards spread across the northern, southern, and eastern sections of this vibrant region.
Best Time to Go: From September until mid-February you can experience the beautiful spring and summer weather of the southern hemisphere, and the cool, lush autumn season ends around mid-April. Many fun Harvest Season bashes take place from late January until mid-March.

Napa Valley, California

For three days each April, the world-renowned ‘Vineyard to Vintner’ festival in Napa Valley takes travelers inside the homes and inner sanctuaries of the area’s leading winemakers for private tours of the cellars, fun social tastings, celebrated dining experiences, and exclusive access to purchase select varieties from internationally acclaimed vineyards. During these festivities and throughout the year you can learn about the exquisite soils, climate, and geology that make this unique district California’s first American Viticultural Area.

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Napa Valley

Where to Go: Napa Valley is home to some of the most exclusive Cabernet Sauvignons in the world, as well as singular berry blends of Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. Explore the lands on the famed Napa Valley Bike Tours, or board the elegant Napa Valley Wine Train to visit environmentally Gold Certified Cade Estate, enchanting Inglebrook’s 150-year old French heritage, or the 15,000 square foot cave tastings and tours of Failla Winery. The region also has a vibrant arts scene showcased in the annually curated masterpieces of downtown’s Napa Art Walk and a week-long film festival featuring artists from across the globe.
Best Time to Go: Late April for the Vineyard to Vintner Festival, late August through early November for the full grape harvesting experience, November 7-11, 2018 for the Napa Valley Film Festival, and March through May for a less-crowded visit while spring is in full bloom.

Douro Valley, Portugal

“A geological poet. A supreme splendour.” – Portuguese poet Miguel Torga describing Douro Valley
Three distinct regions make up the ancient and awe-inspiring Douro Valley: the western Baixo Corgo is known for its ruby and lighter tawny Ports, the Cima Corgo for high-quality Vintage and LMV Ports, and the archaeologically-inspiring Douro Superior shares a border with Spain and features exceptional dry wines that match its arid climate. The dazzling scenery features magnificently steep terraces that overlook the beautifully tranquil Douro River, and the entire valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the transformative human cultivation of the land over the past 2,000 years.

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Douro Valley

Where to Go: Sister cities Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia sit on the opposite banks of the charming river and offer an enticing array of cultural and culinary experiences, such as the celebrated Wine Quay Bar which is situated amidst Porto’s historic monuments and museums and features selections from across the valley. Heading westward, Gaia’s 1751 Ferrarai Porto port house, which was founded by famed Douro matriarch Dona Antónia Adelaide, provides you with fascinating lessons in winemaking as a well as an intriguing journey into the region’s development. The valley itself is home to numerous vineyards and wine houses, including the oldest still-active Port-producing estate, 430-year-old Quinta de Roeda. One of the most unique experiences is found at the Museum of Art and Archeology in Côa, which offers tours of the region’s famous 20,000-year-old rock art followed by select tastings at the on-site restaurant.
Best Time to Go: Most everyone agrees that September through early November is the time to see the phenomenal color scapes that light up the land and to experience the one-of-a-kind harvest celebrations. The region offers a wide array of riverboat, train, hiking, biking, and motorcar tours to take you across this breathtaking and sophisticated valley in style.

Willamette Valley, Pacific Northwest

Spread across a sweeping 5,000 square feet of prime Oregon territory, this region’s tagline of ‘We are Pinot Noir’ makes a bold promise that it delivers on with its 500 internationally esteemed wineries set against stunning Cascade and Coastal Mountain scenery. The local cultivators collectively made Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2016 Wine Region of the Year due to a generation of risk takers who recognized that the mountains, river, sea, and soil of the area all combined to form an ideal atmosphere for growing the perfect grape that bridges the gap between Burgundy and California styles.

Where to Visit: The Carlton Winemakers Studio is Oregon’s first cooperative wine house and features pourings from 15 top-rated ‘indie’ estates in a revolutionary business model that allows small vineyards to thrive. Just down the road, the ever-evolving Red Ridge Farms features 5-generations of toilers who were among the original Oregonians to grow grapes for wine cultivation. They now showcase relaxing Wine Country Retreats and a holistic food and natural product boutique right on sight for a fun shopping excursion. One of the best ways to experience the region is through a cultural wine tour aboard Precision Helicopters: you can fly over the breathtaking panoramas and hear the history, geology, and stories of the people who overcame the naysayers to craft an exclusive array of internationally acclaimed vintages. Social responsibility is also part of the community vibe, and the heartfelt Taste of Community tours offer you the opportunity to experience the valley’s famously eclectic black cherry-herb infused flavors while giving to a local cause.
Best Time to Go: From late September to early November is harvest season highlighted by multiple ‘crush’ lunches, winery concerts, interactive tours, and fun festivals, such as September’s Feast Portland. Summer is more laid back, with the lush Portland landscapes in full bloom and plenty of hiking, biking, art galleries, and resort and spa experiences to keep you entertained.
Ready to kick back with a glass of amazing vintage and a dazzling view into a whole new culture? Then pack your luggage—and your wineskins —today!
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