While our craft beer and marijuana industries get most of the media attention, Colorado’s wine industry continues to grow — with more than 150 wineries — and steadily gain recognition, with recent features in national publications. Visit a few of these wineries, and you will taste why.
Although most of the state’s vineyards are on the Western Slope, most wineries are on the Front Range. A few are in the Colorado Springs area, including one of my favorites, The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City.
But this column is about wine travel, specifically to the Denver area. Here’s one itinerary I took as a guest of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
We began in picturesque Evergreen. A visit to Creekside Cellars, off Main Street next to Bear Creek, is a real treat. Bill and Anita Donahue established the winery, which now shares space with a fine Italian restaurant, in 1996. Winemaker Michelle Cleveland produces up to 16 wines, mostly using grapes from the Donahues’ vineyard near Palisade in the Grand Valley.
The wine bar offers tastings, and the restaurant serves at lunch and happy hour. We enjoyed an amazing antipasto plate as we tasted several wines. I especially liked the Viognier, Roussanne, Riesling, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and Robusto, a Bordeaux-style blend.
As Cleveland said, “It’s about connecting the wine to the food and the community and making a memorable experience.”
Next, we made the one-hour drive to Boulder and Bookcliff Vineyards. The scene here is much different, with no mountains, creek or restaurant. But plenty of good wines make the trip worthwhile. And, of course, Boulder has many fine restaurants.
Husband and wife John Garlich and Ulla Merz have been growing grapes around Palisade since 1995. John, originally the winemaker, recently hired winemaker Richard McDonald, who previously worked in Australia, Burgundy, New Zealand, Sonoma and Napa (making “The Prisoner”). Their more than 15 wines are made with grapes exclusively from Bookcliff’s vineyards. My favorites were Muscat Blanc, Riesling, petite verdot, cabernet franc, malbec Rreserve, Crescendo, a syrah-based blend, and Ensemble, a Bordeaux-style blend.
John said Colorado’s “grape-growing conditions, while very similar to the Mendoza region of Argentina, are different enough to create wines of great elegance with very expressive fruit characters.”
On the way to Denver, we made one more stop. In an industrial park in Broomfield, the Turquoise Mesa winery and tasting room was well worth the visit. The wine was reason enough, but nice touches such as an Artist Nook featuring art — updated regularly and for sale — added to the appeal.
Owner/winemaker Tom Bueb and his wife, Mary Joan, opened the winery in 2005. Tom makes up to 14 wines with exclusively Western Slope grapes. I favored the sauvignon blanc, aromella (muscat), rose reserve (syrah, viognier), petite pearl, malbec, Fireside (Bourbon Barrel-Aged) and Vino Turchese (petite verdot, mourvedre).
These small, family-run operations reflected the friendliness and customer service of the hosts. Each offers multiple tasting options at reasonable prices. Private tours add to the appeal. For more information, go to Coloradowine.com.