Colorado, like many states other than California, Washington and Oregon, has been developing a small wine industry over the past decade or two and is now seeing the fruits of those labors mature.
The state has more than 60 wineries creating award-winning products ranging from rich Merlots to crisp Chardonnays. There are still wineries making the fruit or honey wines of Colorado’s viticulture infancy, but they’re no longer the laughably syrupy sweet products of the past.
Colorado’s Wine Industry Development Board has made it more fun and more fascinating to visit the state’s wineries with the creation of Wine Country Trails around the state. The trails are identified by big blue road signs along the routes. Detailed maps of the trails are available online at www.coloradowine.com, at any Colorado visitor’s center, winery tasting rooms around the state and some restaurants.
The Heart of Colorado Wine Country Trail takes drivers (or bicyclists) through the two American Viticultural Areas that have been designated in the state. Both the Grand Valley AVA and the West Elks AVA benefit from Western Colorado’s abundant sunshine, warm days, cool nights and low humidity favored by wine grapes.
Combining the Grand Valley AVA and West Elks AVA into one big figure-eight driving tour is a great way to spend a day or two visiting the state’s oldest and largest wineries in Palisades; touring the Olathe farming country that has embraced new vineyards; enjoying the art galleries of the Surface Creek wineries or sampling the exceptional reds at Plum Creek Cellars, Colorado’s most award-winning winery.
There are similar tours through the state’s smaller wine regions. The Front Range Wine Trail travels from the Trail Ridge Winery near Rocky Mountain National Park south through Denver/Boulder tasting rooms to a winery in the Holy Cross Abbey near Royal Gorge. The Rocky Mountain Wine Trail travels through tasting rooms, cellars and galleries in ski resort towns. Even the Four Corners area is producing wines amid its Native American ruins and natural wonders.
I’ve lived in Colorado for more than 20 years and still found plenty of surprises and new temptations in the latest map and brochure:
— Fermented pear juice and hard cider at the Blossomwood Cidery in Cedaridge seem to warrant a trip out that way in the fall.
— New Pinot Noir and Riesling plantings around the western part of the state hold promise for future bottlings.
— Organic CapRock vodka and gin offer an alternative at Jack Rabbit Hill, which also produces organic reds and whites as well as the distilled products.
— Augustina’s Winery in Boulder warrants a visit simply based on its description as “a one-woman winery dedicated to making wines that go with backpacking, blues music, books and gingersnaps.”
— Another stop in Boulder must be BookCliff Vineyards where flights of Colorado wines are paired with chocolate and pizza as well as the more traditional cheese.
— I might have to take the clubs and visit Pikes Peak Vineyards & Winery with its adjacent golf club and practice range in Colorado Springs.
— I’m not a fan of Mead, or maybe I just haven’t tasted good honey wine, but opportunities abound at Meadery of the Rockies in Palisade as well as Medovina and Redstone Meadery in the Boulder area.