Raise your next glass to Colorado wine

While Colorado has been busily building its reputation for being one of the nation’s hotspots for craft beer, the state’s wine makers and grape growers have also been hard at work growing their talent as well.  Now, the Centennial state can put wine at the top of it’s list for great, hand crafted, adult beverages too.

Surprised?  Don’t be.  Colorado’s wine making legacy stretches for decades, cultivated by a dedicated community of oenophiles who’s love of the grape has motivated them to invest, improve and share the fruits of their labor.

Wine Country in Colorado

Wine Country in Colorado includes a National Monument. ph: Charles Watkins

Winemaking in Colorado began in a region called the Western Slope which contain the state’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).  Colorado’s two major AVAs, the Grand Valley and the West Elks, are characterized by green, treelined valleys ringed by the snow covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  Colorado’s vineyards also have the novel distinction of being the highest in North America (4500 to over 7000 feet above sea level), which combined with the state’s powerful summer sun, cool nights, low humidity, and alkaline soils, come together to produce microclimates that make wines that are unique, complex in character and delicious to taste.

Speaking of taste – Colorado’s grape growers and wine makers have cultivated a particular talent with making redolent Rieslings (white) and rich Cabernet Francs (red).  But they are also building a niche for making great quality wines made from apples, cherries, peaches, plums and honey.  In all cases, Colorado wines consistently win top national and international awards for their taste and quality.

Getting to know Colorado wine makers

I recently had the opportunity to visit with many of Colorado’s most notable grape growers and wine makers. The visit came off the heels of the recently held Governor’s Cup Competition.  Each of the winemakers and grape growers I met were amazing, engaging personalities who had a clear passion for their craft.  A  common theme shared between all of them, was that they were all family operations.  If you are one who tends to get a lot out of “supporting the craft” of your craft beer experience, than its time to look more closely at your local wine drinking experience too.

(Full Disclosure: the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board put me and a few other journalists up in a nice hotel in Boulder and in Grand Junction so they could take us to experience some of Colorado’s best wines with their makers and ultimately write about them. They also provided food and were our gracious designated drivers.)

There are over 140 wineries in Colorado.  It would be nearly impossible for one person to visit them all, so the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board picked over a dozen vineyards and wineries to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the state’s talent for turning fruit into delicious wines.

The scope of the tour included some of the state’s more well known, longer tenured wineries like Bookcliff Vineyards, to newer ones like Denver’s popular Infinite Monkey Theorem, known for their innovative canned wines.  Not to be left out were several of Colorado’s apple wine makers… known more commonly as Hard Apple Ciders.  Ciders continue to grow in popularity, bridging the divide between wine and beer with a tasty, carbonated alternative to both.  My favorite?  Colorado Cider Company’s Spruced Glider Cider – a clean tasting cider spiked with authentic Blue Spruce branch tips that give it a strong herbal kick.

Infinite Monkey Theorem Wines

Infinite Monkey Theorem Wines in Denver, Colorado. ph: Charles Watkins

How you can get out and enjoy Colorado Wine

What could be more enjoyable than sitting back in the glow of an Indian summer sun while sipping the best wine’s Colorado has to offer and taking in the breathtaking views of the Grand Mesa?  Piqued your interest?  Good news, there are several events coming up designed to scratch that very itch.

Keep track of what’s going on with the Colorado Wine website’s events page – http://coloradowine.com/the-events/.  There you can always keep abreast of what’s coming up and how to best enjoy them.

Kick off the autumn season with the state’s biggest wine celebration, the Colorado Mountain Wine Festival, coming up this September 14-17, happening in the bucolic town of Palisade.  Voted the best Wine Fest in the U.S. by USA Today, it is more than just another group of tents and tasters.  The Mountain Wine Fest gets you personally involved with events like the Grape Stomp, food/wine pairing classes, vineyard bus tours, cycling tours, a farmer’s market and more.  Note that some partner events need their own tickets – so be sure to plan ahead.  It all comes together for the Festival in the Park, put on by the Colorado Assoc. for Viticulture and Enology.  Tickets for that range from $25 to $190.

Colorado Mountain Winefest - Festival in the Park

Colorado Mountain Winefest – Festival in the Park