Colorado may be known for its beer, but in recent years the Centennial State has begun to cultivate a vibrant wine region. This is especially true around the town of Palisade, located three and a half hours west of Denver, in the shadow of the Grand Mesa.
The area, dubbed the Grand Valley, has long been an agricultural oasis, with vineyards dating back to the 1890s. Then came Prohibition, and local farmers switched their focus to peaches (yes, those Palisade peaches). In 1991, though, Grand Valley was made an American Viticultural Area, and today more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms can be found here.
“The region is high-altitude desert climate, with loamy soils that produce wines with earthy characteristics, vibrant fruit flavors, crisp minerality—everything you want in a wine,” says Kevin Webber, CEO and cofounder of Carboy Winery, which opened a Palisade tasting room last fall. Carboy joins a lineup of new spots that includes The Ordinary Fellow, from canned-wine pioneer Ben Parsons, and TWP Winery and Farmhouse, a bio-dynamic vineyard and South African–inspired farmstay in neighboring Clifton.
“Due to our relatively newfound appreciation for Colorado wines, anything goes,” says Kaibab Sauvage, who opened his Sauvage Spectrum winery in 2019. “We aren’t tied to any one variety or style; we are still figuring out which ones grow best here.” Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc are flourishing, but growers are also experimenting with more obscure grapes. In particular, the high-desert microclimate is well suited to cold-tolerant European varieties, such as northern Italian teroldego and Austrian grüner veltliner. The hot summers with cool nights, Sauvage notes, are “perfect for flavor development and acid
retention in the fruit.”
Sauvage Spectrum is also helping to pop the cork on a homegrown sparkling scene. The winery produces a line called Sparklet, which includes an effervescent white and rosé, as well as a Lambrusco-like sparkling red, and the team is experimenting with pétillant-naturels, including skin-contact and hopped varieties, and canned piquettes. A méthode champenoise sparkler is also in the works. And Sauvage isn’t alone: Carboy’s Palisade location has set a goal of producing 8,000 to 10,000 cases of sparkling wine a year.
“We believe the future of Colorado wine,” Webber says, “lies in sparkling wine.”
Plan Your Trip to Palisade
Where to Eat
This restaurant is run by a husband-and-wife team who used to work at Chicago’s Alinea. Menu highlights include foie gras with peach jam and charred Wagyu rib eye.
Where to Bike
This recently opened trail descends 32 miles and 6,000 vertical feet from the aspen groves atop Grand Mesa into town. Bike rentals are available at Rapid Creek Cycles.
Where to Stay
Spoke and Vine Motel
Check into the Spoke and Vine Motel, a mid-century motor lodge that reopened in 2019 as a dog-, bike-, and eco-friendly boutique property right in the center of downtown Palisade.