© by Sheral Schowe
Only a five-hour drive away, heading east on I-70, is a lush, fertile valley of fruit trees and vineyards. The quiet little town of Palisade is nestled at the base of Grand Mesa, the largest flattop mountain in the world. It is the home of seven of the 21 wineries that exist in Colorado.
Palisade, with a reputation as the Peach Capitol of Colorado, produces just about every well-known grape variety imaginable, with the exception of zinfandel. The white wine varieties include chardonnay, gewurztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon, and viognier. Many of these grapes, the viognier in particular, are supplied to Arches Winery for their wine production. The red wine varietals include cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, sangiovese, and syrah. The one varietal that does not thrive in this microclimate is zinfandel. The viticulturists at the Orchard Mesa Research Center are currently working on developing a zinfandel stock that will thrive in this unique terroir.
As for the wineries, they are almost as plentiful as the fruit stands that sell peaches, pears, plums, cherries, and apples. Several of them are easy to find. Others are hidden in the foothills of the picturesque Grand Mesa. The one that originally caught my attention was Grande River Vineyards. You will notice their huge billboard and will be amazed at the expanse of the beautiful vineyards near exit 42, off of I-70. Their 52 acres of vineyards produce several varieties of white as well as red wine grapes. A favorite, year after year, is the syrah and merlot. Grande River Vineyards also has a nice gift store in their tasting room, with a large selection of wine-themed T-shirts.
The next stop, just around the corner, was Plum Creek Cellars, owned and operated by Doug and Susan Phillips. I was delighted to find that their facility had been remodeled in September to accommodate a beautiful and expansive tasting room. Doug is a native of St. George and a graduate of the University of Utah. The winemaker, Erik Bruner, and his assistant, Jenne Baldwin, create reasonably priced award-winning wines. They produce chardonnay, sangiovese, cabernet franc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and a merlot that comes from 20-year-old vines. Their Reserve Pinot Noir is aged in 100 percent Hungarian oak. The nose is like raspberry creme-brulee. The palate is full of rich cherry and raspberry fruit with pepper and spice on the finish. I recommend this winery for their quality, consistency, and variety of excellent wines.
For the best Palisade wine experience of the year, plan on attending the 8th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest, September 17-19. The event begins with a spectacular five-course dinner featuring ten wines at the Adamís Mark Hotel. Sample the wines on Saturday at the Festival in the Park and on Sunday at the wineries. For more information, call 1-800-704-3667, or check the Internet at www.coloradowine.com.
July 22, 1999