By Ruth Tobias | September 28, 2015
Pretty soon, taking I-70 west through the mountains to Mesa County’s Grand Valley will feel like going back in time; even as winter sets in at higher elevations, autumn lingers across this part of the Western Slope, also known as Colorado’s fruit basket. Right up to Thanksgiving (and sometimes beyond), cyclists and marathoners continue to crisscross the canyons of the Colorado National Monument, golfers keep hitting the greens and oenophiles still come to tour the tasting rooms. This is wine country, after all — and for warm-weather worshippers, there may be no nicer way to stave off the cold than rolling through the vineyards one last fine weekend. Here are a few dining and drinking spots to seal the already-worthwhile getaway deal.
Canyon Wind Cellars
Back in June, this winery went home with two top awards from the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition for its 2013 Petit Verdot and a 2013 Syrah called Anemoi Lips — both varietals Colorado is really beginning to hang its hat on (along with Cab Franc). Flanked by a shady lawn, the tranquil tasting room is one you’ll want to linger in for a spell, so come here earlier rather than later.
3907 N. River Rd., Palisade; 970-464-0888
Bin 707 Foodbar
The rustic touches that dot the otherwise breezily urbane dining room serve as a clue to the staunch farm-to-fork ethos that the couple behind this contemporary standout, Josh and Jodi Neirnberg, come by naturally in the midst of an agricultural wonderland. Be it a charcuterie platter featuring housemadeporchetta di testa and Avalanche Cheese Co.’s aged goat cheddar or roasted heirloom carrots and smoked beets — dashi-splashed and sprinkled with leek ash over local black quinoa — the food’s easily on par with any number of Denver destinations. (And the beverage list couldn’t be more local.)
225 N. Fifth St., Grand Junction; 970-243-4543
Peach Street Distillers
If there’s a cocktail bar in Colorado that doesn’t proudly display this Palisade distillery’s products on itsshelves, we’re not aware of it (not one we’d recommend, anyway). Its brandies and grappas in particular, made with fruit grown just a peach pit’s throw away, are first-rate — but somehow taste even better at the source. Don’t you dare order a cocktail in the warmly lit tasting room until you’ve sampled a few things straight.
144 S. Kluge Ave., Palisade; 970-464-1128
Il Bistro Italiano
The owner of this light, bright Main Street fixture hails from a world capital of gastronomy — Emilia-Romagna in Italy — and though the menu isn’t limited to regional dishes, her upbringing in a town near Parma shows in its abundance of prosciutto, Parmesan and superb fresh pastas like the rarely seenrosetta, rolled roulade-style with ham and cheese. The wine list isn’t huge, but it doesn’t have to be: extremely well-priced obscurities from Lombardy, Alto Adige and beyond are enough to jazz any grape geek.
400 Main St., Grand Junction; 970-243-8622
626 on Rood
Although some of us would seriously consider making an eight-hour trip just for a bottle of Chartogne-Taillet Sainte Anne Brut, Brenda Wray’s superlative wine list is just the beginning at the slick modern American destination she owns with exec chef Theo Otte. First, pair that hard-to-find grower champagne with seared foie gras framed by Palisade peach chutney and caramelized mead sauce; next, move on to a well-chosen flight — perhaps the Old World Riesling trio — to accompany seared Hawaiian tuna with crispy egg rolls, Thai-herb dipping sauce and passionfruit–sweet tea syrup. End with a port-style wine from Graystone just down the road for a date night to remember.
626 Rood Ave., Grand Junction; 970-257-7663
The Hot Tomato Cafe and Pizzeria
OK, you probably wouldn’t drive to Fruita just for pizza, no matter how mouthwatering. Then again, you might — especially if you’ve got a hardtail strapped to your car roof. The Hot Tomato offers up everything you’d expect from a cultural institution among mountain bikers: a funky, laid-back atmosphere, terrific pies (including seasonal specialties topped with local apples or peaches, paired exclusively with New Belgium drafts) and live music on the patio — not to mention the inevitable dog or two running around.
124 N. Mulberry St., Fruita; 970-858-1117
Meadery of the Rockies
Speaking of mead, the quaint tasting room and gift shop at Colorado’s first meadery proves a sweet spot for a sore palate: if you’re going numb to the subtleties of 2012 versus 2013 Syrah, rest assured there’s no nuance radar required to appreciate the nectar that is melomel (fermented honey blended with fruit wine made from, say, local cherries or apricots).
3701 G Rd., Palisade; 970-464-7899
Set atop a bluff with a terrace overlooking the Bookcliffs, Colterris boasts what may be the area’s loveliest setting: a high bar where you can soak up the atmosphere over an unusually refined Bordeaux-style Cabernet Franc. (Note that after October, tasting room visits will be by appointment only until the new year.)
3548 E½ Rd., Palisade; 970-464-1150