By: Kristen Skovira
DENVER, Colo. – It’s Colorado so we talk about beer. A lot. But what about wine and cider?
Denverites are thirsty for more and that means big business for some local spots.
For example, you might not expect to find more than 300 barrels of wine aging near Commerce City.
“Very surprised when they find us because we are kind of in an industrial area,” said Julie Balistreri, Vice President of J.A. Balistreri Vinyards.
Since 1998, three generations of the Balistreri family have been producing wine in Denver.
“98 percent of our grapes on most years come from the western slope of Colorado. So Palisades, Grand Junction area,” she said, “This year we will be crushing close to 100 tons of grapes.”
Balistreri’s grapes will contribute to a nearly $30-million industry, up more than 138 percent since 2010 according to the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board‘s latest report.
“There were 5 wineries when I started in 2000 and now we’re like 130 plus,” said Doug Caskey, Executive Director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
It is a similar story when it comes to Colorado cider.
“I believe we have 14 cideries in Colorado. Three years ago there was one,” said Eric Foster, Co-founder of Stem Ciders.
Stem Ciders is located north of downtown Denver, nestled between craft breweries.
“A lot of craft beer drinkers are drinking cider right now. National trends show that the majority of the demographic that’s drinking our product cider is actually craft beer drinkers,” he said.
The cidery is expected to make just under 40,000 gallons this year.
But Colorado apples, like Colorado grapes, are grown on the western slope and sometimes subjected to extreme temperatures.
“Unfortunately I would say that it was not a good year in Colorado for fruit. Harvests are just coming in right now. Some of the growers were completely decimated, others are looking at 50 or 60 percent of what they would typically be producing,” said Foster.
“When the climate is not right in Colorado like the last two years, the 2013-2014 vintage was very difficult,” said Balistreri.
Fortunately, this year’s grape harvest is looking good.
“We’re starting to worry about when that first fall frost coming, but so far things look wonderful,” said Caskey.