Discover Colorado Wine

The majestic valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are blessed with warm days, cool nights and low humidity — perfect conditions for the cultivation of wine grapes with the complex character and chemistry required to produce award-winning wines.

Winemaking began on Colorado’s Western Slope more than a century ago. With the advent of Prohibition, however, the early vineyards were uprooted and replaced with orchards. Modern vineyards featuring the world’s classic wine-grape varieties have been reestablished in the area’s fertile climes, and once again the art of winemaking is flourishing in Colorado. Building on the tradition of these pioneer winemakers, thriving wineries are now found in all parts of the state.

Today, Colorado’s vintners enjoy a well-earned reputation for producing a wide variety of premium wines. From redolent Riesling and captivating Cabernet Franc, to wines made from cherries, peaches, plums and honey, Colorado wines consistently win top national and international awards for their quality.

Terroir can be very loosely translated to mean “a sense of place.” Wine embodies the characteristic qualities from where it comes – the sum of the effects that the local environment – and when it was made.

Wine people like to argue endlessly, more heatedly after the second and third glass, as to what exactly is and should be the influence of Nature (the terroir) as opposed to the influence of people, specifically the grape grower and the winemaker. While the experts argue about how and why the sun, soil and climate make a Colorado wine taste just as different than a wine from California or Europe as the Rocky Mountains are different than the Sierras, the Pyrenees or the Alps, you can simply enjoy your wine.

What makes Colorado wines unique?

Vineyards in Colorado are mostly nestled in the temperate, high elevation river valleys and mesas of Mesa and Delta counties, with some acreage in Montezuma county. Colorado’s grape growing regions range in elevation from 4,000 to 7,000 feet and are thus among the highest vineyards in the world, resulting in hot days accompanied by cool nights.

The ‘continental climate’ in these regions create day to night temperature variations topically ranging from 25 to 30 degrees during the grape maturation months of August and September. The long warm daylight hours of intense high-altitude sunlight mature the fruit completely and build the natural sugars. The cool evenings cause the grapes to retain the acids so vital to premium winemaking. However, the high altitude can also present a challenge to grape growers, in that the average frost free growing season ranges from 150 to 182 days.


Our Story Play

Grape growing has persisted on Colorado’s Western Slope because it offers fruit growers a greater diversity of crops and a broader hedge against frost damage. With an early spring frost, growers might lose cherries and apricots, but grapes will still be viable. As the commercial viability of apples has dropped precipitously in the last decade, grapes have increasingly filled that late season harvest slot.

The Colorado wine industry is on the verge of significant expansion and improvement.

Our History

1873:

English traveler Isabella Bird described the lush landscape she encountered during her horseback ascent up the St. Vrain Canyon on her way to Estes Park: “Cottonwood trees were green and bright, aspen trees shivered in gold tremulousness, and wild grape vines trailed their lemon-colored foliage along the ground.” (A Lady’s LIfe in the Rocky Mountains, published 1879)

1882:

Gravity canal irrigation is introduced into the Grand Valley. Colorado River water is diverted into gravity canals at the mouth of De Beque Canyon near Palisade.

1883:

William E. Pabor first recognizes the fruit producing potential of the Grand Valley and plants grapes, apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and plums near Fruita.

1890:

Governor George A. Crawford, who founded Grand Junction in 1881, plants sixty acres of grapes and other fruit on Rapid Creek above Palisade.

1899:

U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of the United States – Agriculture reports a Colorado grape harvest of 586,300 pounds and wine production of 1744 gallons.

1909:

U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of the United States – Agriculture reports a Colorado harvest of 1,037,614 pounds from 254,292 vines of bearing age and 101,332 vines of pre-bearing age. 1034 Colorado farms are involved in grape production.

1916:

The General Assembly of Colorado enacts a prohibition statute. Colorado goes “dry” four years before the passage of the 18th Amendment which creates national prohibition. Commercial winemaking ceases in Colorado and wine grape vineyards are uprooted.

1933:

The 18th Amendment is repealed and national prohibition ends.

1968:

Gerald Ivancie opens Ivancie Winery, the first modern Colorado winery. Dr. Ivancie hires California winemaker Warren Winiarski away from Mondavi Vineyards to serve as the winemaker. Winiarski founded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley, which won the red wine portion of the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting. Ivancie and Winiarski encourage experimental plantings of premium wine grapes in and around the Grand Valley.

1974:

Colorado State University’s Orchard Mesa Research center, located in Grand Junction, begins vineyard research.

1977:

The General Assembly enacts the Colorado Limited Winery Act which creates a special permit for small “farm wineries.”

1978:

Several partners, including Jim and Ann Seewald plus Bennett Price, who now owns DeBeque Canyon Winery, open Colorado Mountain Vineyards in Golden but eventually move their winery production to Palisade, where the grapes are being grown.

1982:

Rocky Mountain Association of Vintners and Viticulturists, now known as CAVE (Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology), an association of winemakers and grape growers, is formed.

1990:

The General Assembly enacts the Colorado Wine Industry Development Act (Colorado Revised Statutes 35-29.5) which creates the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (or AVA), along the Colorado River between the mouth of DeBeque Canyon in Palisade to the foot of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, is approved and recognized by what is now the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau.

2001:

West Elks American Viticultural Area (or AVA), along the North Fork of the Gunnison River between Bowie and Hotchkiss, is approved and recognized by what is now the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau.

2005:

The Colorado General Assembly ammends the limited winery statute, replacing the requirement to use 75% Colorado fruit with a more informative labeling regulation for Colorado wine.