PALISADE, Colo. — It’s a busy week on Colorado’s Western Slope. Farmers are busy plucking fruit from the vine.

It’s grape harvest season for Colorado’s $50 million wine industry.

“You can look over here and see Mount Garfield, you see the Book Cliffs, you see all of this nature around you and the grapes and the plants.  This is just beautiful country,” said Poppy Woody, owner of Cherokee Vineyard.

Every bunch of grapes on her vines is headed for a bottle of Colorado wine. And like every crop in the state, this year’s harsh weather has posed some big challenges.

“Water is tight this year. We’ve been extremely dry,” said Bruce Talbott of Talbott Farms.

Vines are showing some stress from the heat and drought, he said.  But they’re actually lucky.

At Red Fox Cellars, they said grapes can thrive in hot, dry, windy conditions.

“Grapes don’t use a ton of water.  And you know, they call it the million-dollar wind. We have a very unique growing region here. Every morning wind blows out of De Beque Canyon and warms the valley down here,” said Scott Hamilton, owner of Red Fox Cellars.

This year’s drought hasn’t even slightly deterred wine lovers from descending on Mesa County, eager to sample the fruits of Colorado’s 150-plus wineries.

Last weekend, nearly 7,000 people from 45 states and six countries came to the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade.

“We’ve come leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. We have a lot of wine makers that are new to the industry and are trying new things and getting innovative — we’re canning wine,” said Cassidee Shull, executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology.

Hard to bottle up just how excited they are about wine in Palisade, where Colorado’s wine industry is thriving, winning awards and weathering the extreme weather.

BY