Palisade event sells out, features more wineries than ever

Thousands gathered under blue skies along the banks of the Colorado River on Saturday for the 28th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest.

The popularity of the Winefest, which takes place at Riverbend Park in Palisade, has grown in recent years. This is the fifth year in a row the event sold out and it did so in record time. In all, 6,600 people attended the event, which featured 64 wineries — the most Winefest has had participating.

Executive Director of the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology (CAVE) Cassidee Shull said there were more events than ever this year. In addition to events like the winemakers dinners and winery bus tours, Shull said they also held two new events — a sip and stretch event at Peach Street Distillery and an intro to growing grapes class at the CSU Agriculture Station on East Orchard Mesa.

When the Winefest started, there were just five wineries that participated and fewer than 500 people attended. Shull said, since those early days, Winefest has grown into the organization’s largest fundraiser.

Sue Phillips, owner of Plum Creek Winery, was there for the first Winefest as one of the original wineries. They have participated each year since and have seen the event grow.

Phillips, whose husband helped plan the original  Winefest, said the idea was to schedule it for harvest time to show that Colorado was growing its own grapes and making wine from them. It certainly worked, and today Colorado is home to around 150 wineries, meaderies and cider producers.

“Plum Creek, from day one and every day since, has made wine with only Colorado grown grapes,” she said. “Colorado is a special place for growing grapes.”

George Euler of Grand Junction was attending Winefest for the fourth time and said the quality of the wine made in Colorado, as well as the atmosphere of the event, were what kept him coming back.

“This is just one of those events that the valley has that is a lot of fun,” Euler said. “It’s a time of year when the weather is always great. It’s the whole mood. People are having a good time.”