The high plains of Colorado, where you are more likely to dodge tumbleweeds than traffic, may not offer rugged mountain scenery the state is known for, but it can provide quite a bit of peace and solitude compared to the rushed and overcrowded Front Range. While it might not seem like much at first, there’s plenty that lies east of I-25 waiting to be discovered, including a few Colorado wineries that call the high plains home. While most travel to the Western Slope or the North Fork Valley for their Colorado wine adventures, there are four wineries of the eastern plains worth a visit.
Claremont Inn and Winery
Where: 800 Claremont St., Stratton
Info: For more info go here
The Lowdown: Claremont Inn and Winery is not what you would expect from the small rural town of Stratton, Colorado. What started as a bed and breakfast 25 years ago has grown into a boutique winery and so much more. The owners, Harry and David, have created something special out east, where most people wouldn’t conceive of starting a bed and breakfast winery. Leaving most to wonder, how did this country inn come to be?
David, who is originally from Stratton, was always in the food business. What began with a culinary and hospitality education, grew into a passion he wanted to share with his community. From this, the Claremont Inn and Winery was born.
About the wine
Made in 30 bottle batches, the small-batch winery, which Harry and David started eight years ago, works with grapes from all over the world. The grapes make the trek from all corners of the globe, including Australia, France, Italy, South America and the U.S. Fermenting, filtering and finishing all happen at the winery. The wine is then produced, bottled and labeled on the property.
Since starting the winery, they have produced over 100 different labels. Their wines include a variety of reds, whites, ports, sherry and fruit-infused wines. A few favorites include the Starry Night, Alice, Colorado Red and the Duo.
Infused with chocolate and fruit flavors, the port wine is made with late-harvest grapes and is a favorite choice after dinner. For something light and fruity, try one of their fruit-infused wines. Made with varietal grapes, the wine is infused with fruit after fermentation.
About the inn
Protected from the wind-swept plains of eastern Colorado, Claremont Inn is a country haven nestled amongst a grove of pine trees just off I-70. The statuesque mansion stands tall with a grand entrance, complete with water fountains, elegant arched columns and beautiful landscaping.
The inn offers 10 spacious rooms, each decorated with its own unique charm and character. Luxurious amenities include whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, spacious seating areas and premium linens for a comfortable stay.
To enjoy the full experience, choose the “Taste, Dine, & Stay” package, which is by far the most popular. Guests enjoy a wine tasting, a delicious three-course Chef’s Special dinner and a substantial breakfast. Guests can complement dinner with their favorite wine from the wine tasting and top off the evening with dessert and a glass of sherry or port.
For those needing a bit of entertainment, the inn offers a movie theater, an escape room and package options. Packages include cooking classes, murder mysteries, paint and taste parties and romantic weekend getaways.
Claremont Inn has spared no details with its friendly staff, elegant meals, palatable wines and luxurious furnishings. Venture out east for the weekend and let the whispering winds of the eastern plains and the soft surroundings of the inn lull you to sleep at your country vacation home – the Claremont Inn and Winery.
Fowler Wine Company
Where: 122 E Cranston Ave., Fowler
The Lowdown: Situated in the Lower Arkansas River Valley 35 miles east of Pueblo, Colorado is the quiet town of Fowler. Maintaining its historic past, Fowler’s Main Street is a small hub of businesses, churches, one museum and its latest addition – the Fowler Wine Company. Opening six months ago, owner and visionary, Kristen Gutzeit, had the dream to make her own wine and open a winery. And so, she did.
After purchasing the space, she worked hard to bring her dream to life. Building most everything by hand, yet still keeping original details like the tin ceiling, she created a modern wine boutique that not only charms you with its wine but with its atmosphere as well.
Currently, Fowler Wine Company specializes in sweet, country wines, aka fruit-based wines. Kristin plans to expand the production of red wines in the fall of 2020. The entire operation is run out of the winery’s home base. She bottles and labels everything on her own, with the help of her mother. Wines flavors include strawberry – the most popular – peach, cherry, apple and the latest, pumpkin.
With intentions to support and revive the forgotten towns of the Colorado Plains, their plans include the use of as much local produce as possible, from Fowler, La Junta, Rocky Ford, and Manzanola. Connected next door is her mother’s quilt shop where she hand-crafts quilts for sale. With additional space in the back, they want to offer yoga classes, paint and sip parties and whatever else Kristin dreams up.
While Fowler Wine Company is still in the start-up phase, exciting things are fermenting.
Where to stay: Hotel Ordway
The Lowdown: Add to your Colorado plains experience, and head 16 miles east to the town of Ordway for a stay at the Hotel Ordway. Serving the community as a hotel since it first opened its rooms 120+ years ago, it is a classic choice for your trip out east. Keeping it in the family, the current owner bought the hotel from his mother, who started as the cleaning lady over 70 years ago.
From the 1940s through the 1950s, the hotel served as a temporary home for those passing through on the Missouri Pacific passenger train. The third floor of the hotel was known to be “reserved” for the railroaders only, while other guests were kept to the first and second floors.
Today the hotel welcomes those passing through, either by way of car or bike. Earning a designated point along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, the hotel was put on the map within the cycling community. Now, cyclists make Hotel Ordway their home away from home ay as they bike across the United States.
Reds Wine Boutique
Where: 112 S 3rd Ave., Sterling
Info: The tasting room is open Tuesday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. For events and other inquiries, email them at Redshpwineboutique@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page @Redswineboutique.
The Lowdown: Known as the “Queen City of the Plains,” Sterling, Colorado is home to the largest population of Colorado towns, out east. Its humble beginnings date back as far as 1884. As the county seat of Logan County, the town continues to flourish with its local businesses like Reds Wine Boutique.
Open now for 18 months, Cindy Graham, the owner, along with her husband, created Reds Wine Boutique. Cindy Graham began making wine over 10 years ago. When her wine won a competition at the county fair, she then decided to make the transition from being a prison guard at the Sterling prison to producing wine full time.
About the wine
The winery specializes in small-batch brewing, offering classic varietals with their version of merlots, pinot noirs, pinot grigios, plus a collection of fruit-based wines. Capturing her creative spirit, Cindy puts a spin on her most popular wine, the Red Rojo, by adding a habanero pepper in at the end of production to create the Red’s Rabid Rojo. Cindy’s wines have won awards at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. Winning the gold for the Rabid Rojo and silver for their Shiraz. And while California is their main source of grapes, Cindy plans to work with Colorado vineyards in the future to create new batches of Colorado wines.
Cindy and her husband aren’t just passionate about wine, they are also avid animal lovers and advocates. They picture dogs on their wine labels that have been rescued by either themselves, family, or their friends in the community. All in hopes, it might inspire others to do the same.
The atmosphere at Reds Wine Boutique is one of community, warmth and kindness. More than just a place to enjoy a good glass of wine, it’s also a place to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Five minutes inside, and it’s easy to see why this is a place so many people call “home.”
Where to stay: The Crest Motel
Where: 516 S Division Ave., Sterling
The Lowdown: Complete your weekend with a stay at The Crest Motel. Located in downtown Sterling, the local motel offers a modern vibe with boutique-style rooms. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs., plus kitchen amenities including a minifridge and microwave. Don’t expect front-desk service as the check-in consists of an email and text message with a code to your room. But do expect a clean, comfortable and quiet place to stay after an evening of wine tasting.
For reservations visit their website at the-crest-motel.business.site/
Mummy Hill Winery
Where: Hwy 385, Holyoke – contact winery for specific directions
Info: Tastings are available Sunday, by appointment only. To book, contact them via Facebook @mummyhillwinery.
The Lowdown: Blink, and you might miss this country boutique winery. Nestled in the sandhills of Yuma County, Mummy Hill Winery lies along the High Plains Highway (Highway 385), 17 miles north of Wray, Colorado. While not easily accessible, this hidden gem is well worth the visit.
Located on the family-owned farm, the winery operates with its own small vineyard, a charming tasting room and a gathering area attached to the home of Stu Blecha and his late wife, Dee Blecha. The winery began with Dee’s dream of making her own wine once she retired from teaching. Before passing away this fall, Dee had harvested the idea to open a winery during family trips to the Adirondacks in New York. While on vacation they would often pass by Double-A Vineyards in Buffalo – the place where Dee later purchased their vines for their vineyard.
About the wine
The designation, “Mummy Hill,” was inspired by one of Dee and Stu’s sons, who named the rising hill which faces the farm, Mummy Hill. As the only winery on the high plains with an actual vineyard, a visit here is a real treat. The two grapes they grow on the vine are Marquette and Osceola Muscat – both cold-hardy varieties. And because they also enjoy wine made from grapes they can’t grow in their area, they purchase juice and fruit from local farms. Tastings are paired with a charcuterie board filled with creamy cheeses and several deli meats.
The wine is harvested, bottled, and labeled on-site in a tiny room in the back of the house. The label designs and wine names are all of Dee’s creations. But this is a family affair. With Stu building the tasting room and the mini stage out back for musical performances and son Corey who brings in the talent. They all make this country boutique winery the gathering place for the local community.
Since Dee’s passing, her son Corey and husband Stu, have set out on a mission to continue her dream of the winery. With plans to harvest grapes from their vineyard next year, they are excited for what’s to come and how they will carry on Dee’s legacy and spirit.
It’s time now to raise your glass to these wineries of the eastern plains that are not only capturing the heart of wine connoisseurs but the spirit of community and entrepreneurship.
By: FOOD + BOOZE