The Centennial State is known for its abundant natural beauty and its high-quality beer. While these attractions are good reasons to visit Colorado, visitors should also be sure to explore the state’s various wineries, which produce top-quality wines with unique characteristics as a result of the state’s high altitudes.
Here are five outstanding wineries in the Centennial State:
1. Snowy Peaks Winery
Located in Estes Park, Snowy Peaks Winery sources its grapes from several vineyards on the Rocky Mountains’ Western Slope. At an elevation of 4,000 to 5,400 feet, these vineyards stand out as some of the highest in the world. This altitude allows the grapes to receive intense sunlight while preserving their acidity during the cool nights.
In recognition of its high-quality wines, Snowy Peaks Winery has won a number of awards, including the Gold Medal for its 2016 Viogner at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. Its 2016 Eleve Blanc also earned a silver medal at the same competition, as did the 2016 Oso Rose and the 2015 Mourvedre. Snowy Peaks Winery also makes dry and sweet Rieslings as well as Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Syrah, among other wines.
A child-friendly winery, Snowy Peaks features a No-Wine-ing Zone for kids to play in. There, young guests can enjoy a free juice tasting while adults sample the wines in a tasting room that boasts views of the Rocky Mountains.
2. The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey was founded by a group of monks who dreamed of producing high-quality wines at the abbey in Cañon City. With views of the Wet Mountains, the winery offers a gorgeous setting in which to sample Colorado wines. In spring and summer, visitors can taste the wines in the winery’s garden while taking in the stunning views.
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey has won more than 100 awards for its wines, including the Double Gold for its 2014 Colorado Merlot Reserve at the Jerry Meade New World Wine Competition. The winery also took home the Gold Medal at the Colorado Governor’s Cup for its 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.
3. Carlson Vineyards
One of the oldest vineyards in Colorado, Carlson Vineyards is known for its Riesling, the 2003 vintage of which won the World Riesling Cup at the 28th International Eastern Wine Competition. The Palisade-based winery runs on solar power and uses grapes grown on the slopes of the Rockies. The combination of abundant sun and cool evening temperatures is perfect for growing Riesling grapes.
The largest producer of fruit wine in Colorado, the winery’s fruit wines include the 2016 Cherry, which is made exclusively from Montmorency pie cherries grown in Colorado, and the 2016 Peach, which consists of peaches grown only in the Palisade region. Visitors can sample the wines in its vintage tasting room or in the backyard, which offers beautiful views of the Grand Valley.
4. Balistreri Vineyards
Balistreri Vineyards stands out as a winery located within Denver’s city limits. This family-owned winery got its start when John Balistreri, whose family immigrated from Sicily in the early 1900s, constructed greenhouses for carnations and started producing wine for family and friends, a longstanding Sicilian tradition. In 1998, his family created a commercial winery and built a small tasting room for locals.
To this day, Balistreri Vineyards continues to produce wine one barrel at a time through a natural process devoid of sulfites and other chemicals. The winery sources its grapes from exceptional vineyards in Colorado and sometimes from California. After being crushed, the grapes undergo fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The winery then presses the grapes with a bladder-like basket press and siphons the juice manually into American Oak Barrels, where the wine ages for one year during a process of natural malolactic fermentation.
Balistreri Vineyards also offers a lunch menu featuring a variety of Sicilian and other dishes, including pan-seared scallops, pappardelle with house pancetta, and mushroom risotto. After lunch, guests can try the winery’s dessert wines, including the Balistreri Port and the Colorado Cherry.
5. Meadery of the Rockies
Meadery of the Rockies is Colorado’s original maker of meads, or honey wines. The tradition of making meads dates back to ancient times, and Meadery of the Rockies carries on this tradition with a diverse range of meads of varying sweetness and alcohol levels.
All of the Meadery of the Rockies’ meads are made with pure orange blossom honey, including its fruit and honey wines, which are flavored with peaches, apricots, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries. The winery also makes dessert wines. In fact, its Chocolate Cherry Honey wine won the Gold Medal at the 2016 Governor’s Cup Case.
These five wineries represent just a fraction of all that Colorado has to offer in terms of wines. A trip to the state reveals the unique and diverse flavors that winemakers have developed as they have grown grapes that can not only survive but thrive in the terroir and high altitude of this beautiful location.