There are a few things you need before tackling Palisade’s wine scene: At least twenty-one years on this planet, a safe mode of transport, and, as is required for any good attack or courtship, a foolproof strategy.
Our challenge is to taste as much as possible of Palisade’s 20 or so wineries, which are spread out over several miles. Of course, we’re all responsible adults here, and we’re not driving while drinking, so cars are out of the question. Oh, and we’re also on the clock; we’re subject to the confines of tasting room hours, which tend to be, at best, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Some open as late as 12 p.m. and close as early as 4 p.m.)
The best way to do this in a single day is via a seven-ish mile loop that hits seven noteworthy, and very different from each other, wineries by bike. If the bike part intimidates you, it shouldn’t. It’s surprisingly easy to navigate the town and find the wineries, and this is coming from someone who hadn’t been on a bicycle in years and had to borrow her mom’s bike and daughter’s Frozen helmet (complete with broken plastic crown) for the journey.
If you don’t own a bicycle or have a mom who’ll lend you hers, Rapid Creek Cycles will rent you one (from $36.95 for a cruiser to $54.68 for an electric bike).
Your longest tasting of the day will be at the family-owned Varaison Vineyards, where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get assistant winemaker Alex West as your guide. This is a good place to start, as there’s almost no way you’ll leave the brick Victorian without learning something new. While value isn’t really the right word for something you’re not paying for, your time invested with the eight tasting wines will be well-spent.
Address: 401 W. 1st St.
More info: varaisonvineyards.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Noteworthy wines: Bin 3115 Merlot, 2012 Barbera and 2014 Montagne Doux Viognier
The out-and-back ride to Colterris Winery is the longest you’ll go without a drink today (thank goodness you just had eight at Varaison), but the super-picturesque (and largest) vineyards are worth the distance. Tastings of the award-winning wines run three for $5 or seven for $10. You may not want to leave the stunning courtyard set amidst the vines, but onward and upward, right?
Address: 3907 N. River Rd.
More info: colterris.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Noteworthy wines: Rosés, 2016 Petit Verdot and wines in a can
Plum Creek Winery holds the oldest winery license of any existing vineyards in the state. The vibe at the tasting room is fun, bachelorette party-friendly and gift shoppy. Don’t let that fool you, though; there are some good wines here. Five dollars gets you five tastes.
Address: 3708 G Rd.
More info: plumcreekwinery.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Noteworthy wines: 2016 Riesling and 2016 Palisade Rosé
Just across the street from Plum Creek is the Meadery of the Rockies. A little different from the rest, the honey wines made here use as much local fruit as possible (like the peaches and apricots) and range in sweetness levels. Samples are five for $5.
Address: 3701 G Rd.
More info: talonwinebrands.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
Noteworthy wines: Strawberry Honey Wine and Peach Honey Wine
Stepping into Red Fox Cellars, you might think you’re in a Denver brewery. The vibe is very industrial cool, and they’re doing more creative, untraditional things with their wines and ciders, namely the Wine Foxtails (cocktails made with Red Fox wines). There may be no better way to enjoy a summer afternoon than on Red Fox’s patio, Strawberry Balsamic Foxtail (made with their Long Day Rosé, strawberry soda and balsamic) or Peach Mule (a mix of Freestone Peach sparkling wine, lime, simple syrup and ginger beer) in hand. If you need a break from wine, check out the Roasted Chile cider. Sips of their four traditional wines are free, and the rest are a buck apiece. Wine Foxtails are $8, and a flight of eight ciders runs $10.50.
Address: 695 36 Rd.
More info: redfoxcellars.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Noteworthy wines: Bourbon Barrel Merlot, Long Day Tempranillo Rosé and 2016 Teroldego
One of the only Palisade wineries that can sell food, Maison La Belle Vie Winery will help soak up all the juice with a loaded charcuterie board, or, if you’re there on a summer weekend, see if you can get a seat at one of their farm to table dinners or burger nights. Your first two tastings are free; five pours for $5 after that.
Address: 3575 G Rd.
More info: maisonlabellevie.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Thurs. 12 p.m.-5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 12 p.m.-6 p.m.
Noteworthy wines: 2013 Vin de Noix and 2018 Albarino
The only real hill you have to climb is on the home stretch ride up to Grande River Vineyards. Reward yourself for your effort and day of drinking with even more drinking via a trio of complimentary tastes (five for $5 if you want more) at this friendly tasting room.
Address: 787 Elberta Ave.
More info: granderivervineyards.com
Tasting room hours: Sun.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Noteworthy wines: 2015 Meritage Red, Lavande Vin Blanc and 2016 Cabernet Franc
Sleeping, eating and more wine
Because you’re not going to drive home after all of that, you’ll need a place to sleep. The Wine Country Inn (tucked behind Grande River) has a pool, hot tub, 5 p.m. wine tasting and a surprisingly good complimentary breakfast. Spoke and Vine Motel is a freshly-remodeled, modern take on a classic motel. It may not look like much on the outside, but the interiors are well-designed.
Locals head to Palisade Brewing Company for a mug of Dirty Hippie beer and a killer Reuben with fresh-smoked pastrami; join ’em on the expansive patio and toast your hero-worthy day of wine tasting. The vegetarian-friendly The Palisade Café 11.0 makes good food, but the small portions on some of the items may leave you hungry. To really fill up, go across the street to 357 Bar & Grill for heavier fare like wings, chicken fried steak and pulled pork.
If you want to check out another winery before heading home the next morning but are over all the biking, drive up the hill to the brand-new Restoration Vineyards, where the Barbera, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are a good trio to try for $5.
If you have more time and a designated driver, more wineries are nestled west as you follow the Colorado River, and they get less traffic than the more accessible ones down in town. It’s amazing how distinct the wineries are from each other, and it’s fun to experience all the styles and pick favorites, even if you’re not a wine expert.
Go forth with your twenty-one-plus years, mode of transport and foolproof strategy and taste all of the wine. The world just might open up with new possibilities. Or maybe you’ll just get buzzed. Either way, you’ll have thoroughly tackled Palisade.
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