Colorado's Hidden Wine Country

Author: Carlee McCardel
The Traverse City Wine region is one that cannot be matched. Moving away from Traverse City, I knew that there were going to be some qualities of my small hometown that I would miss. Living within walking distance to a winery and having access to the East Bay and views of the West, made it hard to pick up my life and move to Utah. Nonetheless, I loaded up my car and drove the 1,000-mile journey to Salt Lake City, in my Lakes and Grapes apparel, of course.
 
Moving from Traverse City to Salt Lake City Utah
 
As an avid skier, moving to the state known for having the best snow on earth, I knew I would make myself right at home. I did wonder, though, if I would miss participating in the activities unique to Traverse City. Change is a huge factor that comes with a move and I didn’t know how I was going to react not having access to some of the best water and wine in the country. I choose Utah for the snow, but also because of the water. The reservoirs here are nothing compared to Northern Michigan, but it’s no eyesore staring up at Deer Valley Resort while I get my tan on next to the water.
 
In the end, though, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to replicate the wine region I'd grown up in. Where else can you find busses of people from all over, some having traveled many miles, just for a sip of wine? Oh, what I would do for a glass of Frosé from Brys Estate, or to see the view from Chateau Chantal right about now. To my surprise, I quickly realized that wine wasn't 1,000 miles away back in Michigan but could be found just 4 hours south of Salt Lake City. I am talking about the town of Palisade, Colorado. Palisade is home to over 20 wineries at the foothill of the most breathtaking red rock plateaus our country has to offer. I quickly realized I could find my slice of Northern Michigan out west.
 
My boss's wife told me about this town while we were sipping on our ports after dinner. I didn't think much of what she had shared about her girl's trip there (If you are a Traverse City Native you know how familiar that sounds), but I decided to Google it one day when I was bored at work. I was completely shocked at what had come up. The prettiest vineyards with the tallest and reddest plateaus as their backdrop. I always thought you couldn't get anything better than having Grand Traverse Bay be your view, but I was wrong…very wrong. That night my boyfriend and I reserved our campsite, and our weekend getaway was booked.
   
The cool thing about Palisade, Colorado is that the town is so small, everyone bikes everywhere. You don't have to deal with the hills that the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula possess. You also don't see the tour buses that we see in Traverse City, but rather groups of bike riders, rickshaws upon rickshaws, and even some horse and buggies to get people from winery to winery. We brought our bikes and joined in on the fun!
 
Palisade Colorado Biking
 
Our campsite was right next to our first, and favorite stop, Colterris. "The name COLTERRIS was derived by combining a three-letter abbreviation of Colorado "Col" with the Latin word "terris" meaning from the land.” (about us page on Colterris website). What a cool name right? Colterris had the best outdoor seating, and you could even bring food not purchased on the property. On the huge lawn space next to the tasting room, people had made picnics to enjoy the beautiful day and delicious wine. I had never experienced being at a winery where outside food was welcomed. In my opinion, it made the environment family-friendly, and you could tell people were genuinely enjoying their time. On top of it all, there were even horses to pet that are normally used for vineyard tours.
 
The system that Colterris used for their tasting was much different than any other tasting experience I have had. They gave you a little square index card that had the name of the wine you were tasting on it and on the back, it gave information about what food and events each would pair nicely with. We were given 7 cards because we were doing 7 tastings. They put each of the cards in the order that they would taste best. They give you your first glass and then you head over to your table to enjoy! They give you one glass at a time and you enjoy just that one. Once you have finished your glass, you take it back up to the stand with the next card and they would repeat the process. I enjoyed this system because we were able to sit and enjoy our tasting without having to stand or feel like you have to rush through the process. At the end, they took each index card of each of the wines that we had tasted, and hole punched them. They then looped the cards together with a little charm so that we could take them home with us. The cards were both a souvenir and a reference for us to remember what wine we loved!
 
Colterris Winery Palisade Colorado
 
After that, we hopped on our bikes and were off to the next stop.
Next, we biked to Red Fox Cellars, which had an awesome environment, great music, and a tasty food truck. This winery was filled by a much younger crowd. We decided to do wine flights; I got a flight of reds and my boyfriend Grant, got a flight of ports. I don’t think he realized ports are a dessert wine, but he still enjoyed them! We ended the day by biking to a brewery for one last drink and a quick bite to eat before heading back to the campsite to make a fire.
 
Red Fox Cellars Palisade Colorado Wine Tasting
 
Our trip didn’t end with just the wine. Palisade, Colorado is just outside Grand Junction, Colorado which is home to the Colorado National Monument, a 20 plus mile scenic drive of the most insane rock formations I have ever seen. Think of Pierce Stocking, but on steroids. We drove and hiked around the National Park on our first morning of the trip. It was the perfect start to the day and got our bodies moving before spending the afternoon drinking wine.
 
Exploring the Colorado National Monument
 
The next day, on our way home to Salt Lake from Palisade, we drove by the exit that travelers take to get to Moab, Utah. With Arches National Park only being 30 minutes out of the way, we decided there was no way we weren’t going to take this opportunity.
 
When we arrived at Arches National Park, we were greeted with the unfortunate news that the park was at max capacity. Instead of turning back around to head home, we wanted to wait to see if it would eventually open back up. In the meantime, we grabbed our bikes and biked along the river that surrounds the outside of the park. We both agreed regardless of getting into the park or not it was worth taking the detour just for the bike ride. Luckily just as we had put our bikes back on the back of my car, Twitter notified us that the park was back open. We ended our weekend getaway with a 3-mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch. Probably the most famous hike to do at Arches.
 
The entire weekend I felt I was living the Lakes and Grapes lifestyle, if only there had been a lake we could have jumped in!
 
  
Arches National Park
  
About the Author: Carlee McCardel

Carlee, a Northern Michigan native, recently moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to work and ski. You can find her working as The Assistant to the Director of Sales for Promontory Development in the Real Estate Office. An avid skier and wine consumer, Carlee lives for all things Lakes and Grapes. Depending on the season you can find Carlee swimming in a lake or flying down a mountain. 

Connect with Carlee on Instagram

Tags: Travel, Wine

Leave a comment