The Tip Off
I’m standing underneath the newly-erected tent at what, in a few hours, will become the Grand Tasting at Telluride Wine Festival. For now it’s practically empty; the few vendors mulling around are newbies and nervous (like me). We’ve come unnecessarily early to set up our booths, but are unable to because of a car wreck that has stalled the truck delivering tables for the festival.
After a Starbucks and a plaza stroll, I strike up conversation with a clear event veteran. Jodi, owner and bartender at Bin 707, has a completely self-sufficient booth that looks awesome - she's not waiting for tables. Bin 707 is in Grand Junction (and, I later find out, just about the best restaurant in town), which is great news to me because I have plans to visit Palisade – the biggest wine region in Colorado – on my way back to Denver, and Grand Junction is only about an hour away.
After talking for a bit, and telling Jodi about Coppertops (which still had no tables), I mention my planned stop in Palisade and ask her which wineries she would reach out to in my position. Ten minutes later, Jodi has given me the names of three wineries, people to contact and a bit of background about each of them. Another fifteen minutes and I had appointments at two of the wineries for the next day.
Sunday morning my husband and I were Palisade bound. Turns out, it is not like Napa, or Sonoma, or even Paso Robles. Less refined, less pretense, more… West? The vista is full of mesas, rather than the mountains that define so much Colorado, and wineries are scattered among orchards growing peaches and cherries. Navigating around takes a moment - the roads are two lane and run west to east from 32 ½ Rd to 37 ¼ Rd and north to south from B ½ to G 7/10. Not kidding. Jodi’s husband (and Bin707 co-owner) described it perfectly when he said, “My view of the Grand Valley is that of, say, Napa in the mid to late ‘70s. We have an extremely fertile area growing cool grapes, great produce, cheese makers, farmers, vintners, brewers and a couple of distillers now. All within 50 miles.” It feels undiscovered and it feels cool, but not in a trendy, "everyone is talking about it" way.
Our first stop was Colterris, where Theresa, the owner, was incredibly kind to give me some of her time mid-morning on a Sunday. Colterris’ 2011 Cabernet Franc was given an 87-89 on a Wine Spectator forum and their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon earned a 88-91+. Their wines have been so popular that they’ve only been able to distribute within Colorado so far. (Those of us in Denver can find them at Trader Joe’s!) The vineyard is beautiful, with path that runs between peach groves and leads to a beautiful overlook of the Colorado River, and their tasting room has an impressive collection of corkscrews tucked around the corner of the tasting room’s entrance.
After Colterris, we headed to meet Brooke at Mesa Park, who was also amazing. Mesa Park’s vineyard is centered around its Big Red Barn, which also holds their tasting room. Brooke, her husband and their family bought the vineyard in 2008 and have been making great wine in it ever since. Their 2012 Estate Cabernet Franc won Double Gold and "Best in Show - Commissioner's Cup" at the Mesa County Fair. And, notable for me, the paper lover, was the label for this wine, which has a picture of their well-loved Big Red Barn.
I left Palisade on Sunday afternoon feeling super impressed with this growing little piece of our state, and so grateful for the time that Theresa and Brooke made to learn more about Coppertops – even opening their wineries for me on a Sunday morning. Colorado’s wine region is still authentic and local. The dirt roads and family business feel right, and a real knowledge of agriculture is integrated into these wineries. It fits, I think, with Coppertops, really nicely. I’ll admit I was a bit bummed that neither winery I met with was willing to carry my products in their tasting rooms. But we’re keeping the conversation going, and I know we’re going to come up with something way cooler as a way to work together. Can’t wait to get back later this month!