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Jul 27, 2009 01:54 PM

Colorado Wine Fest questions

We're planning on attending the Colorado Wine Fest in Palisade, CO in September for the first time this year.

Has anyone here been to the festival? What are some musts for the trip? Below are some more specific questions:

The website says that Sunday is for winery tours, but doesn't really have much info. Is there a bus tour or are you just on your own? Any wineries that are a must?

is the box lunch Saturday ticket worth it or are we better off looking for lunch on our own?

What restaurants in the area are a must? (Our hotel is in Grand Junction.) We're particularly interested in restaurants that focus on locally grown foods.

Thanks so much!

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  1. I haven't been to the Palisade Wine Fest in serveral years, so I can't help you w/ that, but by far the best restaurant in Grand Junction is 626 on Rood. Great food, great ambiance, good wine list and the nicest owners in town. .

    1. Going back about 12 years ago, we attended it for our last time. "Last time," not because we did not want to attend again, but moved ot Phoenix about that time.

      It was a very laid-back affair and a lot of fun. The tastings were a mixed bag, as were the winery tours. There were some great wines, and then there were others.

      We've done tasting events around the globe, so we've seen all sorts of festivals. The CO event was great fun and the participants were working hard to satisfy the attendees. It was loads of fun, and very low-key, which is not a bad thing.

      Again, there were many surprising gems in the mix and some that I hope to never see again. That said, I have had similar feelings about many other such events, so it is not unusual.

      I do not know what they are doing now. Probably a lot has changed, and not just some of the names. Go with an open mind, and expect to be surprised (in a very good sense) with some of the wines. Laugh at a few others, as their names bely that they are a bit of a joke. Taste them, and nod, but do not expect to be swayed to lay down a case.

      Our #1 fav was several of the Plum Creek offerings. We also fell in love with a late harvest Riesling (IIRC) from Minturn. I tried to buy more of this dessert wine, and even drove to the producer's house, leaving notes on his door. Never got a call, and Applejacks, plus others, could not buy it. Still, it ranked up there with the Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling of the era.

      Back then, there was some dichotomy of direction, as some producers were using juice sourced from Napa and other Appelations in CA, but were doing the fermenting, aging and bottling in CO. Many of the "serious" wineries were using CO juice and resented the compromise. Maybe things are happier now.

      Please report,


      4 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Bill Hunt - My last time was more recent than yours -- about six years ago. At that time, the Colorado Mountain Wine Fest was still small enough to be held in the town square and has moved to a larger venue. This year, a fourth day will be added to accommodate and expanded program. Eighty Coloado wineries and more food purveyors, more seminars and speakers, and more entertainment are now on the docket than you could have imagined a dozen years ago -- or than I did six years back.

        This is still THE opportunity to taste local wines. I just attended the Crested Butte Wine & Food Festival, and if a single Colorado wine was poured, I didn't see/taste it.

        1. re: ClaireWalter


          Thank for what I consider great news. So long as it still has that wonderful local feel, it sounds great. Glad that it has expanded, and also glad that we encountered it when it was a rather small "local" event.

          "I just attended the Crested Butte Wine & Food Festival, and if a single Colorado wine was poured, I didn't see/taste it."

          That is bogus! Sorry, but there is a responsibility to the local wineries. OK, serve the best of the CO wines, and pit them against the best of Napa, or Sonama, but let them be represented. Sorry to hear this.

          Friends work the Summit County wine events (seems there are now three), and local wines are usually poured. Hey, if the locals don't do it, who will?

          CO has some very good, to excellent wines. So they cost a few $'s more than the "usual suspects," that is the price of being smaller and unknown.


          BTW Arizona (our current home) has a very few wineries, that are stellar. There is no shame in drinking well-made local wines.

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            The CB fest was just in its second year. It might have been some of the Colo wineries' own decision not to participate. Not many of them seem to have been picked up by big distributors, and the cost of participation ($200 for private table, $125 for shared table incl 2 credentials, $25 for additional credentials, plus travel and wine) might be a barrier. More signficiantly, perhaps, on a busy weekend, they might prefer to be in their own tasting rooms where they can also actually sell wine rather than just pour it for free. Just a thought.

            I'm going to Steamboat's wine fesival this weekend, and it will be interesting to see whether Colo any wineries are there.

            1. re: ClaireWalter

              Actually, back then Plum Creek, with a new building and set up, hosted any CO vintners, free of charge. Now, I do not know about any additional participation charges, but PC furnished the tents on their properties. Some took advantage of this magnanimous gesture, but not all.

              It was obvious that the event was in its infancy, but many of the participants were going overboard to get it all together. My hat is still off to some of those. The gestures were great. Those folk had the CO vitacultural community at heart and it showed.

              Please report on Steamboat Springs. It would be interesting.

              I have great friends, who work the Summit County events, and they comment on the dearth of CO wineries at many of those. Basically, they have to come down to AZ to sample some of the CO wines and that is tragic.


      2. While I haven't been to the Wine Fest I have done a tour of many of the wineries in the area. My favorites by far were Two Rivers (loved their port and reisling) and Plum Creek (their Palisade Red is a regular everyday wine for me).

        2 Replies
        1. re: RobynS


          Did you have the opportunity to taste the Plum Creek Cab Franc? That was one wine that made a lasting impression on us. We served the remainder of our case about 8 years later, to the couple that accompanied us on our last Palisades Wine Fest, and it was still drinking nicely. It was great in the glass, but did fade a bit with some time. Still, we're talking about a CO Cab Franc here, and not a left bank Bdx.

          Just curious,


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            I did and enjoyed it very much but it's a little bit too expensive for me for an everyday wine.

        2. Thanks to everyone who responded so far! I'm excited about the festival and will report back.

          1 Reply
          1. re: margemayhem

            We're headed to this on Friday. Plan to go to 626 in Rood as Claire suggested. Any other restaurant recommendations? Thanks!

          2. Husband and I are big, big fans of Colorado wine, but we don't go to Wine Fest for 3 reasons: crowds, traffic, and accommodations are too expensive for that weekend. We go to Palisade/Grand Junction at least once a year to specifically visit our favorite wineries, taste a lot of wine, and to buy a lot of wine (last year we bought about $600 worth of wine). We like to go right before Wine Fest, when the best bottlings are just being released and are still in stock! Also if you go in late August through early October you can see the grape harvest underway.

            Our favorite producers:

            1. Garfield Estates. Their wine maker is from Germany and is well known for his Alsacation style wines. I'll never forget his limited edition dry Muscat Blanc that we were lucky to score a bottle of in 2007.

            2. Canyon Wind Winery; and 3. Debeque Canyon Winery are situated in the same land area right at the opening of Debeque Canyon. These wines are of the same quality as Rhone Valley wines. Their vineyards experience hot, dry windswept days and cool nights. The wines are jammy and rich in the mouth. Their Cabernet Francs and Merlots are my favorites, but they also produce lovely Roses. I also love Debeque Canyon's Chardonney: rich and buttery without being overly oaky. Canyon Wind has also recently started to produce Tempranillo, which I was very, very please with (and disappointed that they only had 1 bottle left when I was there in 2008!).

            3. Grand River Vineyards. Big, bold, luscious reds are their speciality. Their Meritage is definitely worth $25 a bottle! These reds are worthy of aging.

            4. Mesa Grande Vineyards. For seven years this family grew grapes and sold juice to other area wineries. Then they decided to produce their own wines. They produce Cabernet Franc and Merlot only, but, OH, are they lovely! Word in the air though is that the winery and land is currently up for sale. The owners want to retire and move to Florida, and their son, who is also the incredible wine maker, so far hasn't managed to raise the funds to buy the business. So sad really.

            5. Reeder Mesa Vineyards. Perched high a top Reeder Mesa, this vineyard grows and bottles Riesling grapes exclusively, but also buys local juice to produce some very lovely and refreshing Roses. My husband is extremely fond of these wines. They are great summer, sipping wines.

            6. Carlson Vineyards. These guys produce fine, fun wines with Colorado character. Many wine snobs turn their noses up at sweet reds, but Carlson Vineyards' Sweet Baby Red is a big, happy surprise in a glass. It's a slightly, sweet red that is served lightly chilled and has a serious depth of flavor that is largely not seen in American sweet reds. This is a good wine to go with BBQ and lightly spiced dishes. I am also quite fond of their Cherry wine. God is this good! Slightly dry, with a big, round cherry flavor, I love it with chocolate desserts. Husband loves their Laughing Cat Riesling.

            This is just the tip of the iceburg with Colorado Wines. These wineries I just described lie in the Grande Valley AVA, and I haven't even talked about any of the wineries in the West Elks AVA, which we haven't visited as extensively as the Grande Valley wineries (something we hope to remedy next summer). Colorado is quickly becoming know as a premium wine region, and I hope this continues! It's very exciting to see and experience what's going on in Colorado wine country.