PALISADE, Colo. - Known as Colorado’s wine country, Palisade is home to over 25 wineries and vineyards. Located in the Grand Valley next to the Colorado River, Palisade has also played host to one of the nation’s most popular wine festivals, Colorado Mountain Winefest, for the past 30 years.
Though most wineries in the area got their start in the last 30 years, farmers were growing grapes in the Palisade area as early as the 1900s, when farmers would ship their grapes back east for home winemakers.
“In fact, the extreme eastern end of the Valley, the east of the town of Palisade, that area is known as Vineland, because that’s where the vines were back then. But prohibition killed that. Those were all torn out and orchards were planted. If prohibition had not taken place, I think the vineyards would have stayed here and eventually someone would have started a winery using the grapes that they were growing at that time,” says Richard Turley, co-owner of Colorado Cellars.
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In 1974, Colorado State University started the Four Corners Project, which distributed grapes to farmers throughout the Four Corners region of Colorado to see if they could successfully grow grapes in that area. Needless to say, the project was a success. One of these original vineyards is planted in front of Colorado Cellars, which is also the first winery in Colorado to make wine from Colorado grown grapes, fruit and honey.
“I think now people are thinking of Colorado as a wine country. We’ve competed against international wines from around the world and done well,” says Turley.
There are many ways to enjoy Colorado wine country, but Turley suggests residents and tourists take a full weekend to explore Palisade.
“Most people come on a weekend. Many of them bring bikes. [There are] bike paths, there’s an actual winery tour with signs that take them from winery to winery. But I would think a two-day trip would be about right to try things out. Drive over, take the afternoon to taste wines, and then come back the next day, pick a different winery and try again,” says Turley.