I recently received an invitation to join a class about Colorado wine, led by a local Master Sommelier. Since I pulled a wine from Palisade from my stash not too long ago, I thought it fortuitous and jumped on the opportunity.
Although some of the information was familiar to me, I’m happy to share some top highlights for those interested in Colorado’s wine history (which goes back a bit further than you may think).
- 2 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in the state: Grand Valley and West Elks; other wine areas include Montezuma Valley and the Front Range
- 110 licensed wineries over 700 producing vineyard acres
- 3.8 tons per acre = average grape yield in 2019; this equals approximately 2.33 million liters, or 259,000 cases of wine
- 2015 = the year the dreaded phylloxera louse was first observed in Colorado vineyards; so far, it’s only the non-flying variety, but still serious
Colorado Viticultural Facts:
- Benefits from a dry climate and a high diurnal range, meaning we have fewer issues with mold and fungus
- Cold winters mean fewer problems with pests year-round, so much lower use of pesticides in general
- Many geographical features in Colorado assist with viticulture throughout the state, including mountains, rivers, plateaus and prairie
- Most popular grapes grown in Colorado include Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Colorado’s Abbreviated Wine History:
- 1883: Earliest documentation of grapes in the state
- 1909: US Census recorded 1 million pounds of grapes from about 1000 farms statewide
- 1919: Prohibition ruins everything; vines are ripped out to make room for more profitable fruits such as cherries, peaches and apples
- 1973: First grape plantings post-Prohibition in Colorado
- 1978: First commercial wine from Colorado released by Jim & Anne Seewald of Colorado Mountain Vineyards (’twas a Riesling)
While most of my Colorado wine experience has come from the Grand Valley (which includes Palisade), I’m looking forward to exploring West Elks and further to the southwest for more hidden gems!
Thanks for reading, everyone! Work has taken over my life quite a bit lately, but fun food projects lay ahead very soon.