DLW 2012 to offer bloggers a look at Western Slope wineries
With all the excitement revolving around the DrinkLocalWine 2012 conference April 28 in Denver, it should be noted that while Denver and the Front Range has some wonderful wineries, the real heart of Colorado wine country is found on the west side of the Continental Divide.
Colorado has two American Viticultural Areas: The Grand Valley, the first and which initially included a handful of wineries within the irrigated lands of the Colorado River (once named the Grand River) valley between Palisade and Grand Junction. Today, the AVA has grown to 24 wineries and many more vineyards in the triangle of Palisade, Whitewater and Grand Junction.
The second (but certainly not secondary) AVA is the West Elk AVA, its 10 wineries scattered along the fruit- and farm-rich valley of the North Fork of the Gunnison River between Hotchkiss and Paonia. The North Fork area also has eight more talented winemakers practicing their craft outside the designated AVA and there are five more wineries in the distant Four Corners area, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico come together.
While much of DLW 2012 will confined to the Denver-area, a handful of writers and bloggers will get first-hand experience of Colorado’s Western Slope wineries during pre-conference and post-conference trips to the Grand Valley and West Elks areas.
Thanks to assistance from the Delta County Tourism Board, the Grand Junction VCB, Colorado Tourism Office, local wineries and even the Governor’s office, a handful of bloggers will get to experience the West Elk AVA wine country in its spring glory. Trips include tours of wineries in the West Elk AVA between Delta and Paonia, including Leroux Creek Vineyards, Alfred Eames Cellars, Stone Cottage Cellars and Jack Rabbit Hill Winery, where owner/winemaker Lance Egan makes organic and biodynamic wines.
Meet the winemakers, tour the vineyards, discuss the challenges of making a world-class wine more than a mile above sea level. The evening will be spent with dinner (and Colorado wine) at the historic and luxurious Smith Fork Ranch, formerly a working cattle ranch and now a luxurious guest ranch virtually at the foot of imposing Needle Rock, a few miles outside of Crawford. Hosts Marley and Linda Hodges this year are marking their 10th anniversary offering first-rate family and couple experiences at their elegant yet low-key ranch.
The next morning, on thie back to Denver, bloggers will see wineries in for the Grand Valley, including Carlson Vineyards and Canyon Wind Cellars. They, and anyone interested in the history of Colorado’s wine industry, would do well to read the extensive and well-researched article here, thanks to Jacob Harkins of Localwino.com.