How to Spend a Day in Colorado's Wine Country

Picture yourself standing in the shade of orchards lined with perfect rows of grapevines. The late afternoon sun is peering over the mountains, warming grapes as it highlights their deep jewel tones. The air smells clean and fresh as you inhale and relax. You’re surrounded by friends, some old, some new, in a vineyard made up of generations of vines cultivated over time to produce award-winning wine. In your hand is a cool glass filled with a masterful libation of wine made not 20 feet from where you’re standing. And you’re not in California. You’re in Palisade, Colorado’s Wine Country.  

 
 
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A unique climate is created by the heat that radiates from the towering Book Cliffs, cool nights, and water from the Colorado River. These elements combine to create the perfect environment for growing produce rich in flavor. Palisade peaches, plums, apples, apricots, and cherries flourish here. And of course, grapes thrive which is why 27 wineries are producing varietals from Riesling to Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier.

That many choices can make planning a day in Wine Country exciting, yet overwhelming. Where does one get started? How do you pick which wineries to visit, how do you get from place to place, how do you fit everything in to make sure you don’t miss out on anything? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few suggestions to help you start planning your Colorado’s Wine Country excursion.

 
 
 
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We are going to break this down into varying amounts of time, so you can customize your route based on what suits you best. No matter how much time you have, one of the most popular modes of transportation for wine tasting is via an e-bike from Rapid Creek Cycles, located right in the heart of Downtown Palisade. This little bike shop has everything you need and their friendly staff will make sure you are cruising in style. Enjoying the beauty of this area from the unobstructed views of a bike adds a whole other element to your adventure, and the quiet electric motors will get you as far as you want to go.

 
 
 
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Two Hours:

From Rapid Creek Cycles, hop on the East Cruiser Loop on the Fruit and & Wine Byway. This scenic five-mile loop runs along the Colorado River towards Colterris Winery. Framed by the Book Cliffs on one side and the Colorado River on the other, it doesn’t get much more scenic than Colterris. The outdoor patio sits in the shade of large elm trees making for an idyllic picnic spot. You’ll also pass several fruit stands along the way so plan to pick up fresh Palisade peaches, apricots, cherries, apples or whatever is in season.

Four Hours:

If you have more time, the West Cruiser Loop along the Fruit & Wine Byway is a perfect option. This seven-mile loop takes you through the picturesque Riverbend Park and passes several different wineries along the way. From Rapid Creek, head north towards the Highway. Your first stop is the largest tasting room in Colorado, Talon Winery and St Kathryn Cellars are at the same location. The large open room is comfortable and relaxed, perfect for enjoying with a group or sharing stories with other guests vacationing in the area. While you’re here, we recommend stocking up on the fresh homemade butter fudge, as a deliciously sweet treat might be just what you need later. Grande River Vineyards and Wine Country Inn are also located right next door, and both make great stops. However, if you wish to continue, hop back on the Byway to resume your scenic tour of this charming town.

Within a few minutes, you’ll come to the next group of wineries: Garfield Estates VineyardsMaison La Belle Vie Vineyards, and Red Fox Cellars. While they all offer spectacular wine, they each have their own distinctly charming personalities. Garfield Estates is a modern barn-style building with a beautiful interior and trendy stone counters, while Maison La Belle Vie maintains a delightfully rustic tasting room with a lovely shaded outdoor patio.  If you’re looking for a comfortable tasting experience surrounded by local art, Red Fox Cellars is a must stop.

 

 
 
 
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Full Day:

If you have a full day and are feeling ambitious, there is no better way to truly get a feel for the majesty of Colorado’s Wine Country than the East Orchard Mesa Loop. This 25-mile loop passes many wineries, dozens of fruits stands and is bursting at the seams with incredible vistas of the valley and the Book Cliffs, including the stoic Mount Garfield.

Along this loop, you have the opportunity to pass 14 different wineries and a variety of fruit stands, depending on the season. You can still make some of the same stops as the other two loops, Grande River, Garfield Estates, Red Fox, but you also have the option to visit other stellar wineries along the way like Mesa Park Vineyards, Colorado Cellars, and Gubbini Winery.

If 25 miles sounds intimidating, remember you’ve treated yourself to an e-bike for the afternoon. You’ll be zipping up hills and cruising from stop to stop with ease. If biking isn’t your cup of tea, you can of course drive, but sip sparingly or arrange for a designated driver.

Better yet, hire someone to do the driving. Check out A Touch With Class Limousine for winery tours, or visit Absolute Prestige Limousine to be pulled around like royalty in a horse-drawn carriage. If you’re looking for something completely different and unique, an afternoon with Centennial Canoe might be perfect for you. Enjoy an afternoon floating the calm Colorado River, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife like bald eagles, herons, and deer as you enjoy local wine along the way.

 
 
 
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Keep in mind that there is more to Palisade than just wine. Aside from the 27 wineries, Palisade is also home to Palisade Brewing Company, Peach Street Distillers, and Talbott's Cider Company, which means that no matter what you're looking to taste, you'll find the perfect match here. Palisade has a comfortable and historic downtown, where the streets are lined with artisan shops, galleries, restaurants and bakeries. No matter how much time you have, or how you slice it, a day in Colorado's Wine Country is a memorable one.