DeBeque Canyon Winery stands beneath the shadow of Grand Mesa, where dry sunny days, a high altitude and cool evening breezes help contribute rich, unique flavors to its wines. Nearby, the Colorado River emerges from the narrow twisted confines of DeBeque Canyon into the broad, verdant Grand Valley of Western Colorado.
In the early 1980s, Bennett Price and his wife, Davy, were among a small group who pioneered the Colorado wine industry. A geologist by education and profession, Bennett had a long history of making his own wines.
"Bennett grew up on a farm and made homemade wine as a teenager," Davy recalls. "He got in a little trouble for that, but it foretold what was to come."
Davy says grapes were first grown in the Colorado area at the turn of the 20th century, when European immigrants brought them in. The Prices were shareholders in Colorado Mountain Vineyard in the early 1980s and purchased their own land after the Four Corners Agricultural Research Project identified the region as a ripe one for vineyard production.
Several years later, they moved to Palisade, where they started their own plantings and began experimenting with various varietals.
"In an effort to learn more about trellising, we made a couple of trips to California and brought back lots of ideas," Davy recalls. Soon they were providing hardware and expertise to other Colorado vineyards. Bennett also worked with other owners to identify the best locations for specific varietals and was contracted to start new vineyards as well.
After years of hard work, DeBeque Canyon Winery was licensed and bonded in 1997 and soon started gathering awards at wine competitions for their full-flavored red and white varietals. Davy cites the Claret as their flagship wine.
"It's a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot. It ages well; Bennett leaves it in the barrel quite a while. It's a complex wine."
Davy describes their popular Gerwurztraminer as: "A spicy German wine, neither in the sweet style nor a traditional Alsace style. We age in oak about one year. There's just a hint of sweet. It's especially wonderful for holiday meals -- turkey or ham; also curry dishes."
Other award-winning vintages include Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
To increase awareness and appreciation of the unique characteristics of their individual wines, Debeque Canyon and seven other wineries formed the Grand Valley Winery Association. The Grand Valley is the oldest and largest American Viticulture Area (AVA) in Colorado.
"We want people to realize the grapes are grown right here," Davy says.
"Barrel into Spring" is the association's signature event, an annual spring weekend offering participants an opportunity to discover wines in the making and sample wine and food pairings at eight participating wineries.
Armed with a barrel tasting "Passport" and souvenir wine glass, guests visit each winery at their own pace for two days of going behind-the-scenes to learn the complexities of wine making and sipping the first samplings from last fall's harvest. Wineries also offer event participants a 15% discount on wine purchases made during the event.
The winery's tasting room welcomes visitors to sample their creations year-round. On warm days a shaded outdoor deck is an ideal location for a picnic lunch, glass of wine and panoramic views of bluffs, mesa, vineyards and valley. The rural setting also entices cyclists to spend a day pedaling along the back roads with frequent winery stops.
"After living in cities, what I liked best is that it's not crowded," Davy adds. "I love it. It's a comfortable place to live."
DeBeque Canyon Winery is located at 144 Kluge St., Building #2 in Palisade. The tasting room is open daily, except on major holidays. For more information, call 970-464-0550 or visit www.debequecanyonwinery.com.
Details and reservation information for the annual Spring Barrel Tastings are available at www.grandvalleywine.com.