When you think of American wine, you think of California and the Napa Valley. But today, we were in the Palisade region of Colorado, just outside of Grand Junction, in the most beautiful patchwork of wineries, interspersed with orchards of fruit, like apples, pears, peaches and plums.
We had spent the morning exploring Grand Junction’s pristine main shopping street and had lunch on the sidewalk, outside of a retro, 50’s-style diner.
But Grand Junction is the hub of Colorado’s wine country – our map was dotted with vineyards and orchards and we had set out to find them, driving along the Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway, which zig-zags its way between Grand Junction and Palisade along the line of the Colorado River.
We stopped at Mesa Park Vineyard first and the owner came out to meet us as we arrived.
This was Laura and she showed us into the Tasting Room, presenting us with a menu of wines to choose from. Laura and her husband had only been here since January this year and she talked of how different life had been since they took on the vineyard. The grapes were being harvested now, which was a busy and tiring time. There were some nine or ten wines to taste and I set about the task diligently in the knowledge that Rachel would drive me home safely later. As we chatted, Laura kept presenting her wine samples and I kept up the hard work of tasting. We bought a bottle of rather expensive Merlot, and sat in the garden in the sun with Darryl – Laura’s dog – prostrated at our feet and watched Laura’s husband preparing crates for the harvest.
Before we left, Laura recommended other wineries and orchards to visit along the road and we set off to find them.
Z’s Orchard was the next stop. Before we had even parked the car, Angelica was stood with arm outstretched holding a plate of sliced peaches for us to try and invited us in. She produces all sorts of fruit and vegetables, selling them locally and direct to the public here in her shop.
Before we moved on she brought us plums to sample and we bought some enormous peaches for breakfast.
We lost count of the number of wineries and orchards we passed along the way but we ended up in Talbott’s Cider Farm – another recommendation of Laura’s.
Outside was a black limousine and we expected to find a large and very rowdy group inside. Instead, there was only a man and woman sat at the tasting room bar. We joined them, ordered a flight of cider and began chatting. This was David and Katherine from Denver and the limousine was theirs. It was their silver wedding anniversary and they were being chauffeured around the wineries, tasting and buying to their hearts content. We spent a very happy hour chatting and laughing, being fed an array of ciders and talking about the many things we had in common, while their poor chauffeur waited outside in the 90 degree heat.
By now, the wine and cider was taking effect and it was time to leave: my own chauffeur was standing at the ready. We exchanged email addresses with our new friends and watched them glide away in their black limo. Rachel bundled me into our black SUV and drove me safely home. I remember very little after that until I awoke in time for a visit to Red Lobster for dinner and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio – will I never learn?