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Colorado wine: travel guide plus 10 top bottles worth seeking out

Through a series of guides, Katie Kelly Bell explores five under-the-radar US wine states that are exciting and dynamic places to visit. In this instalment she reveals the best wineries, restaurants and hotels to visit, while Stacy Slinkard selects 10 Colorado wines to look out for.

High in elevation and anchored by the visually stunning Grand Mesa, the largest flat-top mountain in the world, western Colorado wine country is a study in superlatives.

The state has two official AVAs, Grand Valley and West Elks, which range in elevation from 1,200m-2,100m, making them among the highest vineyards in the world. Indeed, Colorado’s high desert has captivating scenery but it tends to be overshadowed by the deluxe appeal of the state’s many ski towns.

See also: travel guides for Idaho, Texas, North Carolina and Michigan

Here, close to the Utah border, you’ll find fewer tourists, more locals, the world’s second-largest concentration of geologic arches (Rattlesnake Canyon), and plenty of award-winning wine.

Colorado wine travel guide

The Colorado River flows through the Grand Valley AVA, credit www.coloradowine.com

Colorado’s climate

With a truncated growing season, unpredictable weather patterns and dramatic diurnal temperature changes (upwards of 10°C), many vintners describe winemaking here as a challenging adventure.

‘We never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us. You can’t set a clock by nature’s whim the way you can in California wine country,’ explains Kevin Webber, co-founder of Carboy Winery, one of Colorado’s largest wineries.

The Grand Valley’s arid, high-elevation setting has soils that tend to be more alkaline than those of Napa, yielding wines that taste more Old World than New World.

What grapes are grown?

Syrah, Viognier and other Rhône varieties fare well in Grand Valley, as do Bordeaux grapes, especially Cabernet Franc.

Colorado wine travel guide: where to stay & eat

In Grand Junction, locals love Bin 707 Foodbar, where chef/owner Josh Niernberg (a 2020 James Beard Best Chef Mountain Region semi-finalist), serves up fresh, inspired Colorado cuisine from the best local provisions he can source.

Hotel Maverick is a new, nicely appointed upscale hotel located on the campus of Colorado Mesa University. It offers a rooftop restaurant, and easy access to wine trails.

In the small, unassuming town of Palisade, Pêche is an exquisite culinary discovery, serving simple and fresh ingredients, artfully prepared. Try the Thai fried chicken paired with Storm Cellar Riesling and finish the meal with a portion of its marvellous rhubarb cheesecake.

For an overnight stay in Palisade, Spoke & Vine is a brilliantly renovated motel that offers a hip, friendly, no-fuss vibe. The owners take pride in the good coffee, plush beds and being pet-friendly, so leave any pretensions at the door.

Stacy Slinkard’s top 10 Colorado wines

Related content:

Washington State wineries to visit

American wine tour ideas

California’s San Luis Obispo Coast for wine lovers

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