The Best Colorado Wineries to Visit Right Now | Wine Enthusiast
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The Best Colorado Wineries to Visit Right Now

Elevation is everything in Colorado. The state boasts an average altitude of about 6,800 feet above sea level, making it the highest contiguous state in the United States. It follows that wineries in the Centennial State are similarly elevated—in both the literal and figurative sense. Colorado has long been associated with craft beer, but over the last decade, the region’s vineyards have earned notable accolades. Now, a united effort by the state’s winemakers to navigate challenges and elevate—pun intended—their offerings seems to be paying off.  

“We can afford to be innovative because we’re not pigeonholed,” says Barbie Graham, sommelier and tasting room supervisor at Carboy Winery, which has tasting rooms across the state. “It really allows winemakers to focus on terroir.” 

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For the state’s vineyards, go west. Grand Junction is a gateway for Colorado’s two AVAs—Grand Valley and West Elks—and is only an hour’s flight from Denver. Palisade alone has more than 30 wineries hemmed in by looming mesas and cliffs and fed by the Colorado River. The West Elk Mountains are just an hour away.  

With so much mountainous terrain to cover, choosing where to visit can be tricky. For advice, we turned to industry professionals for the best winery experiences from the Front Range to the Western Slope. 

Palisade and the Grand Valley 

Carboy Winery
Image Courtesy of Geoff Crumbaugh

Carboy Winery 

“Carboy has, in recent years, been making some of the best and most interesting wines in Colorado, hands down,” declares wine writer and critic Alder Yarrow. “[They] are not at all afraid to experiment with unusual grape varieties. Their Teroldego has quickly become one of the wines I look forward to tasting every year.”  

Carboy also has two locations in the Denver area and one in Breckenridge, but the Palisade site was rated 6th “Best Tasting Room” by USA Today in the nation last year. Judges hailed the arresting views of Mount Garfield, which complement Carboy’s diverse lineup that includes everything from Albariño and Viognier to Cabernet Franc and sparkling selections.   

At the lodge-like tasting room, Graham is a font of information and hospitality behind the brass bar. Tastings are five pours for $15, and the Board & Bottle—a bottle of either the house red or white blend with one of the operation’s nosh-filled boards—is a steal at $36. Tastings in Palisade are walk-in only. 

Colterris
Image Courtesy of Colterris

Colterris 

Colterris gets a nod from many producers in the valley for its role in pioneering quality standards. Scott and Theresa High helm this family affair; Yarrow hails its traditional Bordeaux varieties, which sing at the operation’s high altitudes. “Their wines are clean and very well made,” he says. 

Named for the earth of Colorado—its name combines an abbreviation for Colorado, “Col,” with the Latin word for land, “terris”—Colterris’s two tasting rooms fittingly immerse you in the landscape. The winery location sits at the Grand Valley’s canyon mouth and nestles up to the Colorado River. Seating at this location is either outside amidst vineyards, gazing up at the cliffs, or in the intimate Wine Library off the underground Barrel Cave. Meanwhile, the Overlook location showcases panoramic valley views of the location’s vineyards, peach orchards and lavender gardens.  

Colterris offers several experiences, including a reserved seating tasting for $25, tasting in the wine cave for $50 and a cave tasting and tour for $75. Walk-ins are welcome as seating allows.  

Ordinary Fellow
Image Courtesy of Ordinary Fellow

The Ordinary Fellow     

Ben Parsons opened this winery on the site of the historic peach-packing shed with a simple vision: creating a community space with the same conviviality of the English pub that inspired its name. And, of course, making some crush-worthy wine.  

“Ordinary Fellow is making the best Pinot Noir—bang for buck—that I have tasted from extremely high-elevation vineyards,” says Clara Klein, lead sommelier at Denver wine bar Sunday Vinyl and a judge for Colorado Wine’s Governor’s Cup

Part barrel warehouse and part living room, this spacious corrugated-steel shed in the center of Palisade is filled with natural light. Blue and green pops of furniture look like they were thrifted from a cool grandmother’s house. The garage door opens to outdoor seating.  

No reservations are needed Thursday through Monday; Tuesday and Wednesday are by appointment. Tastings offer four pours for $12. Check the calendar for regular events, which include everything from bingo and blind tastings to yoga and cat adoptions to tarot workshops. 

Bookcliff Vineyard
Image Courtesy of Kai Makin Photography

Bookcliff Vineyards  

The shale and sandstone Bookcliffs stack, which rises more than 1,000 feet above the Colorado River, dominates Palisade’s horizon. Bookcliff Vineyards fittingly offers unparalleled views of it, and happily, the wine also delivers. Klein commends the Cabernet Franc; the operation has also snagged prestigious accolades with its Syrah, Graciano and Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Try tasting flights of four selections for $15, alongside artisanal meats and cheeses. Limited indoor seating makes perfect sense when the views from the porch and patio are so enticing. Food trucks and live music stoke up summer fun. No reservations required. 

Bookcliff also has a tasting room on the Front Range in Boulder. The urban winery and production site delivers a barrel-lined tavern vibe. Palisade is open Thursday through Sunday from December through March and every day for the rest of the year; Boulder is open Thursday through Sunday. 

Sauvage Spectrum
Image Courtesy of Sauvage Spectrum

Sauvage Spectrum   

At Sauvage Spectrum’s Palisade vineyard, partners Patric Matysiewski and Kaibab Sauvage produce a range of whites, reds, rosé and sparkling wines with minimal intervention. Yarrow notes their willingness to experiment with pét-nat, the wine-like beverage piquette and off-dry sparklers. “When they get it right, they are among the most interesting and tasty wines made in Colorado,” he says. 

The tasting room, which is also a production space, contrasts metal accents with vivid artwork—including their team-created labels. Out back, a yard kitted out with shade-giving canopies and yard games puts you within feet of the vines.  

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Tasting flights run from $9 to $22 depending on the style and number of pours. Sauvage also serves wine-enhanced cocktails, classic tasting room snacks and velvety cheesecakes.  

Where to Stay: The Wine Inn Country Inn is the perfect base for exploring Palisade. Surrounded by 21 acres of vineyards and five minutes from downtown, it’s an easy drive to anywhere in the valley. The 80-room complex offers tastings, a varied hot breakfast, a pool and spa services.  

What to Eat: Don’t be surprised if every tasting room host in Palisade asks if you have dinner reservations at Pêche. Matthew and Ashley Chasseur’s years of experience in award-winning restaurants—Matthew as chef and Amy as manager—is on full display at this modern American spot, where the menu’s influences hopscotch from Jamaica (jerk chicken with pineapple salsa) to Indian and beyond (naan with hummus). Dishes change often, but you can always count on meticulous attention to detail and precise presentation.

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The West Elk Mountains 

The Storm Cellar
Image Courtesy of The Storm Cellar

The Storm Cellar 

On the other side of the mesa and an hour from Palisade, The Storm Cellar from husband-and-wife sommelier team Steve Steese and Jayme Henderson is a must-stop.  

“Storm Cellar is crushing the Colorado Riesling game,” says Klein. “Also, their rosé expressions—one of Pinot Gris, the other of Pinot Noir—are both crushable and chock-full of nuanced character.”  

Don’t be thrown off by the steep driveway. Perched on a 5,880-foot hilltop, the winery’s expansive outdoor seating is a perfect vantage point for tracing the landscape’s transition from high desert formations to Colorado’s classic peaks. Reservations aren’t required most of the year, but the winery is open only by appointment in the winter.  

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Steese and Henderson also offer years of restaurant experience. Watch the calendar and snag a reservation for one of their Friday Steak Nights, the Summer Asado Dinner with the Forage Sisters and other rustic al fresco meals—all of which include delectable wine pairings.  

Where to Stay: If you want to retreat to the mountains, the Cabins of Grand Mesa in Cedaredge deliver. The intimate, private cabins offer antique touches and full kitchens, while the nine-acre property has hammocks, firepits and a lazy creek. A scenic byway shortcut connects the cabins and local wineries to Palisade. 

Where to Eat: In Paonia, Root and Vine Market slings fresh-roasted espresso and pastries, charcuterie, local bison sliders and pours from Qutori Wines. Take Klein’s recommended Syrah onto the patio for backdrop of vineyards and mountains. 

Denver 

Infinite Monkey Theorem
Image Courtesy of Infinite Monkey Theorem

Infinite Monkey Theorem 

This urban winery leans into its vineyard-less identity in Denver’s River North Art District district. The name winks at the mathematical theorem that creates order out of chaos. As the site says, “When we started in 2008, there was nothing more chaotic than growing grapes at 4,500 feet in Colorado and making wine in a warehouse, in an alley, in a city.”  

Expect tasty wines and an unconventional tasting room experience from this women-led and operated winery. “It feels less like a tasting room and more like a bar, which is quite hip,” says Yarrow.  

Decanter, the winery’s brick and concrete tasting space, is decked out with Persian rugs, mod furniture and a wrap-around bar. Tours and tastings are available by reservation. Swing by for events that in the past have included everything from hat decorating to trivia to an American Sign Language crash course. 

Noble Riot
Image Courtesy of Noble Riot

Noble Riot 

Down the street, an eye-popping art alley houses another top wine bar. Noble Riot’s graffiti-tinted windows belie the moody, wood-paneled ambiance inside. Hand-built by staff, the bar is complemented by blonde wood wine shelves and plush half-moon booths.  

The shelves aren’t just for show—they hold more than 200 bottles, with 20 options by the glass and a range of predetermined flights. There’s a wine to pair, of course, with everything on the menu, which features everything from tinned fish to buckets of fried chicken.  

Beyond the tasting, Noble Riot offers a range of learning opportunities. Classes cover topics like how to saber a bottle, pairing wine with chocolate, soil types and different grape varietals. Class reservations are strongly encouraged.  

Where to Stay: The Oxford Hotel, the first accommodation to open in downtown Denver, in 1891, is still the place to be with understated Victorian elegance. The hotel’s red-hued, Art Deco Cruise Room is a cocktail institution itself, having opened the day after Prohibition was repealed. Peep the space’s wine-bottle layout, which matches that of the bar on the famed retired British ocean liner RMS Queen Mary.  

What to Eat: Just three blocks from Infinite Moneky Theorem is Hop Alley, a Michelin Bib Gourmand-status eatery with family-style Chinese specialties. Tuck into the popular la zi ji fried chicken with dry Sichuan chili spice and wood-grilled octopus. Fans love Hop Alley’s sexy cocktails as much as the cuisine. 

In the Lower Downtown area, Sunday Vinyl mixes fine dining—scallops, truffle butter mushroom risotto, Wagyu strip steaks and more—with records, an extensive wine list and a window into Union Station.