It’s Palisade peach time, so why not consider a trip to Grand Junction and Palisade, Colorado, home of the legendary fruit and a flourishing wine scene with Colorado wine tours?
Legendary Palisade peaches: short history
Colorado Grand Valley’s reputation for outstanding fruit goes back to the turn of the century when President Taft spoke at the first Peach Day festival in Grand Junction. One hundred years later, in 2009, the juicy fruit enticed Michelle Obama to bring the girls to the Grand Valley to pick tree-ripened peaches. Today exceptional Palisade peaches stock the galley of Air Force One—the presidential air limo—since at least the Nixon Administration. Although a mid-April freeze this year decimated 80% of the peaches, you’ll still be able to find peach varieties that survived the frost at roadside stands.
“We will have abundant fruit here in the [Western Slope] for fruit markets and for tourists that come through. That is typically less than 1% of our ultimate crop destination,” says Bruce Talbott, farm manager at Talbott Farms in Palisade in an interview with 303 Magazine. This could mean that the only surefire way to get our Palisade peaches this year is to drive there.
In an area so prime for fruit growing, it is not surprising that winemakers would eventually discover this little spot of heaven, and so can you, once you are ready to travel.
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Colorado Wine Tours
“In this valley, vinifera – grapes from the original European vines – grow very well. We don’t have to rely on highbreds and clones,” says Bob Witham, owner of Two Rivers Winery and Chateau, Grand Junction. “Our wines are in the French style, which is appropriate for this area. The high desert sun sugars up the grape, and cold nights allow them to rest. We say, ‘sugar up and rest, sugar up and rest’ – it gives intense fruit qualities to the wine, but with less acids and nice tannins.” We met Bob on a Colorado wine tour, which we planned with the help of Visit Grand Junction.
Taste award-winning wines during Grand Valley Colorado wine tour
Witham, past president of the Colorado Wine Board, tells how over a decade ago, he serendipitously got into the wine business. “One evening, after sitting around sampling Colorado wine, I asked my family, ‘Why is it that they can carry around Colorado peaches on the presidential airplane and Colorado wine is not so good?’ We continued the conversation the next day. The result of that conversation is this winery,” says Witham standing inside a multi-building complex designed in the style of a French Country manor. After touring Two Rivers barrel room, bed and breakfast and outdoor terraces with views of the Colorado National Monument, I enjoy “always complimentary” tastings of their award-winning wines.
Palisade peach agri-tours are an integral part of your Colorado wine tours
“Estate-grown fruit is my claim to fame,” says Theresa High of High Country Orchards and Vineyards, Palisade. On this fabulous agri-tour, I experience how 40,000 boxes of peaches are sustainably grown, picked and shipped to Whole Foods and other outlets each year. High is a Whole Foods “Featured Farmer,” and her passion for premium products shines through in the carefully manicured grounds, high-tech packaging facility and a solar array that powers the farm and tasting room. It was here that Michelle and her entourage came to pick peaches. I’m taking home some of the same peaches and fruit preserves—like Peach Jalapeno Preserves –that Mrs. Obama did.
Many Palisade peach producers also make Colorado wine - and visa versa
I’m impressed with High’s Bordeaux-style Colterris Cabernet Sauvignon. Scott High, Theresa’s husband, explains that one component to the success of the wine is the Grand Valley’s clay loam soil. “This was once a sea bed. There is also a sub-base of carbon volcanic soil. The key is choosing where to grow,” says Scott High pointing out the surrounding mesas which keep the warm air inside the valley and make this such a splendid place for agriculture.
Colorado wine tours by bike, raft or stretch limo
While in Palisade, rent cruiser bikes with baskets to fill with box lunches from Mumzels’ Crumpets, Cups and Cones. The eatery is located in a building built shortly after President Taft spoke. It’s a leisurely ride from vineyard to orchard to fruit stand. Eat lunch at one of Palisade’s green areas. Here, you’ll find more parks than in any other Colorado town. During COVID, make arrangements to rent bikes online at rapidcreekcycles.com.
Luxury Colorado wine tour
Don’t want to self-power via bicycle? Have a stretch H2 Hummer pick you up at your hotel or bed and breakfast. The 4-7-hour tour includes water, soft drinks and glassware for wines you might buy to enjoy en route to the next winery. Other limo options at Absolute Prestige Limousine include a stretch F-350 Ford pick-up limo and Lincoln Town Cars.
+25 wineries and tasting rooms in the Grand Valley
With over 25 wineries and tasting rooms in the Grand Valley, it’s hard to choose, but each place has its own character. I recommend Carlson Vineyards, making Colorado wines since 1988. “We’ll start to crush cherries on Wednesday,” says pourer Garrett, AKA‘Cellar Rat.’ “Our fruit wine is 100% of the fruit that is on the label. That makes for a lighter and fresher wine than a grape wine that simply has fruit syrup added.” Buy a bottle of the Tyrannosaurus Red crafted from 100% Colorado-grown Lemberger grapes and sit in the shady backyard in deep, wooden Adirondack lawn chairs. The wine is named to commemorate the T-Rex dinosaur bones discovered in the Grand Valley.
Don’t miss Meadery of the Rockies where honey wine meets the cherries, peaches, apples and apricots of the area. Owner Glenn Foster grew up in the wine business when his father founded Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma. “We were glass droppers as children,” laughs Foster referring to the old, labor-intensive bottling methods. Today his state-of-the-art Italian equipment bottles, labels, and seals the wine in seconds. Visitors come from as far away as Japan, and even Emilio Estevez stopped by to taste. Foster also owns two other Palisade wineries: St. Kathryn Cellars and Talon Winery.
After a behind the scenes tour of the Meadery, cool off on a Palisade Wine Country Float Trip. I enjoyed learning about the Bookcliff Mountains and Mount Garfield from the waters of the Colorado River. It’s not the only time I toured wine country by water. Check out my story about kayaking at Finger Lakes Wine Country. For your safety during COVID, you book the whole boat for 4+ persons.
The following day, head to Fruita to view some of those dinosaur bones at the Dinosaur Journey Museum. Or golf in Grand Junction at Redlands Mesa, which Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golfweek consistently rank as one of America’s greatest public golf courses.
Grand Junction accommodations
Grand Junction is a city of 63K people, so there’s a wide range of accommodations available. I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, centrally located in Grand Junction. My stay was complemented by a spacious room and outdoor spa area located next to a canal filled with cool water. Check prices for your dates at Courtyard by Marriott now.
Where is the Grand Valley AVA located?
The Grand Valley AVA is located in and around the cities of Grand Junction and Palisade on the western side of Colorado.
Less than a day drive from Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Denver, the Grand Valley offers an abundance of fun food and wine experiences. I’m going back!
As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
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