By Simone FM Spinner, Sommeliers Choice Awards
Harvest season is early in Colorado and farmers try to beat wildfires, drought, and frost before their crops are lost. Water is scarce in the West Elks and Grand Valley AVA’s, and this year, even more so. Yet, Colorado wine country is receiving a lot of press. Just this month, Colorado wine country was featured in Food & Wine and Decanter magazines. In the past year, various Colorado wineries have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vintner Project, Wine Enthusiast, Vinography, and Wine Spectator, just to name a few influential media outlets shining a light on Colorado’s hidden gem. Great wine!
The West Elks AVA region nods to the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains particularly toward the Bay of Biscay in Basque Country, which is also known for its tangy, racy white wines and roses.
Just before you reach Snowmass and Aspen, take a right at Carbondale, and drive along Highway 133 over the gorgeous McClure Pass dropping down into the North Fork valley below. Explore the Paonia Reservoir before dropping down into the gorgeous North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River below.
There you will find Paonia and Hotchkiss, otherwise known as the West Elks AVA (American Viticultural Area). The West Elks AVA is hitting the national stage with a vengeance. As one of the highest wine regions in the world, West Elks is home to some of Colorado’s finest vineyards and most innovative wineries. West Elks has short growing seasons punctuated by powerful high altitude Rocky Mountain sunshine. Cool climate grapes like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, St. Vincent, and Chardonnay thrive here producing aromatic and racy wines with balance, body, and fantastic acidity.
Former restaurant sommeliers now winemakers, Jayme Marie Henderson and Steve Steese helm one of the most promising wineries in the region, The Storm Cellar. The pair produces exceptionally well-crafted, award-winning white and rosée wines from their vineyards on the precipice of a mountain.
The Storm Cellar is one of the highest altitude vineyards and wineries in the world and likely the highest in North America.
Jack Rabbit Hill Farm & Winery
Jack Rabbit Hill Makes low-intervention wines that express the terroir of the West Elks.
Qutori specializes in Pinot Noir but produces Chardonnay and bourbon barrel-aged wines.
Alfred Eames Cellars produces high elevation red and white wines and some of the best Colorado Pinot Noir to be found.
Stone Cottage Cellars
Stone Cottage Cellars is devoted to the West Elks terroir and classic varietals: Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.