The High Vineyards of Colorado

12 · 08 · 17

By Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen, Wine Enthusiast, June 5, 2017

While many know the mountains of Colorado for outdoor sports and hikes, few know that the high-altitudes and sunlight can benefit vineyards as well.

It was Dr. Gerald Ivancie, a periodontist, who ushered in the modern era of Colorado winemaking, opening his namesake winery in 1968. The first wines were made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes shipped from California. His winemaker, Warren Winiarski, went on to greater fame at the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” tastings with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

Today, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Riesling are the top-planted varieties, with most premium grapevines planted from 4,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. The state boasts the highest-elevation appellation in the states, the West Elks American Viticultural Area (AVA)…

“While the high-elevation vineyards present significant challenges to the grape grower, those same elevations offer the winemaker unique and very desirable wine characteristics,” says Brent Helleckson, owner of Stone Cottage Cellars in Paonia, noting that the combination of elevation and intense sunlight allows grapes to “easily accumulate sufficient sugar in almost any year…”

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