While there is no bad time to visit Palisade (especially when we’re all about the 300+ plus days of sunshine Colorado has to offer), their peak season usually lasts from May to October, especially “August and September during peach and grape harvest,” says Ian Kelley, General Manager of Wine Country Inn. During that time, wine tasting is a must, but you can also hike, bike, and enjoy the river. Kelley adds, “our location really lends itself to a relaxing destination, away from the hustle and bustle.”
What sets Colorado grapes apart from other wines you’ll find throughout the United States is the high altitude at which they grow and ripen. “High altitude [and] (more intense) sunshine ripens grapes faster and more evenly,” explains Richard Turley, Owner of Colorado Cellars Winery. The warmer days and cooler nights, called a diurnal shift, allow for acid retention in grapes, which is essential, Turley adds. While the altitude and weather are helpful in growing grapes, they can also be hurtful.
As Garrett Portra, Owner and Winemaker of Carlson Vineyards, tells us, the river irrigates the dry soil, but the vines can struggle between the dry climate and alkaline soil. “As an industry, we are relatively young and still learning the grapes that thrive here. […] It is a very exciting time in our industry as we are using knowledge found by the pioneers of the industry to produce better grapes each year,” says Portra.
Only a four-hour drive from Denver, Palisade is the perfect getaway for a long weekend. You can leave on a Friday and enjoy 36 hours of wine and whatever else you fancy before leaving to return for work on Monday. “The majority of guests sat for 2-3 nights when coming to visit the local wineries,” says Cameron Campbell-Wilson, owners of Palisade River Ranch. Kelley echoes that statement “The length of stays vary significantly, but the average would be three days.” While the length of your stay can obviously be longer, if you’re looking to get a taste of the Palisade, three days would be a perfect start.
To start your long weekend, the best time to arrive would be Friday afternoon or early evening. You’ll beat the rush of people leaving for the weekend and get in with enough time to enjoy happy hour and dinner (or even a winery if you’re just really ready for that). You can enjoy your Friday night by walking around downtown Palisade and getting a feel for the town. And with places like Palisade River Ranch or Wine Country Inn to stay, your weekend will get off to a great, relaxing start.
After settling in the previous night, today is a great day to get your wine on. (Obviously, make sure you have a plan for who is going to drive and that you keep hydrated – we’re all about safe drinking here!) You can start with breakfast in downtown Palisade at Slice O’ Life Bakery, where they use local ingredients in their recipes.
There are plenty of wineries to enjoy, so you won’t be lacking in places to stop at, but make sure you double-check whether or not you need an appointment for wine tasting at certain places. And with each winery comes a variety of wines to choose from. You can’t go wrong with any wine you try, but some wines to watch out for. “Right now Riesling, Cab Franc, and Lemberger do extremely well for us and create beautiful wines,” says Portra, Owner, and Winemaker of Carlson Vineyards. When you’re out tasting, it’s a must to visit Colorado Cellars Winery – Colorado’s oldest winery founded in 1978. If you’re looking to try some other local alcohol, there’s Palisade Brewing Company (which also has great food) as well as Peach Street Distillers.
If you’re still feeling the effects of yesterday’s touring and drinking, Sunday would be a great time to explore more of the outdoor activities that Palisade has to offer. You can float in the river, hike, and walk some trails such as the Colorado Riverfront Trail or the Mount Garfield Trail, or you can bike. “Many come to enjoy the fantastic mountain bike trails the Western Slope has to offer, road biking on the Palisade Fruit [&] Wine Byway, and visiting all of the local farm shops for fresh produce,” says Campbell-Wilson.
The Byway can be driven if biking isn’t your thing (if you’re planning to make a lot of purchases and need room to store them), but whatever your mode of transportation, you’re in for good food and wine and great views. Along the Byway you can stop at wineries, see the vineyards, and stop at fruit stands (perfect for getting snacks for the drive home).
Visiting Palisade, Colorado is a great weekend activity for wine lovers and those looking to learn more about Colorado wine. And really, what’s better than supporting local Colorado winemakers and enjoying the beauty of the state?
If you’re interested in taking a Palisade tour with Mile High Wine Tours, contact us here! And in the meantime, if you’d like to try some wines made from Palisade grapes before you can take your long weekend, join us for a tour!