The history of Colorado winemaking goes all the way back to the late 1800’s to early 1900’s when European settlers brought their viticulture tradition with them. During that time, the grape harvest had nearly doubled in pounds making the prospects of winemaking that much riper (pun definitely intended). However, that all came to a screeching halt when Colorado decided to adopt Prohibition in 1916. Though the prohibition ended in 1933 (thank you, 21st Amendment!), it wasn’t until 1968 when the first modern winery was founded. Dr. Gerald Ivancie (a practicing dentist) opened this winery in his cellar. Dr. Ivancie hired an aspiring winemaker, Warren Winiarski, and per their suggestion, grapes started being planted in and around the Grand Valley area.
By the mid 1970’s, Colorado State University participated in a federal study that reviewed vineyards and grape viability in the four corners. It was this research that helped push Colorado winemaking industry to where it is today. In 1978, Colorado Mountain Vineyards opened and produced its first bottle using Colorado grapes. From then on, the Colorado wine movement only moved forward.
The climate the grapes are growing in is different than most found in the world. Many of the wineries are at least 4,000 feet above sea level, making our wineries here some of the highest in the world. Because of this, the grapes are growing in places that have cooler nights and warmer days, which allows them to mature fully and retain their acids. That being said, the altitude does cause a problem as it limits the growing season; Colorado has around an 180 day growing season as oppose to a 230 day season in Napa Valley, California.
Today, Colorado has over 100 wineries, all boasting a number of varietals. Wines that can be found at local Colorado wineries range from Chardonnay to Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling to Rose to Sauvignon Blanc. From the Central Front Range on west, there is no shortage of wineries to enjoy, and marvel at just how far this state has taken its love for wine.
Fortunately for us here at Mile High Wine Tours, we get to work with some of these amazing wineries in the urban area and appreciate that Colorado wine. If you’re looking to learn more about these wines (and taste them, of course), then we highly recommend you take a tour with us and discover the magic.