When listing wine producers, the names Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Sonoma come to mind. But, a new wine region is quickly making a name for itself, and it is found right here in Colorado. Grand Valley AVA (primarily Grand Junction and Palisade) is home to 80% of Colorado’s grape source. The high desert climate, fertile soil, sunny weather, and water access from the Colorado River make the perfect conditions to grow grapes. Palisade is best known for its cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc grapes.
The Million Dollar Breeze
A light breeze that some locals affectionately call the ‘million dollar breeze’ is constantly moving through the canyon and Palisade. Palisade has a lot of close protection from the bookcliffs, Grand Mesa, and Palisades, which help maintain temperature. But the breeze keeps flowing throughout the valley as there is less protection, and it keeps things from freezing.
Palisade is at 4,500 to 4,900 feet in elevation, making it a ‘high desert climate.’ “We have superb quality grapes that are grown in this area because of our climate because we have the heat, we have the higher elevation, and that changes the dynamics of the grape,” Jenne Baldwin, a viticulturist for Colorado Mesa University, said. “So when mother nature allows it, we can make a very high-quality product.”
With time, the Palisade wine industry is continuing to grow, more wineries are opening, winemakers are learning the specialties of growing certain grapes in Palisade and which varieties thrive best in the valley, and the wine improves every year! Several of our wineries earned awards in the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, including two wines from Carlson Vineyards and Sauvage Spectrum.
“The thing about our grape growers and winemakers here in Palisade,” Baldwin said, “is they have a passion for what they do, and they’re going to put out the best product. They’re not all focused on the same product, they’re trying different things. So you’re going to see a lot of diversity in wine styles or even grape varieties. And you’re really going to be able to taste what that winemaker wanted to showcase.”