Get to know the Colorado terroir and history of the wine region in United State’s 38th state.
The Colorado wine country is one that all wine lovers – and outdoor enthusiasts – should explore. Not only is there a lot sip, but Colorful Colorado has a bright wine history to pour into.
Understanding the Colorado Wine Country
Colorado has some of the highest elevations of vineyards – not just in the United States, but the entire world! Argentina is the only wine region that has a higher elevation than Colorado. Most of the vineyards in the state are between 4,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level. The state’s warm days, cool nights and low humidity paired with high elevation is a perfect match for viticulture. Producing big, bold fruit for wines.
TOP GRAPE VARIETIES
White Wine Grape
Red Wine Grape
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
If a wine is designated with the name of an American Viticultural Area (AVA), federal regulations require 85% or more of the wine is derived from grapes grown within the boundaries of that AVA and that the wine is fully finished within the AVA. Some states have stricter laws regarding the amount of grapes required in the wine.
There are only two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Colorado – the West Elks AVA and Grand Valley AVA.
The Grand Valley AVA runs along the Colorado River between Palisade and Grand Junction. Grand Valley, is the larger of the two and home to the town of Palisade, is considered the heart of the Colorado wine region.
The West Elks AVA runs along the North Fork of the Gunnison River between Paonia and Hotchkiss. Both of Colorado’s wine regions are fairly close to one another.
These two areas which neighbor one another are also home to the famous Colorado peaches and fruit orchards. When it comes to wine, the two AVA’s makeup 100+ commercial wineries that produce 90 percent of Colorado’s wine.
There are also a few non-AVA wine regions in Colorado, including Manitou Springs, Canon City, Pikes Peak, Durango, and the Four Corners region. In other words, a third AVA might be in the works…
Colorado is blessed with warm days, cool nights and low humidity. This combined with some vineyards at high elevation – some of the worlds highest (4,000-7,000) – pairs perfectly for viticulture. The state’s two AVA’s are also home to Colorado’s famous peaches, fruit orchards and roadside fruit stands.
The History of Colorado’s Wine Scene
George A. Crawford, who later became the Colorado Governor was the founder Grand Junction. He was the first one to see the Grand Valley’s potential for grape production and planted 60 acres of vines on Rapid Creek above Palisade, along the Colorado River. In 1890, wine production in Colorado was born. Like all states within the U.S. production came to a screeching halt in 1920 when Prohibition took effect.
It wasn’t until 1977 the Colorado General Assembly enacted the Colorado Limited Winery Act to permit small “farm wineries.” Wine production in Colorado had been reborn. Today, Colorado is home to 100+ wineries.