Pairing outdoor adventures in Colorado with local wineries made simple.
The state of Colorado is home to more than 80 wineries with the majority located in Palisade, aka The Grand Valley. However, there are several tucked away throughout the state that are producing some stunning wines. One of wineries I wanted to call out that’s not in The Grand Valley is The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Not only are its award-winning wines delicious, but its storied past is a fun history lesson AND it’s located in The Royal Gorge, one of the best places in Colorado to explore.
For those of you wine loving, outdoor adventurers – or those who get dragged along – pairing your Colorado adventure with local wine is something you should totally sip in when exploring Colorado – The Royal Gorge is a perfect spot to do it.
Where is The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is located on the pastoral and serene grounds of The Holy Cross Abbey, nestled against the spectacular backdrop of the Wet Mountains. The Abbey was built in 1886 by two Benedictine monks who came from Pennsylvania to Colorado to establish the Order of St. Benedict Monastery. More on that in a minute… First, I want you to understand WHERE The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey and WHY grapes and wines can be produced here.
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is located in Fremont County, which lies in the shadow of Pikes Peak, which stands at 14,110 feet. The advantage of this location is the protection the towering mountain provides from damaging winter weather. With the Arkansas River running through the area, white water rafters, kayakers and fly-fishing lovers thrive, as do the grapevines and orchards. You see with the river helps to temper the climate, keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This paired with the protection Pikes Peak provide, Fremont County is a little oasis for agriculture. (The nearest cities are Cañon City, Penrose and Colorado Springs.)
The Wines at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
Abbey Winery Owner, Larry Oddo was kind enough to send me a few bottles to sip in. I adore good Colorado wine so to say I was excited to try their award winning 2016 Merlot and 2016 Cabernet Franc would be an understatement. Both wines are amazing and showcase the types of grapes and wines Colorado is producing.
The Story Behind The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
As I mentioned earlier, two Benedictine monks came from Pennsylvania to Colorado to establish the Order of St. Benedict Monastery in 1886. Upon the building’s completion, the monks opened a boarding school and made their first attempts at establishing a winery. For sacramental reasons, of course. But, it didn’t come to fruition at that time.
The school hit its height of popularity in the 1960s, after which enrollment steadily declined until the school was forced to close in 1985. To find a new means of financial income, the Abbey’s remaining 20 monks returned to the idea of establishing a vineyard. In 2000, they entrusted the production to a professional viticulturist who began producing wine the following year.
The winery and tasting room opened to the public in 2002, welcoming visitors to its beautiful and serene Rocky Mountain vineyard. While the winery was up and going, the monks – mostly elderly – voted to dissolve the Abbey in 2005. It closed as a religious Abbey the following year. Today, it’s focus is all wine.
Current owner, Larry Oddo, bought the winery in 2005 and with the help of winemaker Jeff Stultz and tasting room and events manager Sally Davidson, transformed the monks’ winery into the 9,000- to 10,000-case-a-year establishment it is today.
Want to sip wines from The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey but can’t get to the winery? You can order them via their online store or at retailers throughout Colorado.
Fremont County Wine Trail
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is the flagship winery in the Royal Gorge but in October 2019 zoning changes made it easier for small farms in residential agricultural areas to open a limited winery or cidery, bringing the Fremont County Wine Trail to life.
Fremont County Wine Trail is a collection of several local wineries and cideries, all of which sell their bottles locally, and many that offer on-location tastings. At the time of this posting the stops on the trail include The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey as well as Pop’s Vineyard, Legatum Cellars, Western Skies Winery at Jenkins Farms and Apple Valley Cider Co.
Where to Stay
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is located in Colorado’s Royal Gorge Region, two hours southwest of Denver, and about an hour south of Colorado Springs. The Royal Gorge Region is truly an outdoor paradise with an abundance of hiking and biking trails, rafting, rock climbing, and more. With that said, camping is typically THE way to stay in the area.
I’m not a huge camper but if you are, this map lists all the campgrounds in the area. I’ve been told that Temple Canyon is wonderful with easy access to a hike into the canyon. Less primitive camping options include the Riverside Yurts and glamping at Echo Canyon. These last two would likely be my go-to’s. However, if you’re looking to stay more recreational during the day and glam at night, check out The Broadmoor or Cheyenne Mountain Ranch in Colorado Springs. Two of my favorite spots.