Wine Your Way Through NoCo

Although Northern Colorado is considered the Napa Valley of beers, when it comes to the vine, Colorado is holding its own. The best growing area is on the Western Slope near Palisades but there is an increasing number of vineyards on the northeast side of Colorado. The Western Slope has many traditional varieties such as Cab Sav and Merlot, and the Cab Francs are outstanding.  This is a must do trip if you love wine.

For NoCo, the varietals in our area tend to be cold hardy varieties such as Marquette and Marechal Foch, but the local vintners are making very respectable wines from Western slope grapes.

If you love wine,  we can accommodate your passion. If you come and visit here are several options for you:

Spero Winery – Ig you are driving through Denver at some point in your travels, you definitely want to make a stop at Spero Winery. About 75% of their wines use Western Slope grapes with the remaining coming from California. The owners are Sicilian and expert winemakers. All the wines are aged to some degree before selling. They offer at least 15 different wines. Our favorites were the Cab Franc and Sangiovese – both using Colorado grapes. The wine is also reasonably priced!

Ten Bears Winery – This is a nice gem of a winery on the northern side of Fort Collins on Hwy 287. The winery has several acres of grapes used for their Estate blend but the 90% of their wine uses Colorado grapes.  Take some cheese and crackers, enjoy the reasonably priced tasting and the view of the foothills in the distance!

10 bears lisa

10 bears tasting.jpg

Blue Mountain Winery –  This is a super little winery in Berthoud, about 30 miles south of Fort Collins. It makes a wonderful afternoon activity. There are eight wines in the tasting which includes a stroll through the beautiful gardens that have a view of the mountains. Reservations are required as there are limited scheduled group tastings on the weekend. The vintner uses primarily high-quality California grapes with a few from the Western Slope. A microbiologist by trade, he has a gift and a nose for making excellent wines.

blue mountain winery mountain view

Front Range Wine Fest – If you come for a visit in August, be prepared to go to the Front Range Wine Fest!  It’s the third Saturday in August! There are over 30 Colorado wineries represented from both sides of the slopes. As with most wines, some are marginal and some are outstanding. This is where we discovered Spero Winery!

If you enjoy wine with meals, there are several options to pair a wonderful dinner with a satisfying wine.

Origins Pizza – This Neopolitan style pizzeria is owned by two sommeliers, so you know your wines are going to be outstanding. There are usually four casked wines – two whites and two reds and a great representation of other varietals and blends by the glass or bottle. The food is outstanding as well.

Mary’s Lake Lodge – If you are planning a day in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, we highly recommend a late lunch/early dinner at Tavern 1929 at Mary’s Lake Lodge. The building erected in 1913 has earned its place on the State Register of Historic Properties for its unique character. While you dine, you will have a fantastic view of the mountains and can enjoy not only house brews but house wines as well. They have a short but excellent wine list but it is the pours that make it unique. We call them the Mary’s Lake Pour.

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Farmer’s Markets

Driving across the Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins, one can see many, many old farm houses. Some are dilapidated and vacant. Some are still occupied. Still others are transformed into working farms, businesses or incorporated into a new subdivision as a club or activity house. Our own subdivision, Nelson Farm, was a successful dairy farm.  As a transplant, I have this grandiose vision of how beautiful it must have been in the early 20th century for a farmer with a view of the Rocky Mountains. Although many farms are now gone or gobbled up by subdivisions, the spirit of “farm to plate” is still strong and the entrepreneurial spirit of handmade and homegrown goods from goat’s milk soaps to farm-raised tilapia under hydroponic greens brings a new century of farming to the area.

Outdoor Farmer’s Markets are available from June through at least September. 2015 was particularly mild so the markets were open through October. In the summer, there are three to choose from but the most popular is the Saturday market downtown. We tend to shop at the Sunday market that is about a mile from our house. In the winter, the market is in the Opera House. Some vendors are there only in the winter. Some sell at both.

I was pleasantly surprised with the winter market – winter vegetables, mushrooms, cheese galore, a Greek olive oil vendor, several bakers and an assortment of crafters. The winter Saturday market has a variety of vendors, from the Blue Mountain Winery in Berthoud to fresh mushrooms, pastas, breads sauces, along with the usual produce. One of my favorites was Turned Silks. The crafter repurposes sweaters into cool wearable art. An intriguing finds at the winter market was Quatrix which offers beautiful lettuce and herbs and tilapia grown in an aquaponic environment.

If you visit between June and October, summer’s bounty will be at its peak!

More information in case you were curious:

John Nelson, one of the region’s first and most successful dairy farmers, immigrated with his wife in 1871 from Ayrshire, Scotland, to the Fort Collins area. He purchased 240 acres just 3 1/2 miles southeast of town, near the present intersection of Lemay and Swallow, and built a house and planted wheat and oats. There was only prairie stretching in all directions. Some believe the grasshopper plague of 1874-1876 persuaded Nelson to switch to dairying. He brought the first herd of registered Jersey cows into Larimer County. This was the county’s first dairy business, and some historians say it was the first in the state. Building on Nelson’s success, other farmers began dairying operations as well. In the 20th century, a number of local dairies operated profitably, as milk production has remained an important industry. In addition to his dairy operation, Nelson also raised Clydesdale horses for a time. Around 1880, he built a sandstone milk house which has been preserved and is all that remains of the farm.