I’m embarrassed to say that I have never visited Palisade before this year, even though I have lived in Colorado for over 30 years with the majority of that spent in a career in the wine industry. Perhaps you have not put the wine country in Palisade on your travel list, maybe it is because you are not familiar with the wines from the region. If you are a lover of wine and beautiful scenery you must put Palisade in your plans. The quality of the wines and the tourist infrastructure have improved dramatically in recent years. Whether you are travelling from near, or far, you won’t be disappointed.
Palisade is the heart of wine country on the western slope of Colorado, between Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. It is approximately four hours driving west from Denver. You might plan to stop in Breckenridge or Vail on your way. You may also fly into Eagle or Grand Junction. If you have the flexibility to plan your stay during the week, you will avoid the weekend crowds, but some of your favorite places may be closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. If you have more time, consider spending time in Grand Junction or Aspen. It is important to note that there was no grape harvest in Palisade in 2021 due to a severe frost in October of 2020. It is still a good idea to schedule your tasting appointments in advance, though not always necessary on a weekday. Most wineries have a link to schedule a visit on their website.
The following itinerary is for two days in Palisade. All links are live, to make your trip planning easy.
Exiting the highway to Palisade you will notice that you are in one of the most unique places on the planet. You are at the foot of 3 huge mesas: Garfield, Lincoln and the Grand mesa. These features will figure prominently in your photographs and your memories. Arrive mid-day and start your visit with a tasting at Colterris Winery, on the eastern edge of town, you can grab a light lunch while you are visiting (must book in advance). This is one of two tasting rooms for Colterris. The second is called The Overlook and is up high overlooking the Colorado River.). Colterris is one of the few Colorado wineries committed to producing only wines with grapes grown on their estates. There is a beautiful outdoor courtyard surrounded by vineyards.
I do not hesitate to say that Colterris’ wines are among the best in the world at their price point. If you can’t visit the winery, request them at your favorite wine shop. If you are a wine geek like me, try to schedule your visit with the owner, Scott High. You will surely gain knowledge of the region and specific winemaking techniques that you may never have thought about before.
After your visit to Colterris you might have time for a stop at Veraison Vineyards or Debeque Canyon Winery on your way to your accommodations for the evening. Be sure to bring some wine back to enjoy in your room.
There are several styles of accommodations in Palisade to choose from such as an Airbnb, Bed & Breakfast, motel or full-service hotel. In the category of full-service hotel, you will find the Wine Country Inn, an 80-room hotel surrounded by vineyards and tasting rooms with a heated pool and restaurant on-premise. In the category of motel you will find the charming, updated Spoke and Vine motel a newly renovated property located conveniently on Hwy 6 close to numerous wineries. The rooms are styled in industrial-chic are very clean and spacious. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary afternoon wine tasting in the lobby bar. On our visit the featured wines were from Sauvage Spectrum with some novel sparkling offerings. The motel is within walking distance of downtown restaurants and shops. Spoke and Vine is dog-friendly and breakfast is included too.
If you are looking for a fine meal in downtown Palisade, be sure to reserve a table at Peche, which is fully booked most nights. The menu is small and very eclectic. Don’t be afraid to try a cuisine that is new to you. Every item is well-executed by chef/owner Matt Chasseur. Not all restaurants are open daily, so be sure to check hours in advance.
It is one of the most compact and convenient wine regions, with several options for transportation. You can drive short distances to each tasting room, ride a bicycle, use a pedicab driver or take a horse and carriage. Be sure to have a designated driver if you are driving. Today you will visit wineries within a short distance of the town center. Start at the foot of the Grand Mesa at BookCliff Vineyards, the name of the game here is variety. Among the vineyards managed by John and Ulla are 14 different grape varietals, some rarely planted in the U.S. This is another winery that prides itself on Colorado-grown grapes.
For your next stop choose from the wild west-style Vines 79 or Sauvage Spectrum to try one of their 26 Colorado-grown grape varietals, many of which are bottled in sparkling form. On the west side of town visit the sophisticated tasting room of Plum Creek Winery. Plum Creek is the oldest continuously active winery in the state and features Colorado-grown grapes. For a convenient multi-winery tasting venue visit Talon Winery where you can taste wines from Talon and St. Kathryn’s Cellars and Meadery of the Rockies. Just across a grassy field from Talon Winery is Grand River Vineyards (now owned by Wine Country Inn). No appointment is necessary. Grand River is know for its Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.
Your last stop of the day is at The Ordinary Fellow, a new tasting room opened by Ben Parsons the founder of Infinite Monkey Theorem. Located in a restored Fruit packing shed, the space is designed for future expansion and special events. The project brings Ben back to his roots as a winemaker for Canyon Wind in Palisade (now owned by Colterris). Ben is just beginning to develop this brand and is stocking the tasting room with delightful wines made from Washington state vineyards. Expect more Colorado-grown bottlings in the future.
If you have a little time before you depart from Palisade, take a drive up 38 Road to Colterris at the Overlook for the views of the valley. There is a pleasant tasting room at this location surrounded by peach orchards (which is a second business for the owners) and novel works of art. On your way to the Overlook or on the way back to Palisade be sure to stop at Restoration Vineyards. Everyone seemed to recommend the wine at Restoration and once we had a sampling of their selections, it was easy to see why, the wine are very good! Most of the production is sold from the winery directly and you will see several bottlings from California appellations so that there is always something to try when the Colorado wines are sold out There are many restored Mercedes Benz’ on the property, as that was the avocation of the current owner. The winery name comes from the restoration of the cars and that the vineyards was just a field of sticks when it was purchased and it has been restored to production.
It's not just about the wine
The Palisade area is an adventure-lovers destination. If you like to camp, bike, hike and/or enjoy live music, you are going to want to extend your stay, or visit often. Many of the wineries host series’ of live music throughout the summer. Many hotels and wineries are dog-friendly so you don’t have to leave your best friend at home.
Visit Palisade – Newsletter, planning your adventure, festivals and events
Colorado Wine Industry Development Board – Research wineries
Best options for dining
Peche. Restaurant – the only choice for fine dining, reservations a must
Fidels Cocina & Bar – New in 2022, an elevated Latin menu. Owned by the owners of Spoke and Vine motel. Call 970-464-2888 to check for opening hours
Palisade Brewing Company – Casual bar food and sandwiches
Peach Street Distillers – Tacos, sandwiches, pizza