The Fruit and Wine Byway is like the road to bountiful, with sipping and nibbling around every corner.
If it’s August, you can count on two things in Palisade: 1. Blazing sun. And 2. Lots of fruit and wine. Make that three: You will also find plenty of folksy hospitality from the local farmers and vintners. That’s what makes the four-hour trip out to Colorado Wine Country so fun for a summer weekend trip. In the shadow of the 10,000-foot-high Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain on the planet, and sitting abreast of the Colorado River, this tiny agricultural town invites you to slow down and sit (and sip) a spell. Here are six things to do:
Fruit and wine are king in Palisade (tripadvisor.com names it one of the best wine destinations in the country). And one of the best ways to partake is to drive, bike or—if you plan to imbibe—ride in a chauffeured vehicle along the Fruit and Wine Byway (if you want to be driven, check out Grand Junction Tours, 970.261.8329, or American Spirit Shuttle, 970.523.7662). Before heading out, pick up a detailed map at the Chamber of Commerce office downtown (305 Main Street); it will show you the main 25-mile circular route (best done by car) as well as two shorter routes that can be done by bicycle (rent a cruiser or electric bike at Rapid Creek Cycles). Most of the 20 or so wineries you pass have open tasting rooms, where the sips either are free or cost a minimal charge. If you’re hungry, there are about 25 fruit stands and markets along the way, or you can stop for a relaxing lunch on the shaded patio at Maison La Belle Vie Winery and Amy’s Courtyard. If you’re more in the mood for the hard stuff, check out Peach Street Distillers, whose tasting room features everything from whiskeys to grappas to vodkas.
Best of the fests
Time your visit for next month and attend the Colorado Mountain Winefest, held Sept. 13–16, named by USA Today as the best wine festival in the nation. At the Festival in the Park, on Saturday, Sept. 15, get unlimited sips from more then 50 Colorado wineries ($50 admission). There is also a wine-and-cheese pairing seminar, a chocolate and wine tasting, a Sunday farmers market, a wine blending workshop and more.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Palisade Peach Festival, held in Riverbend Park Aug. 16–19, is the essence of small-town fun. This year’s events start on Thursday evening with an ice cream social and the crowning of the “peach queen” and continue over the weekend with farm tours, kid and adult peach-eating contests, plus live music, a peach pit bar, a 5k and 10k run, a parade, and a big tug of war contest. It’s a blast.
Capture some views
Venture to the 500-square-mile Grand Mesa National Forest, which has more than 300 lakes for fishing and is home to moose, elk and black bears. Bring your mountain bikes and ride down the Powderhorn Mountain Resort trails or camp or hike one of the many trails. Short on time? Drive the 63-mile Grand Mesa Scenic Byway.
Visit the 36,000-acre Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area (exit 46 off of I-70; follow the signs to the Coal Canyon Trailhead), one of only three such areas in the country. You can hike, bike or ride your own horse in the Bureau of Land Management-run area, where 90 to 150 mustangs live and run free, along with bighorn sheep.
Take a slow float by raft, stand-up paddle- board or kayak down the Colorado River to James M. Robb Colorado River State Park. If you don’t mind a four-hour drive from Palisade, visit Dinosaur National Monument and raft the Green and Yampa rivers, which cut through the national park.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT ‘EM
A handful of award-winning Palisade bottles
- Avant Vineyards 2015 Roussanne
- Carlson Vineyards 2015 Sweet Baby White, 2015 Chardonnay
- Grande River 2012 Meritage Red, 2013 Syrah
- Mesa Park Vineyards Barn Owl Red, 2013 Cabernet Franc
- St. Kathryn Cellars Golden Pear, Apple Blossom
- Talon Winery 2015 Riesling
- Whitewater Hill Vineyards 2012 (or 2014) Merlots, 2015 Riesling