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Palisade vineyard overview: Canyon Wind Cellars

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  The Christiansons of Canyon Wind Cellars

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There are two aspects that make Canyon Wind Cellars unique in Colorado. First, its birthday is in 1991, making it one of the oldest vineyards in the state.

It is also an estate winery, meaning that all growing, winemaking and bottling are done on site at the Palisade vineyard. It appears Canyon Wind is the only winery in Colorado that can claim that type of intimacy in all aspects of production.

Owner and founder Norman Christianson, a trained geologist, picked the vineyard land because it so closely resembled the terroir of Bordeaux (which if you are keeping track at home is a pretty decent wine region).

It’s no surprise that some of the key wines coming out of the family operation—son Jay and wife Ellen are deeply involved in all aspects of the business—are Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cab Franc, which are the classic reds of France’s most storied growing region.

The winemaking process has been boosted with the help of Bob Pepi, who has built a stellar reputation in Napa (Robert Pepi Family Winery) and serves as winemaker.

The result has been a reputation for great Colorado wines, numerous awards and accolades, and wines with staying power—the winery just re-released five cases its 1997 Merlot out of the library, making it one of the oldest local wines available commercially.

Canyon Wind also boasts itself as an eco-friendly winery. In the vineyard, the Christiansons shy from herbicides, only spray organic pesticides, use computer-monitored low drip watering systems, and take steps to avoid erosion.

The winery is also built around environmental practices, utilizing an underground barrel cellar to naturally cool wine and gravity to transfer the juice. Only natural renewable cork is used in bottling, too.

Perhaps the most endearing quality of Canyon Wind (at least for the Front Range wino) is its two tasting rooms. One is on the estate serving Western Slope residents and tourists who’ve come to the heart of Colorado’s wine country. The other is right of I-70 in Georgetown, just an hour’s drive from Denver.

Best wine from the winemaker’s perspective: "Either our 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon or the 2007 IV. Both wines show tremendous depth, clarity of body, and excellent full mouth integration," Jay Chirstianson.

Awards highlights:

  • 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon: Silver London World Fair
  • 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon: 87 rating in Wine Spectator (tied for the highest Colorado ranking to date
  • 2005 Petit Verdot: Gold Dallas Morning News Wine Competition

Prices: Most bottles are between $15-$25, with reserves and specialty releases reaching $100

Wine club: Four shipments annually of three to six bottles. Cost is generally less than $75 for three bottles, plus shipping if necessary

Twitter: @CanyonWindWines

Tasting room:

Palisade:
Open daily, free tastings
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., plus free winery tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer
3907 North River Road, Palisade, 970.464.0888

Georgetown
Open daily, free tastings
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
1500 Argintine St., Georgetown, 303.569.3152

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