Twenty-two years in the business makes Carlson Vineyards one of Colorado’s most mature vineyards. It’s fitting it’s located in Palisade, which has been the pulse of the local industry for decades. After planting their first grapes in 1981 on East Orchard Mesa, Parker and Mary Carlson established the vineyard in 1988 out of a vintage 1930s fruit-packing shed.
The rest of their story could be grounds for a modern Colorado wine history book. The two started as cellar rats, learning the trade from wine pioneers, Jim and Ann Seewald of Colorado Mountain Vineyard. Parker had begun making wines and hard ciders a few years earlier as a hobby—he used the University of California at Davis to hone his skills.
Parker describes his transformation from amateur to pro as simply case of a hobby that grew out of control.
Let’s just say that it’s a good thing he couldn’t contain the hobby, because he is pretty good at winemaking. Over the course of the last two decades, Parker—whose vineyard received license No. 4 from the state—has racked up dozens upon dozens of awards at local and national wine competitions. The highlight coming in 2004 when his ’03 Riesling took the World Riesling Championship at the International Eastern Wine Competition.
His vineyard, located in the Grand Valley AVA, also produces the other classic German varietals that grow so well on the Western Slope: Gewurztraminer and Lemberger. His entire wine list includes cheap prices (not a bottle above $13), fun labels (think cats, cougars and dinosaurs) and sweet wines. Wine types include an unoaked Chardonnay, a red and blush blend, and a variety of fruit wines (cherry, peach and plum).
The vineyard’s Tyrannosaurus Red was even featured at the Chicago Field Museum during the unveiling of “Sue,” the world’s largest T-Rex skeleton.
Best bottle from the winemaker’s perspective: 2003 Riesling. It beat out Rieslings from around the world. Not bad for a cheap bottle from Palisade.
- 2004 Lemberger: Bronze 2006 International Eastern Wine Competition
- 2004 Tyrannosaurus Red Lemberger: Silver 2006 Southwest Wine Competition
- 2005 Fat Cat Muscat: Bronze 2006 Colorado Mountain Winefest
- 2005 Laughing Cat Gewurztraminer: Silver 2006 San Francisco International Wine Competition
- 2005 Laughing Cat Riesling: Silver 2006 Indy International Wine Competition
- 2005 Prairie Dog Blush: Silver 2006 International Eastern Wine Competition
- 2003 Riesling: Winner of the World Riesling Championship at the 2004 International Eastern Wine Competition
- 2003 Riesling: Double Gold 2004 International Eastern Wine Competition
- 1999 Tyrannosaurus Red (Lemberger): Bronze 2002 Tasters Guild International
- 1998 Cougar Run Merlot/Shiraz: Bronze 2001 San Diego National Wine Competition
Prices: Less than $13 a bottle
Hours: 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.
461 35 Road
Palisade, CO 81526