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Palisade vineyard overview: Garfield Estates

Jeff Carr seems to always be ahead of the Colorado winemaking rush. He started Garfield Estates more than a decade ago with the idea that the 11 acres (which has since expanded to 17) of grapes planted on the vineyard could prove, once and for all, that Colorado had the soil, weather and other pieces needed to become a stellar wine region.

“It was the desire to demonstrate the tremendous potential of grape growing in the Grand Valley AVA,” says Carr, who owns the vineyard with his wife Carol, of why he got into the business.

With Colorado gaining increasing notoriety, it’s safe to say he’s far from the last person to get the same notion as evidenced by the dozens of wineries that have sprouted up since he moved into the business.

And as of this March, he became one of the minority of Western Slope vineyards to open a satellite tasting room in Denver. Garfield joined up with Cottonwood Cellars (Olathe), Verso Cellars (Winter Park) and Denver's Bonacquisti Wine Co. to form Colorado Winery Row in northwest Denver.

With the wine-drinking population of Colorado heavily saturated in Denver, it’s a safe bet that he won’t be the last vineyard owner to do the same.

Being ahead of the curve means nothing, however, if you cannot produce good wine. Carr, who made his money in the web and technology sector, wasn’t naive enough to think he could do this alone, so he hired Rainer Thoma as full-time winemaker.

Having a full-time pro on the property is a luxury many other Colorado vineyards do not have.

Thoma grew in Koenigheim, Germany, with winemaking a part of life as his family managed their own estate vineyard. He received a degree in winemaking before working at several wineries in Europe and Washington. He came to Colorado five years ago and now manages several Grand Valley vineyards.

He produces one of the driest lineup of Colorado wines, a rarity on the Western Slope, which is an industry driven by the palates of tourists who often favor sweet. Garfield's list includes a Syrah, Viognier, Savignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Fume Blanc among others as part of a balanced list that includes equal consideration to the whites and the reds.

Thoma, with an accent as thick as the soil he plants his Syrah, will tell you he loves dry wines and is proud of everything he produces. He says the Arvada-based Carrs give him creative freedom to make the wines the way he sees fit, which is why you won’t find a sweet option on the tasting menu (other than a dessert offering).

Beyond being dry, Garfield also fashions itself green, using only sustainable practices in farming and production. That seems like a no brainer when you consider the beauty of the property and Palisade in general. It sits in the heart of Palisade with striking views of a prominent Mt. Garfield that appears to be a continuation of the property just on the other side of the vines.

It all adds up to a successful operation that has won numerous awards, and been highlighted in USA Today, the New York Times and Bon Apetit.

Best bottle from the owner’s perspective: “2007 Syrah, rich classic Rhone-style syrah. Excellent balance with great fruit on the nose, a nice spicy mid-palette and a soft textured finish without a lot of sharp tannins. Overall this wine is perfectly balanced which is our signature trait at Garfield Estates.” —Jeff Carr

Award highlights

  • 2002 Fume Blanc: Best of the Fest 2003 Colorado Mountain Winefest
  • Top Colorado Winery: 2004 Top of the Rocky, Rocky Mountain News


Tasting rooms

Open daily
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
3572 G Road, 970.464.0941

Colorado Winery Row
Open Wednesday-Saturday
Hours: Noon-5 p.m.
4640 Pecos St.,

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