Thursday, September 15, 2011

Colorado Winery Visit: Canyon Wind Cellars

The wine at Canyon Wind Cellars is as refreshing as the spectacular scenery at the Palisade, Colorado, winery. This was the third in a quartet of winery stops we made earlier this month in the Grand Valley AVA of Colorado.

The winery was founded in 1996 and is run by the Christianson family with able assistance from Napa Valley winemaker Robert Pepi.

Patriarch Norman Christianson is a retired geologist  whose trained eye recognized the unique setting in Palisade, Colorado – the cobblestone bench, abundant water, fertile soil, cool mountain breezes and low humidity – was perfect for growing high-altitude wine grapes.

We were immediately impressed by the locale of the winery. Winds through the canyon ruffled the vineyard leaves while the
surrounding rough, rocky mesas jutted into the picturesque blue sky.

Ready for some vino after a long day of traveling, we stepped into the small but impressive tasting room.
Canyon Wind has 35 acres under vine divided between two vineyards: the Riverside Vineyard and the Cliffside Vineyard. They have an impressive array of wines. With the help of our server Pam, we began tasting through
their goods.

We kicked off with the ‘09 Pinot Grigio. This was a light bodied wine with a slight hint of honey. Another white, the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, soon followed. Like the Grigio, this is 100% Cliffside Vineyard. This was another light bodied wine that lacked the snap of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc, but was refreshing.

The wine lineup began to shine with the reds. We opened with the ‘09 Cabernet Franc that came from the Riverside Vineyard. The wine is aged for 15 months in oak and has a supple body with flavor notes of cranberries and blueberries. This is a nicely balanced wine that drinks well.

We were interested in tasting the ‘09 Tempranillo because we learned that this would be the last vintage of this wine for CWC. Pam told us that the winery was going to remove the Tempranillo vines and replant with the more popular Malbec. This was a lush wine with red fruit and touches of vanilla. The wine sprang from an experimental planting. It’s a great wine and we hate to see it go. Grab a bottle now if you still can! This was our favorite and we picked up a bottle.

We finished with a strong trio of reds that shows the strength and diversity of the CWC lineup. The ‘08 Petit Verdot was a rich dark wine with deep flavors of black cherry, the ‘07 Syrah had a complex swirl of flavors with earth and roasted meat, and the ‘05 elegant ‘05 Cabernet Sauvignon was remarkable. The Cab is a blend from the two vineyards with rich plum and cherry and notes of mocha. This is the flagship wine of Canyon Wine and it is easy to see why. It’s a complex wine with potential for aging that displays Colorado winemaking at its best. It sells for $26.
Two other CWC bottles warrant mention – and they “cover the waterfront” in terms of price. The first is IV, a handcrafted, very limited blend of the best Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. No samples were available as this wine retails for $100. We’re told that the wine is a popular seller despite the price. More accessible is the 47-Ten red, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This is an easy drinking winemaker’s blend that costs $13. We also bought a bottle of this and enjoyed it during a late night family gathering in Telluride. The name comes from the altitude of the vineyard, 4,710 feet above sea level. This wine is high-altitude in terms of value too.

CWC is a scenic winery fueled by awesome estate vineyards and savvy winemaking. It’s a top pick for those seeking some of the best wines Colorado has to offer.

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