Barrel Into Spring

Grand Valley Winery Association

 Mt. Garfield and Vineyard - A2010

Barrels are tapped and last fall’s harvest sipped and swirled during the annual “Barrel Into Spring” weekends at wineries around Grand Junction, Colorado. Eight members of the Grand Valley Winery Association host visitors two weekends each spring, April 24-25 and May 15-16 in 2010. Each winery pours current releases as well as the first tastings of the 2009 vintages – a sneak-peak into their potential.

Sampling at Plum Creek Tickets for each weekend – good for Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend – are limited so this is not an overly crowded shoulder to shoulder experience. A commemorative wine glass, passport and map awaits ticket holders at their assigned first winery. After that everyone is on own. You’ll welcome to spend as much or as little time at each venue as you choose. It would be a real rush but I’ve met people who have visited all eight in one day. Cyclists set a more leisurely pace pedaling along the rural roads between wineries.

Participating Wineries:

Food and Wine at GR Food, the perfect wine companion is not overlooked during the tastings. Each winery features dishes to showcase their wines. At one it may be an Italian deli-like spread, at another a German theme built around their Gewurztraminer. From cheese to chocolate tasters learn great pairing tips. You may even go home with a couple of new recipes.

At Carlson Vineyards, owner/winemaker Parker Carlson encourages everyone to get a plate of food before coming to the tasting table. As the different wines are poured he suggests trying it with the lamb, the duck, etc. Italian-born chef Brunella  Gualerzi of il Bistro Italiano in downtown Grand Junction works with Parker planning and preparing these perfect pairings. At the first barrel tasting Carlson Vineyards Sign several years ago a jovial Gualerzi shared a story as she offered a plate of grape kabobs drizzled with caramelized sugar. “When I was growing up Italy we always had a two week vacation at the beach. Ever morning at eleven a vendor carrying a wicker basket would come down the beach calling, ‘Cry kids, cry kids that your mommy will buy you a kabob’. I hadn’t thought about them for years but decided to make them for today.”

Depending on your interest the weekend offers a great opportunity to increase one’s wine knowledge. A presentation or tour is offered at eacBennett Price at DeBequeh location. Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery may share his years of experience demonstrating the wine-making process with carboys, tubing and airlocks. At Canyon Wind Cellars you can tour Colorado’s only underground wine cellars. Experience the difference  that varietal blending makes, or sample the flavors imparted by oak barrels from America verses France. Leave with a greater understanding of terroir and viniculture.

Spring barrel tasting weekends seem well designed for both the casual sipper and the connoisseur stocking their private collection. The participating wineries offer a 15% discount on wines purchased by event ticket holders. You’ll see those intently taking notes of each tasting while others are simply enjoying a casual weekend getaway.

Grand Junction and the Grand Valley region of Western Colorado offer numerous outstanding options for getaways. From the sandstone formations of Colorado National Monument to the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River to the serenity of fly fishing on Grand Mesa, fruits direct from the orchard or fine dining you’ll want to return again and again.

Vine Weather Vane When You Go: Barrel Into Spring tickets for the May weekend are $60 if purchased before April 19th. Tickets for the April weekend are $65. The event usually sells out, don’t go without making reservations.  Lodging, dining and activity information available at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. The participating wineries all have tasting rooms regularly open to the public. Stop by the Grand Junction VCB at 740 Horizon Drive to pick up a free map to Colorado’s Wine Country and tour any time of year.

Taste of the Vine

Casa Rondena Winery Several wineries dot the Albuquerque landscape. Vineyards surrounded by ancient cottonwoods mark Casa Rondena in the North Valley village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The estate with a distinctive Old World ambiance welcomes tasters. The winery’s red wines – especially the Meritage Red, Cabernet Franc and Clarion – reflect vintner John Calvin’s dedication to quality. Savvy visitors bring a sandwich or picnic lunch to enjoy the lovely setting with a bottle of their favorite vintage.

Travelers along I-25 in Albuquerque are frequently surprised to find one of the countries largest producers of sparkling wines at Gruet Winery. Members of the  Gruet family came from France more than 20 years ago to establish the winery focusing on sparkling wines made in the tradiGruet Winerytional champagne method. Today they produce seven different sparkling wines plus several still wines. The tasting room is open Monday through Saturday with tours of the facility at 2 p.m.

The New Mexico Wine Growers Association lists other wineries located near Albuquerque.

Visit Las Cruces

las-cruces-gate-in-adobe-wallThere’s plenty to do in the Las Cruces area to warrant several days in the area. Las Cruces ranks as the second largest city in New Mexico – yes, larger than Santa Fe – and home to New Mexico State University. You’l lfind an active art scene for both visual and performing arts. Numerous publications and organizations have pronounced Las Cruces a "Dream Town" for retirement and one of the best college towns for retirement. Golf courses and a purported 350 days a year of sunshine add to the appeal.

las-cruces-old-mesillaThe town lies west of the Organ Mountains along the Rio Grande River. White Sands National Monument is 45 miles east. Historic Old Mesilla, once a major trading center, is a popular destination with shops and restaurants around a public plaza. Fort Selden State Monument and nearby ghost towns attract history buffs. Don’t overlook  the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum - definitely worth a stop.

las-cruces-chilesLocated in the center of the heart of chile-growing country we find delicious, authentic Mexican food. Many family owned restaurants use recipes handed down for generations. Especially on weekends, dinner may be accompanied by a live mariachi band. Several wineries welcome visitors to tasting rooms and wine festivals.  Then there’s my favorite – Stahmann Farms for gourmet pecans.

Las Cruses is located in southern New Mexico at the junction of I-25 and I-10, 38 miles west of El Paso, Texas.

Find It!

Las Cruces, New Mexico
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Spring Barrel Tasting

Grand Valley Winery Association

vineyard-and-mt-garfieldThey’ll tap the barrels to swirl and sip last fall’s harvest during the annual “Barrel Into Spring” weekends at wineries around Grand Junction, Colorado. Eight members of the Grand Valley Winery Association host visitors two weekends each spring, April 25-26 and May 16-17 in 2009. Each winery pours current releases as well as the first tastings of the 2008 wines – a sneak-peak into their potential.

Tickets for each weekend – good for Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend – are limited so this is not an overly crowded shoulder to shoulder experience. A commemorative wine glass, passport and map awaits ticket holders at their assigned first winery. After that everyone is on own. You’ll welcome to spend as much or as little time at each site as you choose. It would be a real rush but I’ve met people who have visited all eight in one day. Cyclists set a more leisurely pace pedaling along the rural roads between wineries.

Participating Wineries:food-prep-at-canyon-wind

stirring-it-up-at-debeque1carlson-vineyards-sign5 food-and-wine-at-gr1

The perfect wine companion, food, is not overlooked during the tastings. Each winery features dishes to showcase their wines. At one it may be an Italian deli-like spread, at another a German theme built around their Gewurztraminer.

At Carlson Vineyards, owner/winemaker Parker Carlson encourages everyone to get a plate of food before coming to the tasting table. As the different wines are poured he suggests trying it with the lamb, the duck, etc. Italian-born chef Brunella Gualerzi of il Bistro Italiano in downtown Grand Junction works with Parker planning and preparing these perfect pairings.

canyon-wind-owner-and-visitorsDepending on your interest the weekend offers a great opportunity to increase one’s wine knowledge. A presentation or tour is offered at each location. Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery may share his years of experience demonstrating the wine-making process with carboys, tubing and airlocks. At Canyon Wind Cellars you can tour Colorado’s only underground wine cellars. Experience the difference varietal blending makes, or sample the flavors imparted by oak barrels from America verses France. I always come away with a greater understanmaking-notes-at-carlson1ding of terroir and viniculture.

Spring barrel tasting weekends seem well designed for both the casual sipper and the connoisseur stocking their private collection. You’ll see those intently taking notes of each tasting while others are simply enjoying a casual weekend getaway.

enjoying-a-birthday4Grand Junction and the Grand Valley region of Western Colorado offer a numerous outstanding options for getaways. From the sandstone formations of Colorado National Monument to the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River to the serenity of fly fishing on Grand Mesa, fruits direct from the orchard or fine dining you’ll want to return again and again.

vine-weather-vane1When You Go: 2009 Barrel Into Spring tickets are $65. The event usually sells out, don’t go without making reservations.  Lodging, dining and activity information available at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. The participating wineries all have tasting rooms regularily open to the public. Stop by the Grand Junction VCB at 740 Horizon Drive to pick up a free map to Colorado’s Wine Country and tour any time of year.

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Creekside Cellars Winery and Italian Cafe

glasses-and-santa4While in Evergreen yesterday we stopped at Creekside Cellars for a late lunch. We weren’t the only ones, they were slammed. Obviously not a routine Monday, everyone seems to still be on holiday except the hard working Creekside staff. The tasting room/cafe isn’t large and the popularity of both the wine and food attracts loyal followers. The favorite summer seating, on the deck overhanging Bear Creek, was even filled on this sunny and warm December day.

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