Plenty of potential acreage in Four Corners area.
We’ve all heard about the Hatfields and the McCoys, a couple of eternally feuding families on West Virginia-Kentucky line. Southwestern Colorado, specifically McElmo Canyon near Cortez, has its equivalent in the wine biz. Guy Drew and John Sutcliffe are neighboring wine-growers and wine-makers there, but they reportedly get along as well as the Hatfields and the McCoys. I don’t know why, and I don’t really care, but it seems that if they could smoke a peace pipe, they could create a fantastic wine region to both rival and complement Colorado’s two existing American Viticultural Areas, the Grand Valley (i.e., Palisade area) and West Elk AVAs.
A New AVA in the Future?
Godot Communications, a Boulder agency with wine accounts, hosted an intimate tasting the other evening. We sampled wines from just two producers: the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City and the Guy Drew Vineyards in Cortez. And we talked about vineyards and wineries and wines. I learned that there are roughly 1,000 acres planted in wine grapes in Colorado, 85% of that in the Palisade area. Drew and his wife, Ruth, moved from the Denver area not to the Grand River Valley but to Cortez and began transforming a former hay farm into a vineyard, creating a winery and building a straw bale home under the big skies of the southwestern Colorado.
McElmo Canyon presents vintners unique challenges, and Guy Drew for one has addressed them. The vineyards on the 155-acre property are sited to preserve the high desert piñon-juniper landscape, riparian wildlife areas and also the Ancient Puebloan ruins. Land stewardship, thoughtful growing practices, thrifty use of natural resources and respect for cultural resources allow Guy Drew Vineyards to continue crafting fine Colorado wine while safeguarding the future of its historic surroundings. In addition to his own land, Drew has a handful of growers tending 4- to 8-acre vineyards for him. He works with members of the Ute Mountain Utes to grow outside of the tribal park,
Godot’s Jacob Harkins, a friend of Guy Drew, told me that the winemaker has been crunching numbers and believes that there are up to 40,0o0 acres suitable for vinifera in the Cortez/McElmo area. Think about it: that’s a potential of four times the current state-wide acreage. Once there were apple trees, but when the juice processing plant closed some time in the distant past, growers stopped maintaining the orchards. Just like the Palisade area with its abundant orchards is hospitable to grapes, so is this part of Colorado.
Guy Drew Vineyards has a new tasting room at Mesa Indian Trading Company & Gallery (which locals call “The Pottery”) on US Highway 160 just outside of Cortez. At this time of year, it is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. There is also a tasting room at the winery, where visitors are likely to meet Guy, Ruth or both. The address is 19891 Road G, which is about 1 mil southwest of town. Take l160/491 to the first traffic light and turn right. FoMoInfo, call 970-565-9211.
And if you are of a mind to visit Sutcliffe Vineyards too, the winery and tasting room are at 12174 Road G. FoMoInfo, call 970-565-0825. Just don’t tell either that you visited the other.