In 2005 there were about 50 winemakers in Colorado; now there are more than 100 producing wines from grapes primarily grown in the area around Palisade and Grand Junction, known as the Grand Valley. And compared to Utah, they get a lot more support from state government. When the Colorado general assembly created the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board in 1990 to support and promote the growth of the industry, there were just five wineries. One penny from the sale of every liter of wine goes to the board, which uses the money for promotion and education.
Still, Colorado’s wine business faces several hurdles. First is the size of the existing vineyards.
“Most of Colorado wineries are small operations so their production levels are still quite small,” says Brooke Webb of the Colorado Association of Viniculture and Enology (CAVE). But now, especially in the Palisade area, peaches are more profitable than wine so it’s hard to justify planting grapes.
“Colorado has an excellent climate for growing vinifera,” says Jacob Harkins, editor of localwinos.com, a web site devoted to critique and reviewing Colorado wines. He hopes vintners will collaborate more and focus on a grape, like Oregon did with pinot noir and California did with chardonnay. But with active groups like CAVE and support from the state level, many believe Colorado is on its way to national recognition as a state known for serious, complex wines.