By Rochael Teynor

When it comes to domestic wine, we often think of California and Washington as producers of some of the best. Grand Junction, Colorado is fast becoming one of the country’s premier regions for winemaking. During a recent visit to Grand Junction, I had the pleasure of tasting wine at several local vineyards, including Graystone Winery, Carlson Vineyards, Two Rivers Winery, and Grande River Vineyards.

At Carlson Vineyards, winemakers Mary and Parker Carlson offer a taste of their Peach wine served warm with mulling spices (warm peach cobbler in a mug) – perfect for an autumn evening. Another favorite – and the winner of several awards – is their Laughing Cat Riesling, which is produced from 100% Colorado-grown Riesling grapes. With subtle notes of apple, apricot, and pear, it is a semi-sweet wine that is a perfect complement to light fare featuring prosciutto or ham, chicken, seafood, cheese and fresh fruit. Carlson Vineyards is open year-round for tours, tasting, and retail sales, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, call 970-464-5554 or go to .

Founded in 2001, Graystone Winery is one of Colorado newest vineyards. This intimate boutique winery produces Lipizzan Port II and III – Pinot Gris Port with blackberry and cherry notes, respectively, as well as a White Port. Located in Clifton, Colorado, a short drive from Grand Junction, Graystone’s charming tasting room and gift shop are open daily, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm. More information is available by calling 970-434-8610 and at .

Owners Stephen and Naomi Smith opened Grande River Vineyards winery in 1990. With the stunning Bookcliffs rising above the vineyard, it is the ideal setting for this award-winning vineyard. Grande River grows all of the grapes for their wine and supplies fruit to many other Colorado wineries as well as wineries in several states. Merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah – three prominent red grape varieties – together make up about half of Colorado’s grape production. After sampling their Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, and Meritage Red, it was hard to choose a favorite! Grande River Vineyards’ tasting room is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. For more information call 970-464-5867 or go to .

A true destination winery, Two Rivers Winery, located just beyond the Colorado National Monument offers tours, daily wine tasting, and accommodations at the beautifully appointed Chateau – fast becoming a destination for weddings and events.

Two Rivers Winery produces just 12,000 cases a year using the five varieties of grapes they produce: Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Port, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Owners Bob and Billie Witham maintain a pristine operation, complete with a comfortable reception area and floor-to-ceiling fresco murals in the winery and French country décor in the Chateau. For more information call 970-255-1471 or go to .

Two Rivers’ Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the more complex and full-bodied Cabs I tasted on my vineyard tour, has a smoky finish and luscious blackberry notes – the perfect accompaniment to beef dishes and robust cheeses.

According to the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, Colorado vineyards are planting:

Merlot, 19.3%

Cabernet Sauvignon, 18.6%

Syrah, 15.4%

Chardonnay, 11.3%

Riesling, 8.5%

Cabernet Franc, 7.1%

Viognier, 2.9%

Gewürtztraminer, 2.4%

Sauvignon Blanc, 2.4%

Pinot Noir, 2.3%

Other, 10%

Known for its fruit producing mild climate and rich soil, new vineyards are being planted everywhere in the Grand Valley. Warm summer days and cool nights throughout the growing season provide ideal conditions for producing vines with maturity and balance.

Note: this article first appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of WE Magazine for women