If you read my post about 2022 Plan Your Vacation Day, and I hope you did, you know that I’ve resolved to go somewhere at least once a month this year. We hit the ground running in January with a mini-staycation, just one night away, that set the pace for the year. You know that I love traveling and wine, and this quick trip let me enjoy both.
First stop, Palisade—the heart of Colorado’s Grand Valley AVA. According to Coloradowine.com, it’s 75,990 acres along the Colorado River, once called the Grand River, forty miles east of the Utah border— beginning in Palisade. Sheltered by the largest flattop mountain in the world, Grand Mesa, the AVA then spills up onto East Orchard Mesa and Orchard Mesa along the south bank of the river, and stretches right to the foot of the Colorado National Monument west of Grand Junction. (Map of wineries in the Grand Valley AVA)
Best known for its wine, this beautiful small town is also home to Palisade Brewing and Peach Street Distillers. We carry products from both in our store, New Castle Liquors. We started our culinary journey with lunch at the brewery. You can smell the smoker working as soon as you exit your car in the parking lot. The menu makes my mouth water just mentioning it. Portions are generous, so it’s great that they offer half sandwiches.
We started with pretzels and beer cheese sauce, then split the French Dip. It was more than enough food, especially with the tasty brews. I had the Feats of Strength, a winter beer brewed by several Western Slope craft brewers. I liked it so much, I bought the cool glass mug! There’s a punch card, and if you visit all eight participating breweries you can enter to win a $25 gift card at each location. Dirty Hippie is Palisade Brewing’s most popular beer. Try it if you haven’t.
Next stop, Maison La Belle Vie Winery. The name means House of Beautiful Life in French, and it’s exemplified by the winery, tasting room and wines. My husband Scott had a flight of reds and enjoyed them all. My favorite was the Villard Blanc, a white similar to Sauvignon Blanc. We will definitely be adding some of these to our Colorado wine section at the store.
From here we headed to Grand Junction, which is just 12 miles to the west. You can take the highway or the back roads, we chose the latter. With a population of around 65,000, Grand Junction is the closest thing to a big city in western Colorado. It’s where we go to shop when we can’t find something closer to home.
It’s also a wonderful getaway destination if you know where to go. There have been two Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conferences there, so I know where to go. The historical cultural district on Main Street near the convention center is full of shops, restaurants, tasting rooms and nice, affordable hotels. Carlson Vineyards has a tasting room there in addition to its Palisade location. It was closed, so we checked out the Shiras Winery and Zesty Moose. You’ll find a nice selection of their own and other Colorado wines, as well as art, gifts and craft foods.
It was too early for our dinner reservations, so we stopped in at the Rockslide Brewery and Restaurant. We’ve been before and have always had good food, good beer and good service. A benefit of staying on Main Street is that everything is walkable, so no driving is required once you’re settled in. You don’t have to worry about getting behind the wheel after a few tasting room visits, plus the walking helps burn a few of the calories you’ve consumed. Wine, wine. Oops, I meant win, win…or did I?
This all led up to the pinnacle of the trip, dinner at The Winery Restaurant. If you’ve been, you know. If you haven’t, you must. Seriously, get yourself there as soon as you can. You’ll thank me afterwards.
I knew from a previous visit that we were in for a real treat. It was Scott’s first time, and now he’s a believer. From its website, The Winery Restaurant has been an icon among Western Slope restaurants for more than 40 years. The restaurant makes its home in a 90-year-old building that used to house a horse drawn carriage fire station. A vine-canopied alley lit by gas lamps frames this romantic location perfectly. The beautifully remodeled building contains flowered stained glass windows, barn wood and bricks. It’s filled with old-world charm that instantly puts you at ease.
The menu offers steaks, chicken, pork and fresh seafood options with a wine and spirits list that rivals those found in big cities. And the quality is extraordinary.
The seafood bisque, in my opinion, is the only way to start a meal here. Just do it. For the main course, I had an organic Scottish salmon filet wrapped with applewood smoked bacon, roasted asparagus spears and Meyer lemon crème fraiche, and the three cheese rustic potatoes au gratin on the side. Scott had an all natural filet mignon, also wrapped with applewood bacon. I firmly believe that most things should be wrapped with bacon. Unfortunately, after our day of gluttony, we had no room for dessert. We’ll do better next time.
After a good night’s sleep, we had breakfast at the hotel so we could get started on our errands, mainly Home Depot and a dance studio so that I could buy tap shoes. Next time, we’ll hit one of the great nearby restaurants. We were back home in no time, ready to do some work around the house (Scott) and practice tap dancing (me).
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