Many people are surprised to learn that Colorado is one of the top wine producing regions in the U.S., but a leisurely afternoon sampling local varietals at the Winter Park Winery will assure you that high altitude wines rank among the best that American vintners have to offer.
According to the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, within the last five years, local growers and wineries have bolstered Colorado’s wine industry by more than 70 percent. In Winter Park, long-time residents Jon and Cassidi Brickner are showcasing their wine making talents in the Fraser Valley community, with the launch of Winter Park Winery, downtown’s first tasting room located at 395 Zerex Street. Despite the name, the tasting room is actually located a few minutes up Highway 40 in the town of Fraser, Colorado.
A Hand Crafted Labor of Love
Winter Park Winery prides itself on creating a line of hand crafted red and white wines that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and even a ruby Port from a Cab Merlot blend that one online fan enthusiastically describes as “not your Dad’s port.”
In addition to furthering his professional mountain biking career, Jon Brickner spends each day fully devoted to his lifelong passion for giving wine enthusiasts the best small batch wines available. In a promotional video on the winery’s website, Brickner says he grew up in a wine making family and recalls that by the time he was barely old enough to drink legally, he was “a pretty good winemaker.”
For Brickner and his spouse Cassidi, the winery’s small size and preference for Colorado-grown grapes is what makes their wines stand out from the rest. Their grapes are cultivated by local farmers at 9,000 feet elevation, which results in bold, rich and flavorful varieties that bear closer resemblance to European wines grown in soils that are more alkaline than the acidic soils of popular California wine-making regions.
The winery’s preference for small batch processes allows the couple to closely control the wine-making process that occurs during the annual crush, which starts anywhere from mid-September to mid-October, depending on the year’s rainfall, climate factors and sugar levels of the grapes. By keeping a 24/7 watch on every aspect of the fermentation process, Winter Park Winery can implement hands-on techniques that larger operations can’t replicate. The end results are fuller flavors and a more distinct, hand-crafted regional wine.
Community Spirit in Every Bottle
Winter Park Winery’s products also reflect the strong community spirit found within the scenic Fraser Valley. Each year after the couple purchases their grapes, Brickner says their crush process involves “me, some friends and family. It’s the same friends and family year after year. They know what to do; they know . . . they’re going to get a bunch of free wine for helping me. It’s a team effort, it’s fun!” he says.
Winter Park Winery’s quaint tasting room can accommodate up to 20 people for tastings that cost just $5 a piece and allow each visitor to sample six different wines: two whites, three reds and the port.
Visitors are welcome to bring their own picnic and enjoy the learning experience offered by knowledgeable staff ready to answer questions and sell wines by the glass, bottle or case. Tours of the wine-making facility are also offered at no additional cost.
During summer, the tasting room is open seven days a week between 12:30 and 6:00 pm. In the off-season, call 970-726-4514 for current hours.
If You Go
The Winter Park Winery is located at 395 Zerex Street. Visit their website at http://www.winterparkwinery.com to learn more about them, or call 970-726-4514. If you plan to visit the tasting room, make sure to call ahead for hours.
Rene Agredano enjoys sharing travel tips about Colorado – her favorite state in the U.S. – when she’s not at her mountaintop cabin retreat in Red Feather Lakes, she’s RVing around America writing from the road.
Header photo of the Fraser River and Byers Peak courtesy of Happy Trails at happytrails88.blogspot.com.
Fermentation photo and tasting room photo courtesy of Winter Park and Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce.