Having first met in Crested Butte, fallen in love in Colorado, and cultivated our passion for making really good wine here in Colorado, there’s no place we’d rather be. There’s something about this land, the people, and the way time passes here. You can see it in the vibrant sunsets, draping the sandstone cliffs that tower over the Western Slope’s orchards and vineyards, feel it while shaking hands and exchanging laughs with a farmer as you load up the season’s harvest, and taste it while taking that first sip of a new vintage, as fall’s cooler air funnels into the valley and golden aspens glow in the low-angled afternoon sun.
Colorado is truly a special place, and we aim to share as much of it with you as possible. From the terroir, to the history, and the adventures that await, come back here often for our family’s favorites of Colorado and Crested Butte.
What should I do while visiting Crested Butte this winter, aside from skiing?
Crested Butte is an amazing place to explore during the winter, and while most visitors flock towards our ski mountain, there are so many other activities where you can enjoy the beauty and spirit of our valley!
Cross Country Skiing-
CB is actually the Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado with over 50km of groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing! Our Nordic Center offers equipment rentals, day passes and lessons/clinics, which all can be booked online to promote social distancing.
Cross country skiing is a great way to get out into nature and really experience the beauty of our valley. It is also a great workout and a warmer option for days when it’s really cold on the mountain. Also, many of the trails allow dogs, so you can take your pup along for a snowy adventure.
Snow Shoeing and Fat Tire Biking-
Snow shoeing and Fat Biking are other great ways to explore the mountains. CB Nordic and CBMBA have over 10km of groomed trails. You can rent snow shoes at the Nordic Center and Fat Bikes at any of the bike shops in town.
Check out the town-
Have a cozy, quiet day by walking around Elk Avenue or exploring the surrounding streets with colorful houses covered in snow. There are plenty of great coffee shops to fill you with a warm beverage, and shops with unique gifts, warm winter gear, and more. Hungry? Check out the restaurants in town with socially distanced dining, or to-go options!
Visit our tasting room-
Come stop by our tasting room in Gunnison! We are offering full tastings of our wine line-up or any of our wines by the glass, and delicious cheese boards by CB Personal Chefs. It’s a great way to see how our wine is made and warm up after a long day of skiing. Fridays and Saturdays from 2-7pm or by appointment!
Colorado is not the easiest state to live in, for both humans and plants. Our winters are cold, snowy, and long, often lasting into June with surprise frosts, sometimes shocking the plants (and us) while we wait for summer. Our summers can be arid, hot and at times short, like this year when we celebrated Labor Day with a foot of snow in Gunnison Valley. As winemakers, we face challenges of a short growing season, drought, and extreme weather events.
One of the greatest challenges of the Colorado climate for viticulture is the frost events that occur in late spring and early fall. In spring, once the vines’ buds have burst open an unexpected frost can freeze the new green vegetation (containing the flowers that will produce grapes) and damage the crop for the season. In early fall, the vines have not yet entered full ‘dormancy’, in which they have hardened their green vegetative tissue. In a serious cold event that green tissue can freeze and die, preventing transfer of sugars and nutrients to the plant and impacting the following year’s crop and the vine’s overall health. These frost events impact the crop load, vine strength, and limit the growing season time.
In the same way that these extreme conditions make Colorado viticulture an act of resiliency and perseverance, the conditions also allow us to make very distinctive and beautiful wines. When a vine has too easy access to water and nutrients, the result is large grape clusters that are diluted in flavor, with a lower sugar to tannin ratio. This makes wines that are simpler with less structure. Additionally, excess resources for the vine allows it to grow a very large canopy, which shades the fruit and prevents ripening. Alternatively, when a vine experiences mild water stress, there is a light, porous canopy that perfectly ripens grapes and allows the root system to search deeper in the soil for water and nutrients. Our arid, hot climate with warm days and cool nights helps us achieve this balanced canopy. The fruit from these vines produce wines that are well structured, balanced, and show off the unique terroir.
Achieving vine balance and mitigating freeze damage were big topics at this year’s VinCO, a conference on Colorado winemaking and grape growing, with several lectures from viticulturalists, enologists and researchers from CO and beyond. Many industry experts provided strategies to protect the vines from extreme temperatures, information on cold-tolerant varieties and climate data from CSU. With the collective sharing of information and wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm from the Colorado wine community, we can continue to make great wine, even with the unpredictable Colorado weather.
Colorado has two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), the official US term for a specific vineyard zone. AVAs are based on the specific geography, soil and climate that make the area unique for winemaking. This is similar to France’s AOP designations or Italy’s DOC classifications that we see on many labels of European wine. For a wine to be labelled as an AVA, 85% of the fruit must come from that zone. AVAs help us know where our wine is from, and also gives us a greater understanding about the special characteristics from a certain area.
Colorado’s first AVA is The Grand Valley, located outside of Grand Junction and Palisade, a major fruit growing region full of orchards and vineyards. The Grand Valley is situated alongside the Colorado River, with an elevation around 4,000 feet above sea level, a relatively mild climate (for Colorado’s standards) and alluvial soils, which all contribute to its ability to grow great fruit. The Colorado River allows for irrigation in the vineyards, but also keeps surrounding temperatures milder in the winter, reducing the risk of frost, and provides a cool breeze in the summer. The contrast between the warm days and cool nights allows for great ripening conditions, and varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Franc thrive here. Check out our Cabernet Franc sourced from Black Bear Orchards in this region!
The West Elks is Colorado’s second AVA. It is located along the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River through Paonia and Hotchkiss, another prominent fruit growing region of the Western Slope with rich alluvial soils. The elevation is higher than the Grand Valley, at 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. This altitude creates a cooler and shorter growing season than the Grand Valley, which is why varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Pinot Gris work quite well here. Our recently bottled 2019 Pinot Noir has grapes sourced from this region, stay tuned to check it out!
If you were lucky enough to sample the limited release of our Rosé Pét-Nat last year, then you'll be very excited to hear that we aren't only making more this year, we are making two different Pét-Nat's! So you ask, remind me what a Pét-Nat is? The long form is called Pétillant Naturel, meaning naturally sparkling, by far the oldest type of Sparkling Wine made. The method used is called the 'Ancestral Method' and dates back to1500's. Back to 2020 in the Buckel Family Wine cellar, we used Cinsault and Syrah grapes to create the 2020 Rosé Pét-Nat, similar to last year's Sparkling Rosé, as well as a naturally sparkling Riesling. We have those grapes bubbling away in vats in the winery as we speak, fermenting themselves into wine. We love our Pét-Nat because it is quite literally alive. In order to make a wine that is naturally sparkling and also beautiful in color, we carefully allow the fruit to ferment in large vats while monitoring the sugar content. The natural sugars in the fruit combined with yeast in just the right conditions allows the fermentation to progress slowly and turn these sugars into alcohol. We leave a little residual sugar in the wine so that that sugar can continue to ferment in the bottle, creating the natural bubbles (CO2) that we so enjoy in our sparkling wines, only these bubbles occur naturally and develop in the bottle! With Zero Sulfur ever being added!!
We are so looking forward to livening up your festivities with our White and Rosé Pét-Nat's. Stay tuned for a release date for these - we are hopeful that we'll be able to ring in 2021 with a Pét-Nat toast! Cheers to the coming of winter!!
All of us at Buckel Family Wine feel so honored to be acknowledged as the Gunnison 2020 Chamber Board of Directors New Business of the Year! Small businesses all over Gunnison have shown their creativity and resilience this year. We are humbled to stand out in such an incredible crowd. Thank you for supporting us!
We've had a great summer season in our tasting room. Although the last of autumn's leaves are falling from the trees and the evenings are getting chilly earlier and earlier, we want to keep drinking Colorado wine with you! Our latest release of Zinfandel is available for purchase. Zinfandel is quintessential wine for the United States. Italian immigrants brought over ‘suitcase’ cuttings to plant and enjoy the wine from their homeland. Ours is a medium body red wine, very fruity, finishing with some peppery spice. The grapes for our Zin is sourced out of Palisade, Colorado.
For the time being the tasting room will remain open from 2:00 to 7:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Stay tuned for more information, including special events at the winery, classes, and changes in hours. As long as we are pouring wine, we hope to share a glass with you! Enjoy the last of fall!
Summer 2020 has been consistent with the rest of this challenging year. In fact, we can track the mayhem, as it pertains to wine anyway, back to last October when growers across the state of Colorado experienced an early frost which took its toll on many of the grapes and grapevines. This fall frost along with the April frost led to the loss of a substantial amount of fruit, including grapes. As you visited farmers' markets around the state, you may have noticed a shortage of cherries and other early season fruit as well. the grapes ripened quickly with the unseasonably warm spring and into the scorching hot, dry summer months. Ideally for wine the grapes need good acidity and sugar content, despite the stress grapes are looking good this season.
Late summer is harvest time at the vineyards, and just last week we saw the first of the Sauvignon Blanc being harvested in Palisade, CO. This year's harvest came 24 days earlier than last year's, but we were ready for them! Palisade may be famous for its peaches, but the same climate that lends itself to sweet, juicy, gorgeous stone fruit also lends itself to some excellent wine grapes! Right now we have our rose and that sav blanc fermenting, and they are both smelling and tasting great!
We recently visited some of the vineyards and saw that the red grapes still on the vines are looking wonderful! The growers shared some concern about this storm that we're seeing today, but are hopeful that the temps won't drop too low in those regions of the state. While we aren't seeing quite the bounty this year as we have in years past, our plan is to procure enough Colorado grapes this year to keep our production moving in an upward trajectory to meet the increasing demand that we're seeing. This year we'll be doubling production of our PétNat, so if you loved it there will be more, and if you missed it you'll have another chance to taste it this coming spring. We're excited to continue producing our wines with this year's grapes and then to share those wines with you!
Colorado Wine is coming into its own. Christina Holbrook recently wrote this essay sharing the story and history of Warren Winiarski and his plight as one of Americans pioneering winemarkers, competing and winning against French wines in the Paris tasting of 1976.
Warren took a liking to Colorado and the budding CO wine scene in the early 70's and has continued to share his insight and expertise with the region.
Kelly Hayes of the WineInk column in the Aspen Times also shared a summary of Christina's essay.
Read them both to learn more about Colorado's Wine history.
If you joined us for First Fridays Art Walk in July or August, you may have noticed a series of linoleum block prints adorning the walls. These are just a few of the pieces that local Crested Butte artist John Fellows has created throughout his carreer. Inspired by his international travels as well as his home in Colorado, John calls on motifs of nature, folkloric characters, and his sense of adventure to create layers of shapes and imagery that come together in his hand-cut block prints. Each print is created by first sketching an image, then tracing it backwards, then cutting and etching each and every line into linoleum, and finally sculpting them together into a block. The linoleum block then serves as an exquisitely detailed rubber stamp which is used to print the final image onto paper. Fellows loves using found objects including antique maps and letters that date as far back as the 1880's as the backdrops for his block prints. Once printed, the layers of the linoleum block come together for a clean finish, but in fact the piece is far more multidimensional than the vintage paper it is printed on. The process is long and sometimes tedious for the artist, but - as you'll see next time you visit our tasting room - the result is intricate and beautiful. John's work has been featured on festival posters, and on products by companies such as Smartwool, Element Skateboards, and other major outdoor brands. We are pleased to exhibit his work in our Gunnison tasting room throughout the summer and fall.
At Buckel Family Wine, we love being a part of local farmers' markets throughout the Western Slope of Colorado. This season we travel to Crested Butte, just up the valley from our winery in Gunnison, and to Telluride for their weekly markets.
In Crested Butte, you can find us on Elk Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets every Sunday morning, and in Telluride the market is on Oak Street, just up the road from the gondola, on Fridays between 10:30 am and 4:00 pm.
We source all of the fruit that becomes our wine from Colorado growers, so bringing that finished product to these markets feels like a natural extension of our farm-to-bottle process. Our entire collection of wines is available at the Farmers' Markets that we attend, and we enjoy having the opportunity to invite market customers to Gunnison for a visit to our tasting room. In the past we have enjoyed sharing samples of our wines with prospective customers and market browsers, but we are currently unable to offer samples due to public health restrictions. Nonetheless, chatting about wine with locals and visitors alike is one of our favorite parts of the industry!
Farmers' Markets offer the best opportunities to meet colorful local characters, creative artists, and innovative growers. We are always grateful to meet like-minded folks who are as passionate about local produce as we are! We particularly love the freshly cut flowers from the North Fork Valley offered by Zephyros Farm and the breads from Blue Grouse Bread out of Norwood at the Telluride market. Next time you're in Crested Butte on a Sunday or Telluride on a Friday during the summer months, please find our booth at the market and say hello!
To celebrate the Summer Solstice this year, I attended a backyard wine tasting. I am so grateful for the generosity and creativity of my friends who hosted the occasion - what a fun evening! Buckle Family Wine brought their entire catalog of Colorado wines, ranging from a refreshing and flavorful rose to a deep, bold cabernet blend. At the request of the host, each guest brought a dish to pair with one of the seven varieties. Joe Buckel and his wife Shamai guided us through our tasting, describing the varietals and the creation of each wine, and each guest then presented their paired dish. Over the course of about three hours, we ate and drank, chatted and learned about the incredible variety of wine that is possible with 100% Colorado-grown fruit.
I was impressed by the affordable price point of Buckel Family Wines, which seems to average about $20 per bottle. In the past I have been disappointed to purchase a bottle at other tasting events, only to bring it home and realize that the ambiance and company of the event had added flavor to an otherwise flat-tasting glass of wine. This is not the case here! Last night, paired with slow roasted pork spare ribs from Calder Farm and a crisp salad from our backyard garden, we opened a bottle of the Cabernet Franc that I purchased at the Solstice tasting. The bright cherry color was equally as vibrant in my glass at home, and the bold yet mellow flavor profile was just as delicious in my kitchen on our mix-matched dinner plates as it was outdoors, surrounded by good friends, on the longest night of the year.
Consider having Buckel Family Wine at your next event... virtually or in your backyard!