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!