Sep 3, 2022 - Things to Do

Destination Palisade: Don't miss Colorado harvest season for wine and peaches

 A glass of merlot at Colterris Vineyard. Photo: John Frank/Axios
A glass of merlot at Colterris Vineyard. Photo: John Frank/Axios

The best time to visit the Western Slope is harvest season.

What's happening: From Palisade to Paonia each September, the valleys are full of plump peaches, clusters of wine grapes and other ripe fruit for the picking.

  • Stop by the roadside markets to talk to the farmers about this year's crop and sample different varieties.

Don't miss: The Palisade Farmers Market is where it all comes together each Sunday.

  • The music, food vendors, wineries, artisans and farm stands offer a half-day's worth of exploration and fun.
  • Try as many peach-themed foods as possible, from peach-ade and pastries to preserves and salsa.

Mark your calendar: The big event each year is the Colorado Wine Fest on Sept. 17. It's sold out but local wineries are hosting their own special events most weekends this month to celebrate grape stomping season.

Where to eat
The outside of Pêche in Palisade. Photo: John Frank/Axios
The outside of Pêche in Palisade. Photo: John Frank/Axios

From the street, the restaurant glowed with warmth and bubbling conversations, a lone bright spot on a recent dark and rain-dreary evening. The smell of roasted rosemary wafts in the air when the door opens.

  • This is Pêche — one of Colorado's best yet unassuming restaurants specializing in farm-to-table cuisine.

What to know: Owned by husband-wife team Matt and Ashley Chasseur (he's the chef; she runs the operation), Pêche crosses cuisine boundaries and serves elevated dishes with stunning presentation.

What to eat: On this night, tender ribeye loins are served on a rack sitting above rosemary and hot rocks. And Cochinta Pibil, a traditional Yucatán dish served with an assortment of sauces and toppings.

  • "Every dish is an adventure," our waitress says.

Pro tip: At the Sunday farmers market, Pêche opens for street-side service and serves homey but delicious brunch offerings like fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and cinnamon rolls.

  • You can also pick up the house-made sourdough loaf, which typically sells out during dinner service.
Where to sip
A glass of merlot at Colterris Vineyard. Photo: John Frank/Axios
A glass of merlot at Colterris Vineyard. Photo: John Frank/Axios

The Grand Valley is no Napa when it comes to wine, but you'll appreciate the low-key tasting experiences and stunning views.

State of wine: The quality of Colorado wines is improving and receiving more national recognition. Wine Enthusiast rated 21 Colorado wines and gave seven 90 point or higher ratings.

  • Palisade is even being touted as the next Sonoma by some, and many of the wineries are within walking or biking distance of each other.

Between the lines: An early fall 2021 freeze hit the Palisade wineries hard but the growers say they are seeing a recovery this year and possibly an early harvest with the warm weather.

Where to visit: Start at Colterris, Colorado's largest estate winery, meaning all the wines originate from their own grapes. The best sips are Merlot and Cab Franc.

  • Visit the winery location for shaded seating next to the vineyard in the shadow of sandstone cliffs. For an upgraded experience, take the tour through the barrel room and wine cave.
  • Another winery to put on your list: Ordinary Fellow, from Infinite Monkey Theorem's Ben Parsons, which is the first winery to get a Colorado license since Prohibition.
  • Boulder's Bookcliff Vineyards and Denver's Carboy have outposts in the valley.

What else: You can find any drink you like in Palisade. For spirits and cocktails, head to Peach Street Distillers. For peach beer, visit Palisade Brewing. And for honey wine, try Meadery of the Rockies.

  • To experience pet nat wines — a hot new trend toward natural carbonation — visit Sauvage Spectrum. And don't miss the frosé, either.
What to do
A view of Independence Monument from Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument. Photo: John Frank/Axios
A view of Independence Monument from Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument. Photo: John Frank/Axios

Not far from the lush Palisade valley, an entirely different landscape awaits at the Colorado National Monument.

  • Sheer cliffs, 1.7 billion-year-old rocks and spectacular canyons beckon for a hike or bike exploration.

What to know: Start on the West side near Fruita and traverse the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive by car, stopping at as many overlooks as you can. (Give yourself about two hours for the trip.)

  • The Upper Liberty Cap Trail is mostly flat and offers great views at 2.5 miles, a good turnaround spot.
  • At the East end, No Thoroughfare Canyon and Old Gordon trails offer different perspectives on the park.

Of note: The monument is part of the Colorado Plateau that also includes the Grand Canyon, Zion and Arches national parks.

Pro tip: If you start at the West end, take a quick detour to Fruita (same exit, but turn right) and grab a coffee at Bestslope on Peach Street.

  • If you need food to fuel the day, Camilla's Kaffe is a popular local spot with "good eats."
Where to stay
The sunset over the Talbott vineyard above the Colorado River in Palisade.
The sunset over the Talbott vineyard above the Colorado River in Palisade. Photo courtesy of Kate Blackman

A perk of the job: The chance to reserve a camping spot at the Breckenridge Brewery "peach pod" and enjoy one of the best views in town.

What to know: The limited-availability site is located on a cliff above Palisade and the Colorado River on the Talbott Farm, where the brewery sources the peaches for its wheat beer.

  • The spot — nestled next to a vineyard growing merlot grapes — is mostly booked for the month, but the brewery may bring it back next year.
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