For its 25th, Colorado Mountain Winefest is all grown up

It’s Wednesday, do you know where your Winefest tickets are?

The 25th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank begins tomorrow, and how fast the kids grow up.

From a single-day event featuring four wineries posted strategically around Palisade’s Town Park to this year’s four-day hullabaloo attracting more than 50 Colorado wineries for Saturday’s Festival in the (Riverbend) Park, you’ll be hard-pressed to get it all in.

This special anniversary event includes activities ranging from guided bus tours of Colorado wine country to self-guided bike tours, special food-and-wine pairing menus at restaurants throughout the Grand Valley and, of course, the much-awaited Festival in the Park, the state’s largest and best-attended outdoors, walk-around wine tasting.

A caveat, of course, is that if you’re reading this and don’t yet have your tickets, well, bummer.

Maybe a few years ago you might have been lucky and purchased festival tickets at the door, but the cost of success is learning how to plan ahead. Winefest organizers say most of the ticketed events, including Saturday’s all-day wine tasting, are sold out.

You can still join in the fun by visiting wineries here in the Grand Valley and in the North Fork Valley, all of which will be happy to see you and brighten your day.

Complete information and a full schedule of events are available at http://www.coloradowinefest.com.

When you think about how many changes you saw in your first 25 years, it’s not surprising Winefest, too, has changed in a quarter century.

The 1992 Winefest featured six wineries — Plum Creek Cellars, Colorado Cellars, Grande River Vineyards, Pikes Peak Vineyards, Vail Valley Vintners and Carlson Vineyards — in the Palisade town park.

“Maybe a couple of hundred people” attended those early years, said Sue Phillips of Plum Creek Cellars. “That first couple of years it was only wineries, more like a small neighborhood gathering than anything, and then someone had the idea to introduce food vendors.”

From one day to four days, from six wineries to more than 10 times that, and attendance up from a few hundred happy festivalgoers to around 6,000.

Of the original six Wine-fest wineries, two no longer exist (Pikes Peak, Vail Valley) and one, Carlson Vineyards, changed owners last year.

The other three — Plum Creek (Sue Phillips), Colorado Cellars (Rick and Padte Turley) and Grande River Vineyards (Stephen and Naomi Smith) — still have their original owners.

There is one more winery that deserves mention, but you’ll have to go to Paonia to visit because you won’t see it at Winefest.

This spring, Joan and John Mathewson of Terror Creek Winery, both of whom are in their 80s and a part of the Colorado wine scene since 1987, announced their winery is for sale.

“After 29 years, we’re ready to retire. Again,” said Joan, a Swiss-trained winemaker who found her Eden high on Garvin Mesa above Paonia.

It’s not easy to grow wine grapes at 6,400 feet. In a “good year” the winery, the world’s highest vineyard and winery, will make 400 or 500 cases of wine. But it’s wine — spicy, with true fruit flavors and high acid — reminiscent of the wine Joan made in Switzerland.

“We’re on the edge of winemaking here,” said John, who traveled through Africa as a geophysicist while Joan attended enology classes at what now is UAS Changins in Nyon, Switzerland. “But there’s still a lot of land around here that could produce good grapes.”

And there still are a lot of good people producing that wine. Saturday is your chance to meet them.

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