Hitching a ride thorugh Palisade’s wine country
Joe Burtard found a fun way to blend his love of horses and wine.
During the weekends this month and starting up again in August— he wants to avoid July heat — Burtard plans to guide wine tours on a horse-drawn carriage in the immediate Palisade area.
Although Burtard, 26, a full-time employee at Ute Water Conservancy District, is a newcomer to the local wine-tour business, he is not a rookie carriage driver. He has been driving carriages for eight years. Most of that time has been spent driving horse-drawn carriages at weddings across the state.
“It’s a hobby,” said Burtard, who collects vintage carriages, but he doesn’t use those in public.
For as much as he has enjoyed participating in weddings outside Mesa County, Burtard wanted to find a way to spend part of his summer closer to home, which is why he created a JR’s Carriage Service offering in Palisade.
JR’s Carriage Service already has a reputation outside Mesa County, and Burtard still plans to offer wedding-carriage service.
But no one else offers a similar wine-tour service at this time, he said.
Burtard conducted months of research and spoke with several Palisade wineries to ensure his carriage service would be successful, and wanted, in Colorado wine country. He said he tested the plausibility of offering such tours during several trial runs in June. Each was a success for the patrons and the wineries he visited, he said.
“They went far better than I could have hoped. I’m ecstatic,” said Burtard, whose carriage seats up to 10 people
His first tour was on June 5, and the first stop was Varaison Vineyards & Winery in Palisade. There, winemaker Adam West spent time educating each patron about wine tasting. West said his family is pleased to be a part of the tour and plans to spend an equal amount of time with each tour Burtard conducts to teach local wine lovers more about wine.
Grande River Vineyards, St. Kathryn Cellars, Confre Cellars and the Meadery of the Rockies also were stops on the tour because of their proximity to each other. At Plum Creek Winery, one of the final stops, owner Sue Phillips conducted a facility tour to explain the winemaking process.
Time constraints make it impossible to get to dozens of wineries while riding in a horse-drawn carriage, and one horse can’t physically haul people up and down the hills of East Orchard Mesa. But Burtard said he plans to cater each tour to the participants’ wishes.
Burtard said he also has the support of his full-time employer, as Ute Water has encouraged him to offer horse-drawn carriage rides on the weekends, even giving him the occasional Friday off to pick up his carriage and horses, which he pastures in Clifton, Rifle and other places, he said.