Wine Festival in the Park

John Garlich of Bookcliff Vineyards, left, stands with Jackie and Mike Thompson of Boulder Creek Winery during Saturday’s Festival in the Park. Injuries suffered by Mike Thompson in a recent bike accident left him temporarily unable to drive and Garlich drove 10 hours round-trip from Boulder to Palisade and back to pick up 10 tons of fresh-picked grapes for the Thompsons.



The Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology announced Monday an estimated 5,846 people attended the Festival in the Park, setting a 22-year attendance high.

“This festival takes over Palisade and the Grand Valley, putting our unique culture and wine industry on display,” said Cassidee Shull, the executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology, the nonprofit organization that organizes Winefest. “We love to see the tremendous support of Colorado wine from all across the state.”

The Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau estimates the festival — which creates the busiest tourist weekend of the year for the Grand Valley — has between $750,000–$1 million in economic impact.

Amid the bustle of Saturday’s Festival in the Park was the sight of Mike Thompson wearing a neck brace and doing his best not to help too much.

Thompson and his wife Jackie own Boulder Creek Winery in Boulder and when he isn’t involved with the winery, Mike usually can be found running or riding his bike in preparation for a marathon or half-marathon.

It was while training earlier this month for a half-marathon that Mike had a bike accident leaving him with four fractured vertebrae, one in his neck and three mid-spine.

He said he was riding along a Boulder bike path when he ran into a mountain biker who had stopped on the trail to answer his cell phone.

“It was all my fault,” said Mike, a bright-pink scar etched on his forehead where part of his injuries needed nine stitches. “I saw him and thought he was far enough ahead, so I put my head down and didn’t see he had stopped.”

The other rider wasn’t injured.

While Thompson’s injuries heal, he’s wearing the neck brace and limited to light work, which can be tough duty for a guy not accustomed to simply standing around.

“He shouldn’t be lifting at all,” said Jackie, eyeing her husband as he fidgeted about the booth. “He refused to stay home so I have him running the cash machine today.”

The good news is Mike expects to be back training soon, although when suggested he’ll be running by November, Jackie looked skeptical.

“Maybe,” she said. “He’s hard to keep quiet.”

The accident came at the worst time for a winemaker — the Thompsons had a crew picking their sauvignon blanc grapes that very day in the Grand Valley, and the timing of getting grapes to the winery is critical.

“Mike was just getting out of the hospital so I decided I would make the 10-hour drive over here and pick up the grapes and then we’d figure out how we were going to get them crushed and everything,” said Jackie. “I was not looking forward to that and then John (Garlich) called.”

Garlich and his wife Ulla Merz operate Bookcliff Vineyards in Boulder and grow 35 acres of grapes in the Vinelands area south of Palisade.

Garlich volunteered to drive to Palisade, pick up the Thompson’s grapes and get them to Boulder.

“He did even more,” Jackie said. “John got the grapes and had them crushed and pressed at his winery and then he put the juice in a portable tank and trucked it to my winery.”

“It saved the day for me and saved that batch of wine.”

It’s not unusual, said Garlich, for Colorado’s winemakers to lend a helping hand when other winemakers are in need of assistance.

“It’s a tough business already, why make it tougher for each other?” he asked, downplaying his role.

Several wineries were hit by the flooding that destroyed homes and businesses across the Front Range.

The website for Creekside Cellars in Evergreen shows a brooding Bear Creek climbing close to the winery, and several people this weekend said winemaker Michelle Cleveland was able to save her wine despite some two feet of water in the winery.

Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park wasn’t damaged but was inaccessible for several days, as was the entire town.

With access to Estes Park limited to the Peak-to-Peak Highway or across Trail Ridge Road, the winery’s website offers an upbeat view, saying the tasting room has re-opened and grapes will start arriving this week.

Mike Buell of Turquoise Mesa Winery in Broomfield said his winery will help Snowy Peaks make it through the vintage.

The website for Caitano’s Winery, whose tasting room at the Rock N River Day Resort in Lyons suffered extensive damage, says the winery is closed until further notice.


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