Wineries are top draw

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Tara Steinbrunn, a tasting room associate for Grande River Winery, pours a glass for a visitor

Over the years visitors have rated Grand Junction’s downtown core, the area’s wineries and Colorado National Monument — usually in that order — as their top three reasons for visiting the Grand Valley.

A similar visitor survey last fall commissioned by the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau revealed an upset in those responses, indicating visitors are more apt to seek out the wineries as their destination of choice.

That news doesn’t surprise Carol Pellowski, the tasting room manager at De Beque Canyon Winery, 144 Kluge Ave., No. 3, in Palisade.

This year, like last year, a tasting event that features wines from eight local wineries quickly sold out for its 400 guests. This year’s event, Barrel into Spring, which took place April 30, draws visitors from around the state and from neighboring states.

“It’s a destination. It’s a draw for people,” Pellowski said of the Grand Valley’s wine-growing region. “They’ve heard about Colorado wines.”

The online survey queried participants about their vacation experiences last year in Grand Junction. The survey operated by the company Hill Aevium was offered to 8,000 participants and received 814 responses. One survey respondent who was chosen at random won a case of Colorado wine.

According to the survey, 79.4 percent of respondents came to the area to visit wineries, followed by 71.1 percent respondents who visited the downtown core. Colorado National Monument was the third most visited area, garnering 52.4 percent of visitors. Respondents were asked to list all of the places they visited while in the area.

The survey’s largest respondent demographic was people aged 55 to 64, and 42.1 percent of the visitors reported traveling to the Grand Valley in September. The majority of respondents traveled from the Front Range.

Jennifer Grossheim-Harris, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Visitor and Convention Bureau, said the agency has been marketing the area’s wineries heavily because it’s a distinctive feature of the area.

The group’s website shows ads comparing the Grand Valley’s wine country to other world-renowned wine regions, such as Tuscany and Sonoma.

Ads proclaim, “Tuscany, Now Available in Colorado” and “Sonoma, Minus the Airfare,” both against a backdrop of grape vines or orchard scenes.

Other lead photos on the website include a photo of the Colorado National Monument and a golf course.

“Wineries are the one thing that we have that they don’t have in other parts of the state,” Grossheim-Harris said.

She said although more visitors may be reporting they show up for the wineries, visitors also make their way to the downtown core.

“I think they’re doing all three of those things,” Grossheim-Harris about the top three attractions. “Our downtown becomes an ah-ha moment. Ours is exceptional. It’s incredibly pedestrian-friendly.”

A survey for next year’s visitor preferences may be conducted in person by an independent firm and not with an online survey, Grossheim-Harris said.

Also, the Visitor and Convention Bureau is looking at making its website easy to load onto smart phones, so travelers can more easily search for attractions.


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