When Cailin and Garrett Portra bought Carlson Vineyards several years back, they had long-range plans to expand their presence into Grand Junction and add a tasting room.
Zesty Moose owners Diana and Brian Tap had a similar idea as they prepared to open their spice and seasoned blend store in downtown Grand Junction. Making wine for more than a decade, the Taps always planned to have a wine tasting room as part of the business.
Today, both businesses have opened tasting rooms and hope to provide a glimpse of Palisade's famous wine country to locals and visitors.
"We thought it would be great," Diana Tap said. "If (visitors) can't get out to wineries, they have a place to come down here."
The Portras planned to start a wine club — which they launched three years ago — and grow it to the point where they could offer club events and wine releases that could be held at the downtown tasting room. The room, 545 Main St., offers a more intimate setting for events.
"We saw downtown as a growing area and wanted to be part of it," Cailin Portra said.
Diana Tap said that after it took two years to renovate their space at 449 Colorado Ave., they decided to open their shop first and then tackle their wine tasting room, now known as Shiras. Shiras takes the name from a breed of moose found in Colorado.
The Taps opened Shiras late last year, carrying other Colorado wines from wineries they had a history with, such as Talon and Colterris. Last month, the couple launched their own wine, which is now available at the tasting room.
Downtown Grand Junction Marketing and Communications Specialist Caitlyn Love said the new tasting rooms are a welcome addition to downtown and provide good opportunities to work with other businesses.
"There are lots of collaborations that can happen with them being downtown," she said.
At Carlson Vineyards, Cailin Portra said the business had already worked with several downtown businesses such as Cafe Sol, Il Bistro Italiano and Bin 707. The Portras worked with Bin to develop a house wine for the restaurant, Cailin said.
Love said that downtown is in need of more gathering places as they provide more options when groups look to schedule events in the area, which both and Carlson and Shiras can accommodate.
Carlson holds its new wine releases at the tasting room and the space is available to book. Shiras is also available and Zesty Moose offers wine pairing and cooking courses in their shop.
Love said the idea makes sense as the city grows and hopes that others consider following suit.
"If they can reach people in downtown, it's a good option. The more Grand Junction gets exposure, the more it makes sense. We talk about experience, and wine tasting is what we're known for," she said. "I hope it prompts others to look at this opportunity."
Other wineries have given the concept a try, but have seen some less desirable results than Carlson and Shiras up to this point.
Around the same time that Carlson opened its downtown tasting room, Mesa Park Vineyards opened a space in the Main Street Gallery, however they shuttered the room shortly after. Owner Laura Black said the hours between the gallery and the tasting room were not compatible and decided to close as they enter their busy season in Palisade. She said they could try again at a later date.
Another winery, Red Fox Cellars, opened a tasting room in the Mesa Mall in 2017, but closed it late last year. Owner Sherrie Hamilton said the closing of the Herberger's department store reduced traffic to their side of the mall and sales took a hit.
While the concept of tasting rooms away from vineyards appears to be relatively new in the Grand Valley, Colorado Wine Industry Executive Director Doug Caskey said it's been a common practice in other wine havens in Washington and California.
"I think it's sort of bringing the product to the people rather than people out to the vineyards," Caskey said. "I think it's great. ... I'm thrilled wineries are doing that."