Almost 20 years ago several winemakers in the Grand Valley got together and held a small wine tasting. Now 18 years later the Colorado Mountain Winefest draws crowds from across the country.
Lumberger grapes hang in thick bunches at Carlson Vineyards. For owner Parker Carlson growing grapes in the Grand Valley started as a hobby. "I just kept telling my wife how much fun it would be to have a winery and finally it was, 'put up or shut up,' as we took over the house with wine," says Carlson.
But when he finally ‘put up’ as he says, he didn't realize he would be putting up so much.
Carlson says, "I had no clue it was going to be this big." This weekend Carlson will take six different wines to the Colorado Mountain Winefest held in Palisade. "It's a great financial weekend for us," says Carlson.
It's also a big boost for the local economy.
"We've got a handful of signature events that really are large events in Grand Junction and Winefest is one of them," says Jennifer Grossheim–Harris with the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Grossheim-Harris says hotels at this time are usually packed. "Normally the first part of August all of the rooms are sold out there's maybe a handful of space available."
Last year more than 6,000 people attended Winefest. Sarah Catlin, director of the Colorado Mountain Winefest, says they sold tickets to people as far away as Alaska. "Last year we sold tickets in 35 states. This year we envision probably more, we've done a little more advertising outside of Colorado." Catlin says the event might not get bigger each year but it will definitely get better. "The potential here is unbelievable," says Catlin.
Grossheim–Harris says, wine has steadily increased in popularity in the Grand Valley. "We do an online survey every year and wine pops up in the top three things of what people come here to do."
So while Carlson will continue to perfect his hobby and collect his medals the valley will reap the rewards from a bunch of grapes.