"The early-morning sun warms the back of my neck as a friend and I pedal along the open road, rolling past dangling peaches as well as grapes hanging in little clumps on parallel rows of trellised vines. Up ahead, a wood-frame chunk of white rock bearing the vineyard's name signals the entrance to the Plum Creek Winery, and we turn down a short pebbly road and spot a seven-and-a-half-foot metal fowl that's been made from old farm equipment guarding the rustic tasting room.
"Inside the bright, lofty barn-turned-tasting room, a redwood tasting bar takes center stage. Cozy couches and a hand-woven rug face a well-used sandstone fireplace; local artwork decorates the shop selling homemade preserves, salsas and mustards. But it's the promise of a glass of wine that has drawn us here today. Maybe the sauvignon blanc, with its apricot aroma? Or perhaps the riesling, with its hint of sweet peach and fig?
"No, this isn't Napa or a wine section of France. This is the Palisade region of Colorado, a dry, sunny area on the Western Slope, and the winemaking hub of Colorado's fledging viticultural industry. In recent years, the vineyards here have produced award-winning varietals and blends, making Colorado a rising star in the wine-making universe. More important, it's given active travelers yet another reason to visit this outdoorsy state, a place where you can push yourself to the physical limit by day, and then relax with a good meal (and an even better glass of wine) at night.
"Surrounded by the Book Cliffs mountain range and Grand Mesa, said to be the world's largest flat-top mountain, Palisade's mapped wine trail explores the area's local flavors and showcases its reputation as a pristine cycling playground. Although the elevation is high, the terrain is mostly flat with some moderate hills in the orchard area, and with quaint country roads wending past scores of working vineyards and fruit farms buzzing with activity. The paved route crisscrosses the Colorado River, which offers cool breezes and lovely views, and connects well marked, cycling-friendly tasting rooms and wineries that are never a few miles out of pedaling range.
"Having recently tasted a sturdy Colorado syrah that I would have guessed was from the Rhône Valley in France, I was intrigued by the idea of checking out the area. Joined by a friend, who is also a cycling enthusiast, we spent three days spinning and sipping through Palisade wine country this summer. Riding 15 to 20 miles a day, we stayed at B&B's, picnicked in fragrant orchards full of fuzzy peaches, dangling cherries and golden apricots, and savored hometown cooking and local wines along the way.
"Similar to the weather in coastal California and the Rhône Valley, the long, hot Colorado days allow grapes to ripen with ideal sugar levels while cool nights create terrific acidity, both essential elements for quality wine."
The article features just about everyone in Palisade, including the Wine Country Inn.
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