Most of the grape vineyards in Colorado are located on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. An increasing number of vineyards are located along the Front Range. In Colorado, their grape growing regions contain some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world. They have the most viticulture in the state at 4,000 to 7,000 above sea level. The warm summer days and cool nights is ensured by the mountain climate. Colorado is the home to two designated American Viticulture Areas. They are the Grand Valley American Viticulture Area and the West Elks American Viticulture Area, which is where most of the vineyards in the state are located.
Colorado is home to approximately 100 commercial wineries and there are about 1,000 areas are planted to grapevines. Some of the other wine regions include:
• Four Corners near Cortez, near the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Durango
• Pikes Peak/Arkansas River Valley near Salida, Canon City and Manitou Springs
• The Front Range between Fort Collins and Castle Rock
• Many wineries are located in the Denver metropolitan area
The miners first brought the grapevines to southern Colorado in the 19th century. The first agricultural records of vineyards were the sixty acres of grapes and other fruit planted by Governor George A. Crawford. The Prohibition virtually wiped out the Colorado wine industry in the 20th century. It was resurrected again in the 1960’s. George Ivanci opened the Ivanci Winery in Denver in 1968 with grapes from California. He was instrumental in developing experimental planting premium wine grapes around the Grand Valley.
The Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board in 1990 with only five wineries. Now, in 2010, there are now approximately one hundred wineries in Colorado.
Varieties of the species of the European grape Vitis Vinifera are the most popular grapes grown in Colorado. The most popular red wines are Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon. The most popular white wines are Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling.
The Grand Valley AVA has approximately seventy-five percent of all the wineries in Colorado. The vineyards are planted as high as 4,700 feet above sea level. The valley has consistent breezes that provide good air drainage. This reduces the risk of frost. The West Elks AVA has the highest altitude vineyards in the northern hemisphere. These vineyards are planted as high as 5,400-6,400 feet above sea level. The only roads to West Elks AVA cross-mountain passes of at least 11,000 elevations.