Visiting Palisade, Colorado for the Wine

Having been to wine country all over the world before, my best friend and I decided it was about time we visited wine country in our current home state: Colorado. And in Colorado, that’s in Palisade, a small town approximately 4 hours west of Denver by car (right next to Grand Junction).

Are we glad we went? Yes. Would we go again? Maybe. It’s definitely worth checking out for any Coloradan — and a great introductory experience for someone who has never been to wine country. However, it’s a bit of a letdown for those who frequent places like Napa or Willamette. I’m not sure I’d make a whole 4-day weekend out of it again, but I may stop by on the way back from Ouray or Grand Junction during peach season to experience the other thing Palisade is famous for: its peaches.

Where Stay

We stayed at the Colorado Wine Country Inn, which was probably the nicest “hotel” option in town — complete with small pool, decent restaurant, free basic breakfast, and the Grande River tasting room a short walk away. Would we recommend staying here to others? Maybe if you absolutely want that pool, have a car, and plan to have someone driving all the time. Look, it’s a very comfortable spot — but despite what they claim at the front desk, the Inn is not exactly “walkable” to downtown Palisade at 1.3 miles away (especially in the hot sun, with no tree cover). We were honestly a little shocked that they don’t run a shuttle to/from town. Not for dinner, not to the cycling rental center, not for anything. Even the tiniest hotels in NorCal wine country run shuttles to their respective downtowns.

We passed some really nice AirBnB’s during our weekend travels, so that’s a great option to explore. Our recommendation if you’re not tied to a pool? Consider an AirBnB, B&B, or small hotel closer to downtown Palisade. The Spoke & Vine Motel actually looks very nice and much more central. It’s probably what I would look into next time. For me personally, the convenience of being able to walk to dinner, to rent a bike, or to go shopping is just worth it — because I don’t mess around with drinking and driving.

Getting Around

Getting around Palisade was a lot more complicated than we anticipated (and that’s an understatement). Maybe we’re just used to how easy it is to hire a driver for the day in Napa or Sonoma (or heck, even France). Not only is it almost impossible to get an Uber or Lyft in Palisade (as they’re all in Grand Junction), but there’s also no easy car hire option. Our hotel didn’t even have a shuttle to/from downtown. It seems to me like most people must be driving around slightly drunk.

If you choose not to make a friend your DD for the day — your options are: Palisade Pedicab, an open-air safari truck from Pali Tours, a horse and carriage from JR’s Carriage Service, a hop on/off red Palisade Trolley, a stretch limo from Absolute Prestige, or a rented bike. Most of these offer pre-set tours for 4-5 hours where they choose the destinations for you — as well as a pricier private/custom option where you can choose where to go. The slower modes of transportation have a limited service area, so some of the wineries in Palisade are not reachable by all of them.

What did we do? We hired Palisade Pedicab one day and the Pedi Tours safari truck the other day. Both were approximately $85 per person. The truck has a much wider service area range, so we had to use it for Carlson, Restoration, and TWP — which the pedi cabs don’t service. However, it’s definitely a bumpier and windier ride, so it’s not ideal for those who get easily carsick or want to arrive without knots in their hair. The pedi cabs are slower and don’t go as far, but are definitely gentler. The nice thing about the pedi cabs was also that they offer $10 rides to/from downtown Palisade in the evenings — so we ended up texting our lovely driver (cyclist?) Corinne for all our dinner transportation.

Palisade Wineries

Instead of letting a local tour company decide where to take us (which can sometimes be based on true knowledge of the area and wines, and sometimes based on convenience or who they’re better friends with) — I created my own list based on recommendations from winery owners I know in Denver and Palisade, as well as some of my own research. Below are the ones we visited, and we honestly enjoyed them all — for different reasons. A tasting at most of these is usually under $20 per person.

Colterris: Colterris is a must for any tour of Colorado wineries. It has three locations in Palisade, and I’ve been to two of them — both of which are fantastic. The main winery is a shady oasis complete with lots of picnic tables, sprawling trees, a view of the mesa, and a big lawn for kids and dogs. The Overlook is a bit further South and less shady, but offers some really nice views of the mesa. All locations have a fantastic wine selection — probably one of our favorites in Colorado — from a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, to a White Cabarnet Sauvignon “porch pounder,” to an easy-drinking Malbec rosé, to a range of award-winning reds. Their third location offers the largest collection of all their wines, but I haven’t been there, so I cannot comment on the atmosphere.

Carboy: Carboy has a location in Denver and Littleton, as well — and if you’ve been there, you know they have a great wine selection. The Palisade location has a great selection, too, except they also have more of their sparkling options available here — and the tour offers a glimpse of their unique, state-of-the-art bottling machinery for their sparkling wines. The one down side is that I didn’t really see any grassy picnic areas here, but they do have a really cool rooftop patio with a view of the mesa. Also, every 2nd Friday of the month, there’s a really cool event here where you can drink bubbles and design your own Western hat!

The Blue Beryl Winery: A newer, boutique winery run by a mother/daughter team — where the daughter finished art school and now creates the unique artwork for all the bottles. The facility itself is bright, modern, and beautifully designed — with floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant furniture, artwork all over the walls, and a small outdoor patio. It’s definitely worth trying the Chenin Blancs, which is a pretty unique grape these days (and also the refreshing white wine lemonade if they have it that day).

Sauvage Spectrum: Sausage Spectrum is a newer winery “re-imagining” the Colorado wine industry. They not only have over 26 hand-harvested varietals — but also a range of fun wine cocktails and frosés. The space is a casual warehouse with both indoor and outdoor seating, and they host some fun events here like boozy brunches and tapas dinners. I don’t quite want to call it the “party” winery — but it probably has more of that vibe than anyone else.

Restoration Vineyards: This was touted to us as the “boujee” winery in Palisade — and it’s certainly one of the nicer ones we went to. They have a beautiful green lawn with lots of lawn chairs and shady overhangs, comfortable lounge furniture in the shade, a view of the mesa, a fire pit for cold evenings, and a food truck serving a good range of food options. I think the atmosphere is actually pretty similar to Colterris’ main winery. The only down side was the limited wine tasting selection (2 whites, a rosé, and 3 reds) — but the sparkling rosé is definitely worth trying by the glass/bottle. Don’t forget to check out their online calendar for live music events. Also note: this winery is outside of Palisade Pedicab range.

Carlson Vineyards: This is one of Palisade’s older wineries, and a bit off the beaten path. It’s got a lot of character — and is an absolute must for cat lovers! Not only do all their labels have some sort of cats on them, but they also have 3 friendly winery cats wandering the premises. The winery itself is nice and quiet — with a beautiful, relaxing yard facing the vines. While they have a wide selection of both whites and reds, I would say their standout wines were the sweet dessert wines (some even with Palisade peaches added in). Carlson is not far from Restoration, making these 2 easy to lump together in one trip (but also outside of pedi cab range).

TWPlaas / TWP Winery: This is another spot off the beaten path (and outside of pedi cab range). It offers a quiet, South-African inspired retreat away from the crowds. The owners are great and truly make you feel welcome; they also run a farmhouse where you can stay next door. One down side is that they ask you to devote a minimum of 2 hours for their tastings, but it’s only for 6 tastes of wine and a charcuterie board (so I’m not sure why the time minimum). It’s fine if you’re driving yourself, want to keep a slow and steady pace, and have all day. It’s a little more difficult if you’re on a 4- or 5-hour time limit with a driver. It was also the priciest of all our visits, at slightly over $60 per person for the wine and bites.

Downtown Palisade

Downtown Palisade is a very small place. I wouldn’t plan to spend even a half day here. For local shopping, The Blue Pig Gallery and Harlow are the two decent options. Walkable are also the main brewery and distillery in Palisade — if you’re not already full of wine, that is. 

There are two excellent dinner options in downtown Palisade, but only two. The others I wouldn’t even bother with (except the on-premise restaurant at the Wine Country Inn, which was a good alternative when we didn’t want to leave the property).

  • Fidel’s — a lively spot with a patio that serves great tacos and margaritas (although I personally loved the pozole best).
  • Peche — a small fine-dining restaurant with fantastic food, service, and wine (not just Colorado wine) that will remind you of a spot in Napa.

Reservations at Peche are a must probably a month in advance. Fidel’s can be hit or miss in terms of business, depending on what’s happening in Palisade — but we couldn’t get in the first Friday we tried — so I highly recommend booking here a few days in advance.


Note: This trip was not sponsored by Palisade or any of the companies above. All my opinions are unbiased and my own.

And that’s all folks! Feel free to contact me with any questions.