Forgive Chuck for being a little selfish.

The California native grew up with agriculture in his blood, but when it came time to raise a family in the early 80s, he realized that a career on the farm couldn’t provide the lifestyle they wanted. So he turned to the corporate world to earn a paycheck.

“I just couldn’t make enough money to support a family and stuff (in agriculture),” he says. “I felt like I sacrificed 25 years of doing what I needed to do to build enough of a financial reserve so the second half of my life I could do something a little more meaningful.”

Luckily there’s always retirement to work 16 hours days making wine.

Meet Chuck Price, the winemaker for Mesa Park Vineyards, a Palisade operation he’s owned with his wife, Patty; daughter, Brooke: and son-in-law, Brad Webb, since 2009. While some look to golf, Chuck considers a perfect retirement one in which he works harder than ever to produce quality estate wines and manage an 8-acre vineyard filled with his favorite Bordeaux-style grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot).

A Dream Come True

Despite serving as an electrical engineer Lockheed Martin for a quarter century, Chuck’s heart was elsewhere, professionally speaking. He loved the opportunity Lockheed provided, but it wasn’t him.

He wanted dirt under his fingernails and a few juice stains on his work jeans. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University in 1975 with a degree in agricultural business and marketing that led him to a job he loved, producing sorting equipment for machines that handled stone fruits and apples (common flavors in wine, no less).

Even before then, he was immersed in the culture. Growing up in the Long Beach area — before it became the over-populated sprawling city that it is today — meant seeing miles and miles of strawberry, orange and lemon fields. His father was an independent grocer and grew peach and stone fruit trees as a hobby.

Chuck loved everything about it.

But there was only so much financial security that this line of work offered him, so with a little trepidation, he jumped into the corporate world in 1983, a financially stable job that eventually relocated he and Patty to Denver in the late 80s.

The Dilemma

So that was life for 25 years. But a year ahead of his silver anniversary at work (in 2009), he began weighing his retirement options, coming up with three ideas as to how to spend his post-engineering days.

The first included a move back Southern California for a life on the beach. There he could dabble in the fix and flip real estate market. “That was more thinking what my wife would enjoy,” he says. “A couple of blocks off the beach…” Sounds like a nice retirement for most.

Or he and Patty could buy a camper van and spend a few years driving around the United States. He didn’t think she would care for that as much, however.

Then there was the idea of going back to his roots and finding a small farm in a great little agricultural community. It was an idea his wife could get behind, and it could help him live out his dream.

As luck would have it, daughter Brooke and her husband Brad found this perfect vineyard for sale high atop East Orchard Mesa in Palisade. Brooke started lobbying, and Chuck found himself pondering a future along the Western Slope, which fondly reminded him of his childhood home.

He’d always loved wine and agriculture in general — he even toyed in home winemaking in the late 70s and early 80s. “For me its just really a nice way to spend your life, living in an agricultural community. It was a bit selfish I guess,” he says of retiring to a life on the vineyard. “Brooke and Brad have their own selves to blame.”

No one will blame him for following what seems like a destiny. “This is where my heart is,” he says.

When he arrived on site at Mesa Park, it was a whole different game than producing a few jugs at home. Commercial winemaking and vineyard management is as much an art as it is a science. He poured through notes and charts left by his predecessors (including notebooks from then consultant Ben Parsons, who’s gone on to produce some of the highest rated wines in Colorado history with his Denver-based Infinite Monkey Theorem label).

Of course, it helps to have a neighbor like Doug Vogel, the respected winemaker/owner at Reeder Mesa Vineyards, who lives just a few miles away. Chuck calls Doug his mentor, one who has eased the learning curve quite a bit.

The First Bottle

Which leads us back to the summer of 2011 when Chuck was able to release his first wine. See, the first few vintages that have been offered since the family took over were already in process when they bought the winery. So Chuck just finished them off.

The 2009 vintage was the first that Chuck nurtured from vine to bottle. He showcases a fatherly pride when talking about the 09 Cabernet Franc.

“It was kinda almost euphoric,” Chuck says. “It’s an accomplishment, like graduating from college. It only happens once or twice in your lifetime.”

Chuck’s dream is pretty much complete. He has the awesome farm in a beautiful part of Colorado, a few pallets of wine to drink at his disposal and his family to experience it all with him.

“I’ve just always wanted to be able to produce a Bordeaux-style wine,” he says. “And pair it with food and friends and family.”

Turns out the only way to do that is be a little selfish and move the entire family to Palisade to open a winery.

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