People always want to pigeonhole Colorado wines into some other region in the world, and with our vineyard, it’s easy to say we produce juice just like Bordeaux.

We’re flattered. And it’s true. And it’s not true. Sorry to be ambiguous; stay with us for a second.

The first thing to understand is what it means when someone bestows the moniker of “Bordeaux style” on a wine or winery. Bordeaux is one of the most famed French growing regions in the world, and it’s treated like a trademark, meaning if a bottle says Bordeaux on it, it should actually be from Bordeaux, legally speaking.

This region is famous for making the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends in the world. Other key grapes include Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (and to a lessor extent, Malbec and Carmenere). By definition, a Bordeaux red will always be a mix of these above grapes.

Since we only grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc on our 8 acres atop Orchard Mesa, it’s easy to understand why we might tell visitors our wines are Bordeaux in style. It’s simple to draw a comparison there, and we love to strive for a food-friendly blend like those French classics.

But Colorado is not France in more ways than just language and food. The Grand Valley where we grow our grapes has a warmer, shorter growing season. The soils are different, thus the wines are, too.

“Very few similarities,” says Horst Caspari, a professor of viticulture at Colorado State University’s Western Slope branch. “Your talking comparing different climates. You don’t get those temperatures for such an extended period of time. our growing seasons is shorter, it’s drier.”

Don’t look at that as a knock on Palisade. Wine should always give a sense of place. That’s why a Napa Cabernet is strikingly different from a Bordeaux. Life is no different here in terms of producing unique flavors.

“We make our own style, and Australian Shiraz is not a Rhone Syrah; that’s a good thing,” Caspari says. “Over time, people understand it’s different. Do you like Pepsi or Coke? Or do you drink Dr. Pepper?”

Our grapes tend to reach higher sugar contents than those from Bordeaux vines because of the high temperatures in the summer time, meaning we work with higher alcohol contents (15 percent is common). These produce bigger wines but we get nice earthy tones from the Orchard Mesa soil, too. Think of it as a nice mix of big, bold American Cabs from Napa and the more delicate, food-friendly wines of Bordeaux.

When the grape gods cooperate, we produce a Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and blend of the three each vintage. Depending on the season, anyone of those can be the standout, but Cabernet Franc tends to be the most consistent.

“Well, that particular side has always done really well with Cabernet Franc,” Caspari says. “They have had pretty consistently had some of the best, if not the best, Cab Franc in Colorado.”

The reason for that being the average length of our growing season. Merlot ripens first, followed by Cabernet Franc, then Cabernet Sauvignon. So if it gets cold early in the fall, our Merlot will be the best of the bunch. If the heat lasts well into October, then Cabernet Sauvignon is the vintage winner. Most years, it’s somewhere in between, and our Cabernet Franc becomes the crowd pleaser.

Each year is different, just like our “Bordeaux” wines are a little different than the bottles that come from the famous region. So we suggest you stock up on our wines, get a few bottles from France and pick up some good Napa Cab and taste them all to see the differences first hand.

Feel free to invite us (or at least tell us about your experience).

Current Releases:

  • 2006 Cabernet Franc: Dark ruby in color, a very nice wine with surprising finesse. Estate grown and bottled. Winner of a Gold Medal at 2008 Colorado Mountain Winefest
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc ($22): Dark ruby in color, a very nice wine with surprising finesse. Estate grown and bottled.
  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Aged in oak, aggressive tanins. A wine for lovers of big and bold Cab’s. Estate grown and bottled.
  • 2009 Family Reserve Red ($22): Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Raspberry and plum aromas, smooth chocolate finish with surprising finesse.
  • 2006 Merlot ($15): A nice cherry aroma, aged in oak, a complex wine at the height of its aging.
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