“Food and wine are the perfect marriage,” said Marcelo Marino, executive chef and food and beverage director of the Wine Country Inn in Palisade. “If you think about it, wine is food. People drink it, but it’s from grapes that have been fermented. The fermented sugars inside the grape provide the alcohol; we refine it, make it 10 times better, and bingo, now we have a sophisticated grape juice.”
The French chef explained his passion for pure and flavorful cuisine over a mid-afternoon lunch at the inn’s Tapestry Lounge. The casual dining room’s Victorian decor and crisp tablecloths provided refreshing relief from the mid-day summer heat on the Western Slope.
“Food is poetry in motion — it’s romanticism; it’s a lot of love, a lot of art, a lot of hard work,” Marino said. “And when you get the flow, you get the flow.”
What Marino pairs amidst the inn’s wine list and dining menu is in the free-verse style and diligent cadence of Colorado’s very own masterpiece in the making. Palisade has been a foodie destination for years, but what the quaint community continues to craft will inevitably become an epic poem all it’s own.
A taste of ColoradoPlan for a morning arrival in Palisade. The temperature in the Grand Valley rapidly increases after noon, so you will want to get in as many outdoor activities as possible before you retreat into air conditioning.
Above all, the area is known for its vineyards and orchards. The Fruit and Wine Byway offers an “official” route, so it’s easy to bike or drive through a delicious agricultural adventure.
The area is home to two-thirds of Colorado’s vineyard acreage and more than one-quarter of the state’s wineries. A complex irrigation system complements the Grand Valley’s microclimate of sunny days, dry air and cool nights — producing renowned fruit harvests and award-winning wine varietals.
Make your first stop Rapid Creek Cycles and Sports (also Palisade River Trips), where co-owner Rondo Buecheler rents bikes for the family fruit rides and wine cruiser crawls.
“You can get on a cruiser bike and, in seven miles, hit eight wineries, or families can ride close by to some great orchards,” Buecheler said. “On top of the 16 wineries and more than 20 orchards here, we’ve got a well-known brewery and an amazing distillery — this is just a really relaxing place to come hang out.”
There are far too many places to stop to try and make it to every one, so begin with a short loop and take your time.
Grab a map at Rapid Creek and pick one of the scenic biking/driving routes of Palisade and the East Orchard Mesa. The East Cruiser Loop is a 5-mile easy tour along the Colorado River; it starts in downtown Palisade and makes it way past Clark Family Orchards. The West Cruiser Loop is a 7-mile loop that takes riders through Riverbend Park and goes by the most wineries of any tour, including Plum Creek Cellars, Meadery of the Rockies, Garfield Estates Vineyard, Maison La Belle Vie Winery and DeBeque Canyon Winery.
Finally, for more ambitious road riders or a car tour, the East Orchard Mesa Loop is 25 miles with several hills. It’s a scenic drive with vistas of the entire valley, and the road passes by many orchards, vineyards and wineries. Visit a fruit and wine highlight in one stop: Colterris Winery is known for is cabernet sauvignon; try a taste and buy a case, but be sure to eat at least one peach as you walk the terrior of shared soil with High Country Orchards.
Harvest season runs through early October, so late summer is a great time to pick up wonderful apples, peaches and pears to have now or freeze for later. Pie cherries and jams and marinades are also available, especially at impressive fruit and vegetable stands such as Anita’s Pantry and Produce — a can’t-miss along the East Orchard Mesa Loop.
Ride the riverA Colorado River trip is a must for family fun, and it’s an integral piece of a girls’ getaway weekend (highlighted, even on T-shirts, as the “Wine Wench Palisade Experience”). After you drop off your cruisers at Rapid Creek, arrange an afternoon or evening float at the shop with Palisade River Trips. Rafts are available if the water is high enough, but “duckies” (inflatable kayaks) and SUPs (stand-up paddle boards) are available through the river season.
“After a winery tour when it’s getting hot out, a group can head back to the hotel or B&B and we’ll pick you up for a personalized float trip,” Buecheler said. “The river is warm and great at any time of the day.”
Palisade River Trips offers beginner and intermediate paddleboard lessons, and parties also have the option of renting their own equipment and going out on their own. A shuttle is available for pick-up and drop-off.
“This is just a total relaxation town — we’ve got everything you want to do,” Beucheler said. “It’s great for families, and we specialize in bachelorette parties. Groups of girls can rent bikes for the wine tour and have an afternoon float trip to top it all off.”
For more active endeavors, be sure to inquire about the great hiking and mountain biking trails that are up and coming in the area. Walk or ride the Palisade Rim, and Beucheler said by next summer, the Palisade Plunge — a 6,000-foot decent from the top of the Grand Mesa to the Palisade Brewing Co. — will be included in a group of mountain bike trails coming off Powderhorn Mountain Resort and ending in Palisade.
End your afternoon or start your evening with a beer at the Palisade Brewing Co. Try their signature brew, the Dirty Hippie, a crisp and full-bodied dark American wheat. Grab some popcorn, or order a Reuben to split (it’s big). The establishment has great beer and is a true taste of local, as all the meat is smoked out back on slabs of peach wood.
Settle inAn overnight trip is doable, and every minute can easily be filled, but two nights is ideal in order to comfortably fit everything in. There are a number of accommodation options available in Palisade, and each place offers its own unique charm.
A DiVine Thyme B&B is in its seventh year, and what Cathy and Tom Monroe have created in their genteel gem is a true home away from home.
“We only have three rooms, so it’s very quiet and quaint,” Cathy said. ‘We have a lot of getaway space out back, so people can just have their own little experience. Being walking distance to town is very helpful, and I think our area has very peaceful surroundings.”
For a truly elegant experience, stay in The Suite, offering 530 square feet of comfort, with a separate sitting room and balcony.
A gourmet breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m., complete with coffee or tea, juice, fresh Palisade fruit, eggs with basil and feta cheese, sausage and a delectable pastry. If your mid-morning sweet tooth still arrives, visit Slice of Life Bakery, located downtown near the bike shop, for a selection of more than a dozen freshly baked goods, complete with Palisade’s warm local atmosphere and hospitality.
“Everyone’s just so friendly and welcoming here,” Cathy said. “I hear that over and over and over from our guests, and I think that’s why they come back.”
After a day well spent in the Colorado wine country, be sure to visit the Wine Country Inn to experience its full wine bar, along with a gourmet French dinner at Caroline’s. The romantic setting, paired with Marino’s masterpiece cuisine, makes it easy to settle in and sip any one of the local wines offered by the glass.
Leave room for an apres delight at Peach Street Distillers, just a couple of blocks away from the DiVine Thyme B&B. The drinks are strong and keep spirits high for visitors and locals alike. Want to keep it memorable? Have one and call it done.
“What makes Palisade such a cool destination for Colorado residents and visitors is that it’s a quiet and peaceful place,” Buecheler said. “Anyone can come down here and chill out for a few days for their weekend or during a vacation — just know that it may be hard to leave.”
“Food is poetry in motion — it’s romanticism; it’s a lot of love, a lot of art, a lot of hard work. And when you get the flow, you get the flow.”
Executive chef, Wine Country Inn