More than 80% of the grapes grown in Colorado come from the Grand Valley, a lush 30-mile stretch along the Colorado River surrounded by enormous plateau formations. The best way to go vineyard hopping in the fittest state in the nation is, obvious for most, by bike. The Fruit and Wine Byway takes cyclists along the back roads of Palisade, a small town with a high concentration of vineyards set in the scenic shadow of the 11,000-foot Grand Mesa and the iconic sandstone cliffs known as the Book Cliffs. While there are shorter loops to choose from, the biggest, at 25 miles, is easily done in a day – as long as you don’t hit too many wineries.
The paved route (best for a road bike) starts in quirky downtown Palisade and follows the Colorado River for a portion. The river’s deep blue-green waters flow through golden farmlands, creating a photogenic contrast with the red rock backdrop of the surrounding mesas. We hit a dozen wineries on our bikes, including Colterris, one of Colorado’s best. Owner Theresa High herself served up the samples, which included an all-new Cabernet Franc, in addition to the award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon. The Fruit and Wine Byway also took us past about a dozen orchards – apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum – and organic farms. We were there in October, just in time for the apple harvest, and most places had fresh apples for sale, or offered the ability to pick your own.
Note: While the roads were mostly flat, there were several good-sized hills, and Palisade is far from sea level at about 5,000 feet. The combination of physical exertion, altitude, and wine tasting can quickly lead to dehydration – refill the water bottles often.
More information: Map of Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway