Palisade Colorado – the CO wine region that has been flying under the radar – was recently named the ‘new Sonoma’ by Food & Wine magazine. Read Color & Curiosity founder Megan Zink’s recent rundown on the Grand Valley AVA for all the reasons you need to check out this hidden gem – especially during the shoulder season.

A visit to Palisade Colorado has been a long time coming – originally on the calendar for April for last year, I actually found out I was pregnant the week we were supposed to go. Needless to say, we needed to postpone the trip. Once baby Z was born, though, we thought it might be a fun low-stakes road trip destination: if we were going to be sleep deprived anyway, why not do it somewhere interesting?! I won’t beat around the bush – we LOVED it. Palisade Colorado might be one of the most family-friendly spots we’ve been to (not that we have a lot experience; Baby Z made us first-time parents). But it’s extremely laid back, everyone is overwhelmingly friendly, and understands parenthood. We felt so welcomed and at ease and couldn’t have had a better experience!

Visiting During Shoulder Season: Why You Should Consider It

For whatever reason, wine country seems to be a favored destination during warmer months. Maybe it’s the vision of enjoying a frolic through the vineyards, or sunning oneself on patios while sipping the fruits of the winemakers’ labor (or the fact that Palisade Colorado is home to a wine festival, a peach festival and a host of other summery celebrations) – but the colder months can be just as wonderful for exploring. In fact, one could argue the shoulder season is an even BETTER time for wine lovers to visit because of the lack of crowds and more time to visit with the winemakers themselves. Plus, it’s less expensive, easier to get reservations, and the scenery is still just as breathtaking – and there’s less people around in case the little one starts crying!

Where to Stay – Palisade Colorado Hotels

As far as lodging in Palisade Colorado goes, there are a couple of options. I can’t speak to the hotels (in my research Wine Country Inn and Spoke & Vine Motel looked to be some of the most popular) because we opted for an Airbnb – but there are also plenty of bed and breakfasts and other accommodations too – including camping spots.

We stayed at the ‘Vineland Bungalow’ – an adorable spot just over 5 minutes’ drive from downtown with a hot tub and fire pit. It was the perfect place for new parents with a baby; we had plenty of space for the bassinet, a second area for midnight diaper changes, and a kitchen so we could make meals (and bottles) each day. No baby? It’s still a perfect place to explore the region and can sleep up to 5 – our favorite amenity was the private hot tub! We didn’t end up using the fire pit but it looked like a great area to sip a glass of wine and stargaze.

Where to Sip – Palisade Colorado Wineries

The Western Slope has plenty going on – from hiking and biking to orchards for picking produce, festivals and more – there’s definitely something for everyone – and every season. But of course, there are the wineries. The Grand Valley AVA is one of two federally designated regions in Colorado and produces more than 80% of the state’s crop. The protected nature of the Grand Valley region means the area is often sunny, warm and much more temperate than other parts of the state, even in the winter. (And it’s also great for growing peaches!).

When we visited, it was in the mid to upper 50’s, sunny and basically gorgeous for sitting outside and exploring. While we didn’t make it to every winery, we did hit up a number of them and can’t wait to come back and explore the rest. Check out our highlights below – and a quick tip: be sure to look up tasting room hours of operation as not all of them are always open every day during shoulder season – but it’s easy enough to plan your itinerary with a little research ahead of time!

Carboy Winery Palisade

Our first stop when we arrived in town was to Carboy Winery – their Palisade location is one of 4 (the others are in Denver, Breckenridge and Littleton). They just added 30 acres of estate vineyards in 2021, making them one of the state’s largest producers. We loved the intimate nature of the tasting room (not me, swooning over the moody modern cabin aesthetic) and the tasting experience. Everything was delicious – but a few standouts were the rose (an absolutely gorgeous burnt sienna type color with a dry finish and lots of strawberry) and the cab: tons of cocoa, vanilla and fruit notes. We took home bottles of both and had the cab as a special treat with a ribeye.

The Ordinary Fellow

If you’ve heard of the Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver, you’ll know the excellent work of the couple behind The Ordinary Fellow, which sits on the site of the historic United Fruitgrowers Co-Op warehouse, and opened in 2021 after they moved west. We happened to be there during the week so we didn’t get to check out their restaurant, Le Snack, but rest assured, we will be back for that! That, however, did not stop us from having an excellent tasting.

We loved the atmosphere of the tasting room and really enjoyed chatting with Karo, who told us of the history of her and her husband, Ben Parsons, and their journey to their present-day endeavor. Their delicious selection of wines uses grapes that come from their vineyards in southwest Colorado – the Colorado Box Bar (next to the historic Yucca House National Monument), Hawk’s Nest and Canyon of the Ancients vineyards. We got a bottle of the Petit Verdot and can’t wait to crack it open for a special occasion.

Sauvage Spectrum

When we heard one of the owners of Sauvage Spectrum is originally from the Midwest, we had to go check it out (but really, it was also the wine that drew us there). Sauvage Spectrum is doing some really interesting things with wine – including ‘pétillant naturels’ (‘natural sparkling’, aka ‘pet nats’) and bourbon barrel aging, among other approaches. The winery boasts varietals made from 100% Colorado estate grown grapes in their vineyards right in the Grand Valley AVA. While their offerings are certainly unique, rest assured there are plenty of options for every wine lover. Definitely worth checking out!

Palisade Brewing Company

Palisade Brewing Company offers a great outdoor patio and tons of sipping options – not to mention a great place for the husband to hang with the baby while mom shops – ha! Located right down the street from Palisade Distillery, the Palisade Brewing Company rounds out the Peach Avenue corridor in downtown Palisade. Bonus – they have food! If you’re craving BBQ, Palisade Brewing Company is your spot.

Where to Eat – Palisade Colorado Restaurants

Pêche

Before living in Golden, CO, Riley and I lived downtown in Chicago for a little over 10 years. We were fortunate to visit the 3-star Michelin restaurant while we lived there. We had NO idea that when we visited Palisade, we’d be in the vicinity of a restaurant owned and run by two Alinea alumni – Pêche. Needless to say, once I did some research, we knew we had to visit. Except… we had a newborn with us. While shopping the day before, I asked a number of locals if they thought it would be crass to try to make a reservation (I scouted out the first reso available, though, so as not to hit peak dinner time) and everyone assured me that 1) the owners have their own family and are super understanding and accommodating and 2) Palisade is really laid back and family friendly. So, we went for it.

It was incredible and I’m soooo glad we did it! We made sure our little foodie was fed beforehand and he ended up sleeping like an angel through dinner. The open kitchen (a nod to Alinea) was a spectacle to behold and the food was incredible. I especially appreciated the interactive cocktail pouring experience and the food – Riley opted for the ribeye (maybe one of the best I’d ever tasted) on a bed of smoking rosemary and other herbs – and I went with the Jamaican Street Food chicken dish. 12/10 would recommend! Since it was shoulder season, we were able to book a reservation the day before – but apparently it can be pretty difficult to get one. So plan ahead!

The Artful Cup

The Artful Cup is an adorable little spot with great coffee in an old textile warehouse building turned soda counter turned adjoining art gallery (next door, the Blue Pig Gallery) and coffee shop. You can also purchase art displayed by local artisans!

Fidel’s

Fidel’s Cocina & Bar is an awesome spot for street tacos, margaritas and other delectable dishes. Try the unique elk chorizo taco – you won’t be disappointed! We needed to get home for dinner for the little one so we ordered our food to go, but next time I’d like to stay a bit and experience the modern and natural atmosphere of the restaurant.

Palisade Pies

Even in the off season, you should make a stop at Palisade Pie Shop (and Anita’s Produce). Whether it’s for some coffee, ice cream, pie or pickled goods, everyone will likely find something to whet their whistle. I definitely walked out with way more than I anticipated – strawberry rhubarb peach pie, mini key lime and apple pies, two jars of salsa and a block of cheese.

Other Things to Do in Palisade Colorado

Shopping in Palisade, CO

Two of my favorite spots were the West Slope Mercantile and Harlow Lifestyle + Gift – both excellent stops whether you are in the market for souvenirs, gifts, or to treat yourself. I couldn’t help myself and came home with an awesome fleece zip up with a small Palisade patch on it, as well as a dish towel with peaches all over it ….yes, both for myself. Oops. Definitely worth checking out both if you have time – they’re not far from each other! You can also pop over to The Artful Cup if you’re in the market for some artwork – it’s just across the street.

Hiking in Palisade, CO

Since we had the baby with us, I didn’t have expectations of doing too much serious hiking, but if you’re set on getting some exercise in, there are some great spots to do it in Palisade. We opted for the Palisade Rim trail – which is exactly what it sounds like; a trail that goes around the rim of a gorgeous canyon of carved rock. I was baby wearing and with the slightly wet conditions and the fact that there is a pretty steep drop off one of the sides, we opted to not go any further than where the ‘rim’ part really started. Even if you don’t get all the way through the hike, the scenery is breathtaking and you can still get a great workout in! Next time I’d love to explore the whole thing, as I heard there are some really cool petroglyphs!

In summary, Palisade Colorado was the perfect trip for mat leave (or any time) – even during off-peak shoulder season! Just a little over 3.5 hours from Denver, the drive is pretty easy, and there are tons of things to do, eat and drink. And being one of only 2 designated AVAs in the state, is absolutely worth checking out the unique and delicious wines coming out of the region.

Check out a quick sample itinerary for your next road trip!

Sample 3 Day Itinerary for Palisade, Colorado

Day 1

  • Arrive
  • Wine tasting at Carboy Winery
  • Lodging check-in
  • Takeout dinner at AirBnb

Day 2

  • Coffee pick-me-up from The Artful Cup
  • Poke around the shops downtown: West Slope Mercantile, Harlowe + others
  • Head over to Palisade Brewing Company for a pint and some BBQ
  • Wine tasting at The Ordinary Fellow
  • Pick up dinner at Fidel’s
  • Soak in the hot tub

Day 3

  • Breakfast at A Slice of Life (seasonal hours apply, so double check!)
  • Hike the Palisade Rim Trail
  • Wine tasting at Sauvage Spectrum
  • Curb your sweet tooth at Palisade Pies
  • Early dinner at Pêche

Day 4 – check out and drive home