Grand Junction is the Gateway to Colorado Wine Country and Upbeat Tastings in Palisades
Considered the fruit bowl of Colorado, this is where underrated wines of character grown at high altitudes are found. Ordinary Fellow is the most colorful.
Like many histories of grape growing throughout the U.S., Colorado winemaking begins with immigrants finding the right soils and growing conditions. Colorado winemaking flourished, hitting over a millions pounds of grapes from over 250,000 vines from 1034 Colorado farms. Prohibition wiped out the entire industry.
Fast forward to 1968 when Dr. Gerald Ivancie started Ivancie Winery and hired Warren WIniarski away from Mondavi, a major coup. Winiarski became world famous when, as winemaker, he won the 1976 Judgement of Paris red wine portion of the competition for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley.
Ivancie and Winiarski encouraged experimental plantings of grape varieties around the fertile Grand Valley of Southern Colorado which would later become the first Colorado AVA. Winiarski continued to believe in Colorado’s potential and, in 2020, provided a grant of $150,000 to Western Colorado Community College in Grand Junction, the first college in the state to offer a degree in viticulture and enology. The legendary winemaker firmly believes in the wine industry in Colorado and puts his money toward training and research, attracting more people to consider wine growing and winemaking as careers.
Originally from Kent, England, Ben Parsons started on the sales side of the wine industry until an epiphany had him chasing down a role in production and he landed in New Zealand at Nobilo WInes, then received a rotary scholarship that sent him to school for enology. Upon graduation in 2001 and looking for a winemaking job, he was offered a post in Colorado, a state Parsons had no idea could produce wine.
Coming to work at Canyon Wind Winery, Parsons worked with Bob Pepi, Jr. and started a winemaking consulting business. In 2007, the death of his father prompted him to put together a business plan and start acquiring used winemaking equipment. Installing it in a quonset hut in downtown Denver’s Santa Fe art district, Parsons sourced grapes from the Palisades in southern Colorado as well from Washington State and, as an innovator, put wine in kegs to save on packaging and ease of service, starting a trend for kegged wine across the state and U.S.
Finally deciding to own his own vineyard, Parsons planted Box Bar Vineyard at 6300 feet, one of the highest in the country, and opened an eclectic and truly colorful tasting room in the old peach co-op in the center of Palisades. The name, The Ordinary Fellow, was taken from a pub in England where young Ben Parsons hung out, The name is tongue in cheek and Parsons points out in his marketing that …
Ordinary Fellows keep their pinkies down, drink drip coffee, don’t care how you say tomato, prefer tap water and will drink wine out of any glass. But, there is no reason for that wine to be “ordinary.”
At Box Bar, Parsons has planted 12 acres of Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay which he farms by hand organically and sustainably. For other wines, Parsons sources fruit from vineyards in Washington State that farm with the regenerative methods he used in Colorado. And, tasting these wines made from Colorado grapes, there is no doubt that wine – and good wine – can be made in Colorado.
Here is just a sampling of the Ordinary Fellow line which, with their colorful labels that can be
turned 360 degrees around the bottle so that an array of colorful images appear in “Ordinary Fellow’s” head. Hard to explain but, get the bottle and you will see why this is no ordinary work of art. The perfect gift.
2021 Riesling, Colorado $24
I am not the only one who loves this wine. Decanter Magazine awarded it 90 points which is not only a good score, but the wine is from Colorado and costs less than $25! Bright acid with mineral notes and aromas of citrus and apply with a touch of anise. Lovely finish and perfect food pairing wine.
2021 Chardonnay, Colorado $35
Chardonnay, when made well, is just fantastic. Naysayers who drink “anything but” just haven’t had well made wines. Grown on one of the highest vineyard sites in Colorado, the coolness allows the grapes to slowly mature. White peach and stone fruit aromas with hints of Meyer lemon. Mineral in the mouth and lean with bright acidity and lingering citrus notes.
2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Colorado $39
Although young this Cabernet should age well given its balanced acid. Red cherry pops in the nose with tanned leather and clove gives the wine spice. Grippy tannins are a bit chalky and should soften over time.
2022 Blanc de Noirs of Pinot Noir, Colorado $48
At 6800 feet in elevation, Hawk’s Nest vineyard, with its 100 foot drop in elevation from top to bottom, these grapes stay cool – and enjoy an amazing vista. Parsons has made the first sparkling wine made from Colorado grapes. With no dosage, this sparkling wine is fresh with bright acid, yet the almond, strawberry and crushed cherry aromas give the wine depth. Love the hint of brioche on the palate.