Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, September 19, 2016

Wine Festivals - Colorado Style!

Last spring I resolved to finally make a point of visiting the Palisade Wine Festival this fall -- we've wanted to for years, but haven't ever made it.  So I looked up the date, got some folks who wanted to go, and booked an AirBNB.

Also last spring, we purchased a fractional ownership at a resort in Breckenridge, and we hadn't yet had an opportunity to go up and make use of some of our benefits. So I started dreaming that Dave and I could head up to Breckenridge Thursday for a night, and then catch up with the rest of the group on their way over on Friday (Breckenridge is 2 hours away - Palisade 5, so it is about half way).  That was going to have to be last minute planning, basically, because I was aiming to use the 'space available' benefits that rent out un-reserved units for cheap to owners.  Hum.

In the meanwhile, I saw on Facebook someone who had won tickets for a wine paring dinner at the inaugrual Breckenridge Wine Classic.  As she was unable to use them, she was selling them cheap.  It started my mind awhirling...  the dinner was in Breckendrige!   On the Thursday night I was hoping to be up there!     AND held in the restaurant IN OUR CONDO BUILDING!  I felt the universe was telling me I absolutely HAD to go.

Then I asked the others, and they all said they would love to attend as well.  So I bought 5 tickets for less than 1/3 the published price... and then started sweating the deal to actually get a room for us to stay in.  But, that too fell into place a whole 2 days before we left, and suddenly the 5 of us were headed for a wine weekend spectacular.  :-)

The dinner?  Was lovely!  6 wines, 5 of which paired with food courses.  And over the course of 3 hours we ohh-ed and ahh-ed our way though a symphony of tastes.  Kelly was particularly fond of the final glass - an Austrailian Port.   Hee!

Friday I had a few hours of work to do - so the rest packed up the room and then headed down to the hot tubs for a proper soak (the evening before we'd only arrived 10 minutes before we got kicked out at closing time.)  We caught up out by the pool.

We mosied through the town of Breckenridge for a bit, then headed on over to Grand Junction where we checked in to our 'charming cottage' which was just that.

Saturday - Kelly and Cindy got up early and headed out for a hike - agreeing to return by noon so that we could go tour wineries.  (I had long ago abandoned the idea of actually attending the wine festival - in favor of just visiting area wineries - I was hoping all the crowds would be at the festival leaving us in peace.)   I made sourdough pancakes - from starter that another friend had just started from grapes that we harvested.  Amazing sour dough - equal parts grapes, (gluten free) flour, and water - squish together and watch it start bubbling!  It made fabulous pancakes!

About noon we heard from the hikers that... well... they weren't yet back to their car so... perhaps we should head out and they would catchup.  Little did I know that at that time they were actually lost - and didn't know where the trail was - but Kelly decided not to raise any undue alarms.  We headed out - and dutifully texted them each winery as we meandered across the map.

Sheron, now, is a certified mead judge and is always fascinating to drink with.  I'm certain she was educating a number of our servers during the day.  I pretty much just go tasting to judge whether I like sipping the sample or not.  She has a vast vocabulary and pallet that is interesting to try to expand my horizons against.  The first ones we hit up were Ptarmigan Vineyards and Mesa Park Vineyards - both very respectable.   And then we couldn't resist stopping at Z's Orchard where Sheron picked up a box of peaches and we perused their expansive collection of produce and I walked back down the road for these pics of some impressively producing trees!

It was a winery #3 (Carlson Vineyards) that we converged with Kelly and Cindy.  That particular winery had a lovely large picnic table with chairs, and it was definitely getting to be time for some food reinforcements, so we pulled out our lunch and got caught up on our respective days so far.

Winery #4 was St. Kathryns -- which, Oh HEY -- has a fudgery connected to it, so yeah - we got some fudge.  St. Kathryns was recommended to us because they have a Lavender wine, among a number of other flavors.  It was good!  I look forward to having a tea and be able to finish with a glass of lavender wine.    And finally we ended up at Whitewater Hill Vinyards as it was on our way back to Grand Junction.
"Drinks Well with Others"

By that time of the day -- things were just a little bit silly and fuzzy.  This is where the girls decided I needed this apron.

Getting home, Cindy and Kelly cooked up a spectacular meal of salmon, steak, roasted potatoes, peach salsa (Sheron's contribution) and arugula salad.   OH - we were so done!!

Sunday, my brilliant plan for splitting up our 5 hour return drive involved a tour of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI).  They are just outside of Basalt, CO - and are one of the oldest continually operating permaculture institutes around.  'Permaculture', I think, is a word that is still being defined - but the simplest explanation could be "the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient."
see also:

The fig house
They operate on principles like -- the forest doesn't need people to come weed it, or water it, or add fertilizer -- so why shouldn't our gardens operate like that?  Jerome Osentowski has achieved such an incredible site - 5 green houses full of everything from banana trees to pomegranates to taro plants (an soooo much more - jujube fruit?  No joking - I hear the candies were named after it!).

There is one greenhouse devoted almost entirely to a giant fig tree.  Have you ever had fresh figs?  I had NOT!  Have you ever had one picked right from the tree?  It is an amazing experience.

Climate Battery intake
Fig!  Indeed - looks less appealing than it tastes
Jujube fruit!

Typical sidewalk - under which he grows
worms and compost

One of the most striking things about his greenhouses?  They weren't hot, nor were they humid!  I thought tropical plants liked the humidity!  Turns out, they don't need it, and it is way more comfortable without it.  Jerome helped prove out the technology of a climate battery.  Fans suck warm air from the greenhouse into tubes buried feet under the ground - thereby warming the ground and storing the heat there in the day while cooling the overall greenhouse.  In the evening, the same fans pull in cool air from the green house, warm it up underground, and raise the temperature in the green house.  Frankly, he said - keeping the soils warm is what the plants love - above the ground many plants go dormant over the winter but survive just fine in cold temps as long as their roots are kept at 50 degrees or so.

The Duck-less pond
Black Aprico

After the greenhouses, he led us around much of his 8 acre lot - picking fruit at nearly every turn.  Black apricots!  Of his 20 varieties of grapes, several were ripening.  Plums.  Gogi berries. Apples. And a pear if we could have gotten 25 feet up into the tree to pick the one that missed the harvest.  Keep in mind - he lives on the very red, sandy soil of the Colorado mountains at 7200 feet.  The climate he's been able to establish there is amazing - due to the many principles of nature that permaculture advocates promote - think about your water first, work with nature instead of against it, and trap carbon in the ground instead of allowing it to escape to the atmosphere.  It was just a whirl wind of exciting and overwhelming information.  "Forest Gardening" is what he calls his type of agriculture - check it out if any of this sounds interesting to you.

And... alas!  The weekend came to a close - we just had a 3 hour drive ahead of us.  But what a great few days of memories we had gained!


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