“This is your Superbowl, isn’t it?”
“No, this is bigger. This is my wine day.”
My mom loves Colorado Mountain Winefest; she’s been going to Palisade in September for nearly 15 years, where Riverside Park comes alive with the delicious flavors of fermented grapes from both Colorado and beyond. In the beginning, she went with girl friends and a few family members. My dad started going about 10 years ago. My mom, without a doubt, will be returning until the end of time.
The only year my mom has missed it, actually, was when Chad and I got married the same weekend as the festival.
“I love Winefest the most,” my mom said, mid-tasting for a new local vineyard. “So imagine how much I must love you to have skipped.”
Chad and I got to go to Winefest once in 2018, and then again last week in 2022. When I say it’s an honor to be there, I mean it. It’s luxurious, fun, and expensive. I don’t know what going to the Superbowl is like, but I imagine there’s less wine.
I think I’d rather be here.
Back in 2018, Chad and I fumbled the proverbial Franzia bag. To sum it up: we got sloppy, messy drunk, right away. We sampled too much, too quickly. Add in sun, a lack of water, and the hubris of a couple 23 year olds and the result is something I can hardly remember.
So, this time, Chad and I implemented a few strategies to ensure a good, calm, happy time from start to finish. We slowed down, sampled wine to enjoy the taste and flavor (rather than just to drink it), were choosier with our samples, drank alllll the water, and ate lots and lots of food. In the morning we drank a Liquid IV, and again before bed. It was pleasant and fun without going overboard, and I’m proud to say we didn’t have hangovers the next day.
Here’s the gist of Palisade’s Winefest: each participant is given a wine glass to enjoy unlimited samples from vendors that fill up Riverside Park. You go from tent to tent, stand in line, and ask for whichever variety you’d like to try, from merlots to cabs to fruited varieties. While most of the tents are wineries, there are also retailers, local businesses, and food trucks selling their products. There is definitely an expectation that if you enjoy the wine that you’re sampling, you will hopefully purchase a bottle to take home.
Free shuttles are available from participating hotels and high schools, which is a great touch. (We usually Uber to the Double Tree to hop on the shuttle, and do the same on the way back.)
There are two different admission types, including VIP and regular. With my parents, we always go the VIP route, which also includes a gift bag of goodies, free food and water, more wine samples, a tent for shelter/protection from the sun, seats and tables, and private outhouses. Honestly, while significantly more expensive, the free food—which happens to be gourmet) is worth it.
Upon arrival, we usually eat food, drink water, and maybe try a few samples of tent wine. Then, it’s go time: we’ll head outside and wander through the rows and rows of tents. Then, back to our section to refuel. Then, back out again. The process repeats until suddenly it’s 4 p.m. and it’s time to head back on the complimentary shuttle home.
Highlight of the year
Not only do I understand why Winefest is my Mom’s favorite time of the year, I’m also leaning that way too. This year’s event was an incredible highlight of my year and I feel so lucky that we ended our final trip to Colorado with a bang. Or really, a clink and a cheer.
Thank you to my mom and dad, for everything.
Interested in attending next year’s Winefest? Details about the event, including the date, tickets, and Wine Week events are available online at coloradowinefest.com.