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A Visit to the West Elks

Finding ourselves with a rare weekend day off, we paid a visit to the West Elks region in search of some Fall color, to sample some good wine and beer, and to check out the Mountain Harvest Festival in Paonia. The trip did not disappoint!

We started our day with a nice little hike on Kebler Pass, which is known for its stunning display of Fall colors in late September / early October. We clocked a little over 5 miles on the Dark Canyon Trail, and while it may have been just a tad early for peak color, we were treated to some beautiful scenery.

Bridge crossing of creek on Dark Canyon Trail
A beautiful bridge crossing on the Dark Canyon Trail

After our hike we grabbed a wonderful lunch at the Root & Vine Market in Paonia. We love stopping here, as it also serves as the tasting room for Qutori Winery which allows you to have a nice glass of wine with your meal. On this beautiful day, Sarah enjoyed a Blush of Pinot Noir with light strawberry and citrus notes that paired perfectly with her chicken green chili empanada.

Our next stop was Paonia Town Park, where we checked out the happenings at the Mountain Harvest Festival. After perusing the booths of many local vendors and artists, we grabbed a beverage to enjoy with the live music. We had heard much about Chrysalis Barrel Aged Beer, as the owner is a good friend of one of Sarah's grad-school friends, and we were really excited to see them pouring at the festival. I enjoyed their Dry-Hopped Saison, which had just the right amount of barrel, hop bitterness, and esters. This was an incredibly balanced and tasty beer! Sarah really enjoyed a light and crisp Pinot Gris from Azura Cellars to accompany the tunes.

Our final stop before heading back to Grand Junction was one of our favorites in the West Elks region, The Storm Cellar. Specializing in whites and rosés, we were treated to a tasting of their flagship Reisling, a new release dry Gewürztraminer, a new blend called The GM, their Alpenglow rosé blend, and their Double-Gold Colorado Governor's Cup winning Rosé of St. Vincent. All were fantastic, with The GM being our favorite due to its unique flavor profile of sweet and tropical notes from the Malvasia Bianca and spicy, peppery tones from the Grüner Veltliner (hence the name of GM). The wines are only part of what makes Storm Cellar one of our favorites, however. The people are amazing, the view is spectacular, and they have probably the most friendly winery dog you've ever met!

Storm Cellar Winery's dog Murphy with West Elks mountains in the background.
Storm Cellar's resident mascot, Murphy, with the West Elks in the background

With that, we headed home to Grand Junction, already planning out our next visit down to the West Elks area! Cheers all!

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