You don’t have to cross the Continental Divide to visit Colorado’s 2018 Winery of the Year; Creekside Cellars, at 28036 Highway 74 in Evergreen, is just a half-hour from metro Denver. Awarded the distinction by the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE), the cozy winery on Evergreen’s rustic main street offers a full menu of food and wine, live music, local art, and a deck overlooking the snow-fed waters of Bear Creek.
The winery, which opened in 2000, has earned several prestigious awards in the past six months. In addition to winning 2018 Winery of the Year, Creekside won the 2017 Governor's Cup with its 2014 cabernet Franc. The cabernet Franc, with its licorice bouquet and bracing blackberry and bell-pepper notes, was the first Colorado wine to earn a score of 91 points from Wine Enthusiast. The winery’s cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, rosé, syrah, and petite sirah have also been recognized by the Governor’s Cup and Wine Enthusiast.
Michelle Cleveland, Creekside Cellars’ winemaker, loves the recognition and is passionate about making the best wine and “putting Colorado on the map.” Colorado’s wine industry is relatively young and is sometimes overlooked. “People try one bad Colorado wine and think it’s all bad,” says Cleveland. “I’ve had bad wine all over the world, but that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to try it.”
I sampled a number of the Creekside Cellars’ reds while enjoying the winery's savory bison brisket stew and decadent chocolate pâté dessert. I particularly liked the syrah, with its soft, delicate taste, the refreshing malbec and the cabernet sauvignon. All of the wines have a clean, smooth quality, with good acidity. I even tried the dry rosé of Cinsaut and Mourvedre still in the fermentation process for summer debut; it was lovely (so I’ll be enjoying more of it on the winery’s deck this summer). I’m not sure rosé works with the chocolate pâté, so I may also have a glass of one of Cleveland's three dessert wines.
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“All of our wines pair well with food,” says the winemaker, who first fell in love with Creekside Cellars when she was a customer. She left her job in coffee production and distribution (life’s other essential beverage) and came to work for Bill and Anita Donahue’s Evergreen winery, earning an online degree in viticulture and enology from University of California, Davis, along the way. Her passion for excellence has taken winemaking at Creekside to the next level. “She’s really stepped up to the plate,” says Eliot Zizic, Creekside’s manager. “We’ve become a destination.”
Creekside Cellars sources its grapes from its own ten-acre Palisade vineyard as well as other Grand Valley vineyards, and shares its vineyard manager with Boulder-based Bookcliff Vineyards, which won CAVE’s 2018 Grape Grower of the Year. California wine legend Warren Winiarski received the third CAVE award, 2018 Friend of the Colorado Wine Industry, for his mentorship of Colorado wine growers.
Creekside Cellars is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a full food menu available until 4 p.m. and an antipasto list from 4 to 5 p.m. Call 303-674-5460 or visit the Creekside Cellars website for more information.