The Colorado Wine Board Reports the Highest Market Share in State’s History

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Wine Industry Has Grown by 40% Over Last Five Years

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"This report reinforces my belief that Colorado is the new frontier for winemaking." Sue Phillips, owner of Plum Creek Cellars (Palisade)

The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board today released their annual market report from the Colorado Department of Revenue for Fiscal Year 2016. The findings indicate a strong trajectory of growth for the Colorado wine industry—40 percent growth over the last five years. Market share by volume hit an all-time high last year, with over two percent of all wine purchased in the state coming from Colorado – a notable sign that people are beginning to support the local wine industry with their purchasing decisions. And for the first time, Front Range wineries, those located between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, generated more than half of the total wine produced in the state, representing 52 percent of the industry.

“The Colorado wine industry continues to expand its market share in the state, particularly along the Front Range, thanks to the tremendous quality of the wines, improved growing conditions and the efforts of so many who are successfully shining a light on this burgeoning industry," said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “Colorado should be proud of the wines that are being produced here and look forward to a strong future.”

Colorado's modern wine industry began in earnest in 1968 when renowned Napa Valley winemaker, Warren Winiarski, helped open Ivancie Cellars in Denver and encouraged farmers in the Grand Valley to plant Vitis vinifera grapevines, the species of European wine grapes. In 1978, Colorado Mountain Vineyards, which operates today as Colorado Cellars in Palisade, began producing wine from those first Colorado grown grapes.

In 1990, with only five wineries the designation of Grand Valley American Vitictultural Area (AVA) and the Colorado Legislature's Colorado Wine Industry Development Act gave the industry a real boost. By the time the state's second official wine region, the West Elks AVA, was recognized in 2001 the number of wineries had increased to 40. Today, Colorado's 140 wineries are starting to be recognized nationally for their high quality.

"Dating back to the early 1990s, Colorado worked very hard to gain a foothold in the marketplace,” said Sue Phillips, co-founder and owner of Plum Creek Cellars (Palisade) which was founded in 1984. “As the most recent market share numbers show, however, the Colorado wine industry is gaining momentum and consumers are paying attention to the many excellent wines coming from our state. This report reinforces my belief that Colorado is the new frontier for winemaking."

Rick Turley, current owner of Colorado Cellars, said, “Colorado wineries are now producing wines which easily equal the quality of wines made in any wine producing region in the world. As the acreage of planted wine grapes gradually catches up to the capacity of our wineries, we can expect ever better world-class wines made from the grapes which thrive expressly in our Colorado microclimate.”

Colorado wines are a reflection of the state’s unique and sometimes problematic growing conditions, producing world-class grapes grown on nearly 1,000 acres of vineyards at some of the highest elevations in the country. The industry continues to expand and adapt to meet the demands of consumers as well as the unique high-elevation environment. Many of the state's wineries have increased production over the last two years thanks to relatively robust growing seasons in succession.

However, wineries are exploring new ways to confront climatic challenges. For example, in response to the winter damage sustained in recent vintages, grape growers have replanted more than ten percent of Colorado vineyards to cold-tolerant grape varieties, producing some very nice wines. As an example, Fox Fire Vineyards in Ignacio received a double gold medal in the Governor's Cup Winemaking Competition for their 2015 Colorado Traminette, grown in La Plata County at over 6400 feet in elevation.

Colorado Cellars' 1991 Colorado Cabernet Sauvignon also received a double old medal in the Governor's Cup, proving the staying power of Colorado wines. Plum Creek's Gold-medal winning 2005 Grand Valley Dry Riesling was also included in the Governor's Cup Case, the top wines entered in the July judging, representing the suitability and versatility of Riesling in Colorado's growing conditions.

About the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board

The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board is an agency of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, dedicated to promoting and furthering the development of Colorado’s grape growers and approximately 140 wineries. For additional information, visit

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Courtney Lis
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