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Food and Wine in Paonia and the North Fork Valley

Paonia, Colorado is nestled in the secluded North Fork Valley – between Aspen and Grand Junction as the crow flies.

It is a unique climate where Colorado’s incredible Rocky Mountains merge dramatically with the mesas and flats of Utah.

 

The Beauty, and Personality, of Paonia and the North Fork Valley

There are few places of true character and beauty left in the country that remain secluded and untouched by the traveling masses, but Paonia’s enthralling majesty and quirky character has remained a secret to the state’s inhabitants for over one hundred years.

Originally settled in the late 19th century on the heels of the mining boom in Ouray and Silverton, it saw an infusion of farmers and miners that remain a cornerstone of the area today.

Humble Talent in the Wine Makers

Many of the early miners happened to be Italian miners, and the result was a demand for wine that fostered widespread grape growing between Paonia and Hotchkiss. The dry and cool climate was favorable toward cultivating old-world grape varietals, and the mix of limestone, slate and shale in the soil continues to offer an excellent terrior, or unique vineyard quality, to the region’s wines.

Sadly, many of the early vine plantings were pulled out during prohibition, not to be planted again until the 1960’s. Paonia and Hotchkiss developed a reputation for growing some of the countries best peaches, supplemented by cherries, apples, pears and now sustainable, free-range buffalo, sheep, pig, chicken and cattle.

The area was subsequently tagged as a hot spot for people looking for a slower pace of life in the 1960’s and 70’s, and slowly, the area attracted modest, but very talented wine makers from all over the world.

In the last year, the world has started to catch on to Colorado’s best kept secret: the North Fork Valley is host to a secluded natural beauty, a temperate climate and geology that supports fine wine making, and a presence of sassy, individualistic personalities to preside over it all.

To quote one local wine maker:

    “There’s probably six thousand people in this valley, and fully a half of them have life stories that will make your head spin.”

Culinary Upswing

With the re-introduction of wine in the valley, naturally came the food. Today, Paonia and the North Fork Valley takes pride in its local farmers and top chefs who promote sustainable, organic farming practices. They craft their cuisine based on slow-food philosophies, and serve their customers with a local, country warmth that’s unlike anything you can find in the city.

Bringing the Worlds of Agriculture, Slow Food and Wine Together

The North Fork Valley today reminds some of the Willamette Valley in Oregon twenty years ago – an epicenter of great wine, burgeoning food and wonderful people.

While the North Fork Valley can’t approach Willamette Valley’s size, it does embrace a unique set of environmental and cultural circumstances that make it one of the best places to eat, drink and be merry in the state – all with a real, down to earth country flavor that no longer exists in many of America’s fine wine regions.