Nestled in the rolling hills of western Colorado, the Palisade AVA is a place where the beauty of nature converges with the bounty of the vine– the perfect backdrop for romance. Nicholas and Holly Games’ love story is intertwined with their passion for wine.
Born and raised in Southern California, Nicholas moved to Denver in search of new opportunities and found it at the Post Office. Holly, a Colorado native, also climbed the ranks in management at the same place. It was a first date in Colorado wine country that they discovered their shared passion. In 2019, they made it official by getting married in the midst of a blizzard, and in 2021 they finally made their dream of owning a winery come true by buying Maison La Belle Vie Winery, which means “House of Beautiful Life”, from John Barbier.
Two decades ago, John had a dream to create an authentically old world French winery in the setting of this bucolic wine country. He initially planted Marechal Foch and Muscat on 4.5 acres of the property. He was fermenting, aging and selling wine right out of his barn. As the winery grew, so did its facilities. A new building was erected, complete with a larger tasting room, and the establishment of a restaurant soon followed, which offered visitors a hearty meal while they savored John’s handcrafted wines.
At over 4,000 feet in elevation, the vineyard is located near the Book Cliffs, a series of desert mountains and cliffs that border Colorado and Utah, which helps to radiate heat and keep the vineyard warmer than its surrounding areas. This microclimate, further enhanced by well- draining soil, composed of limestone and sandstone, which is characteristic of the Palisade region. The property is also perched at the mouth of De Beque Canyon, which helps regulate the temperature, providing a cool respite from the summer heat and protection from winter’s chill. This combination results in an optimal environment for grapes to thrive, producing some of the finest wines in Colorado.
Since taking over the winery, Nicholas and Holly have prioritized sustainability as a key focus. They are currently awaiting funding from the National Research Conservation Service in Colorado to overhaul the vineyard’s watering system. The goal is to switch to a microjet system that will conserve water from the Colorado River and maintain soil health. The couple has also started planting cover crops to improve soil nutrition for the vines.
At Maison La Belle Vie, they have been producing Syrah since 2010. They offer two distinct styles of Syrah: the Syrah Blend, which is a lighter and approachable red wine that appeals to a younger crowd, and the King Syrah, which is only made in the most favorable of growing seasons. This full-bodied wine boasts firm tannins, a big structure and a long finish– a more complex expression of the grape.
Maison La Belle Vie Winery
They also have estate grown Muscat vines that have proven to be a hardy and vigorous variety that requires constant attention to thrive. The vines have survived several harsh fall and winter freezes. Picking the grapes at the right time is crucial to maintaining their tropical flavor, as waiting too long will result in the clusters turning amber.
Maison La Belle Vie has been producing sweet Muscat for several years, as well as the Vin De Peche, an old French recipe that involves soaking young peach leaves in the wine for a month to impart a peach flavor. Last year, they introduced a dry white wine blend made from Muscat, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, which was very popular during the summer months.
Within the restaurant, Nicholas partners with chief winemaker Corey Norsworthy to examine the flavors of the food being prepared, such as its saltiness, fat content, acidity and spiciness, before finding the perfect wine to compliment it. The Palisade, a thriving farming community, has a lot of ranches nearby. Maison La Belle Vie sources all their meat locally– from ground beef to steaks and ribs. Marechal Foch, a gamey wine with notes of raspberry and cherry, pairs perfectly with the winery’s burgers and ribeye nights.
The Colorado Wine Region has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s, but its recent growth in popularity is what has everyone talking. The Palisade AVA in the Grand Valley boasts over 50 local wineries, while the state as a whole has over 150. The local university and community college continue to provide support with a viticulture and enology program, including a research center for testing. People are starting to realize that great wine can be made beyond the West Coast, making Colorado a must visit destination for wine lovers. So, grab a bottle, find a cozy spot, and taste the magic of that Rocky Mountain high.
The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.
Maison La Belle Vie Winery
2019 Reserve Syrah “The King”- is a wine that truly reigns supreme. The nose is dominated by dark fruit aromas, with a rich raspberry and plum profile that’s infused with herbs, baking spices, and a subtle hint of olive. On the palate, this wine delivers a smooth, velvety finish that lingers long after the last sip. A true expression of its high elevation terroir and is only released in the most optimal growing conditions, making it a must-try for all Syrah lovers.
Muscat- succulent melon and zesty orange flavors are enrobed in a luscious sweetness that tantalizes the taste buds.
Vin de Noix- an exemplary port-style wine that exudes tradition through its use of green walnuts and a long-standing winemaking technique. Its full-bodied, tawny hue delights the eye, while the nose is greeted with a tapestry of luscious aromas ranging from caramel and vanilla to juicy figs.
Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : firstname.lastname@example.org .
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