Thanks to its impressive selection of varietals from more than 95 local wineries, The Wines of Colorado has been lauded as "one of the most unique wine shops in the country" by Wine Trail Traveler and featured in the Wall Street Journal. Inside, a mural of larger-than-life bottles lines one wall, and an adjacent room houses an expansive tasting counter that stocks a lineup of bottles filled with Colorado reds and whites, which are often compared to Californian vinos. Their food has received it’s fair share of recognition as well, earning numerous awards, including Best Creekside Dining from the Gazette in 2010 and 2011. The chefs sizzle up signature buffalo wine burgers and creamy dill mahi-mahi, which guests can enjoy on the pine-tree-lined outdoor patio as they sip wine mere steps away from the burbling Fountain Creek.
Avanti Winery handcrafts its own signature wine blends alongside more than 25 local Colorado wines, furnishing oenophiles with myriad grownup grape-juice choices. A bottle of chardonnay ($16.95) transports hints of vanilla, lemon, almonds, and hazelnuts to taste buds, and the popular white table wine ($16.95) melds five varietals potent enough to charm palates and steal guests’ girlfriends at dinner parties. Swill sips of Avanti's table red wine ($17.95) or uncork the signature cabernet sauvignon ($22.95), bursting with maroon-tinged fruits. The merlot ($22.95) introduces cherries and a dry finish to palates, and the port III’s dashes of caramel, cherry, and chocolate ($24.95) form a trio of dessert flavors in tipsifying liquid form. Avanti Winery also offers free wine tastings Thursday–Sunday from a different Colorado winery each month.
Like the Benedictine Fathers to whom his winery pays homage, Matt Cookson upholds tenets of concentration and discipline as he makes his lauded varietals. He’s been following these principles throughout his extensive winemaking career, which began in New York state and the Napa Valley. In 2002, he relocated to Cañon City and co-founded The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Since then, his wines have racked up more than 100 awards at various international competitions. The vino ranges from a dense 2010 merlot reserve to a light and fruity apple-blossom wine made with juices from five apple varieties.
Matt and his team dole out sample flights beneath the sweeping arches of the winery’s tasting room, a 1911 cottage that also stocks travel books and pottery imported from countries such as Spain and Tunisia. Outside, picnic tables at a tree-shaded park accommodate scenic meals surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and Wet Mountains. Every autumn, Matt shares more of his handiwork during the winery’s annual Harvest Fest, where guests can taste wines, sample local produce and cheeses, get their faces painted, or showcase their air-sax abilities as live jazz and blues music plays.