So this time my guest blogger is Susie Holman, who will write about a winery that she visited in Colorado while she is back there for her vacation. The Four Leaves Winery she writes about here actually makes Sangiovese. Who knew you could find a piece of Tuscan identity in Durango! Susie is originally from Durango, in Colorado, but she is teaching abroad since several years. About a month ago, we went to Cilento and the beach together for a week when she was here for her first part of the vacation. As you might remember I wrote an article about white wines, such as Fiano and Falanghina, in relation to our stay there. Anyway, I hope you will enjoy this article about wine in Colorado. Next time I will be back with more wine tips and wine history. Stay tuned…
Dreaming of Colorado…
When people think of Colorado, they dream of high mountains, crystal clear streams, wildlife such as bears and deer, Mexican food, tequila, margaritas and beer. So when my friend, Katarina, asked me if I wanted to write a blog post about wineries in my little southwest corner of the state, I wasn’t positive I could comply. However, I googled Durango wineries and discovered two … one right in the most touristy part of town and the other 30 miles away. So, of course, I chose the easiest one to get to first.
At first, I was skeptical when I read the Four Leaves Winery website. What on earth is a boutique winery anyway? I was pleasantly surprised when I entered to find a cozy, charming, and rather whimsical wine bar.
More about Durango
Growing up in Durango, I already knew part of the history of this section of town. By 1880, Durango had become the commercial center of the American southwest with mining, smelting, logging, banking and agriculture. Located directly across from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad depot (now a National Historic Landmark) …
… the 500 block of the town was built between the late 1800s and early 1900s and was the focal point of the Italian-American community. There was a rooming house, a saloon (which served soft drinks during prohibition), a funeral home, and the grocery store that now houses Four Leaves Winery.
Dean Fagner, the owner, is one of the most gracious gentlemen I’ve ever met and he immediately made my friend, Molly, and me feel most welcome. He pointed out that the ceiling, hardwood floor, and brick walls are from the original Victorian-style building, making the patrons feel like they’ve gone back in time to the Wild, Wild West.
Dean features artwork by local artists …
… and sells amusing and delightful treasures, as well as the wine he and his staff produce.
More about Four Leaves Winery
I could spend pages describing this wonderful place, but I’ve decided to let Dean’s “answers to common questions” (on the back of the wine list) speak for him:
“Four Leaves Winery
Your Personal Winery
Answers to our most common questions
All of our wines are made on site
We do not have our own vineyard
We do not use any Colorado grapes
Our primary supplier is located in Lodi, CA
You can make your own wine with us, ask us how
You are able to do a personalized label on as few as one bottle
We can ship to most states. Please ask.
We opened January 2012
His full name is …
Maximus Decimus Meridius
(You can call him Max)
He was born in 2003
He is a purebred apple head Chihuahua
The tables are Indian Rosewood and they are not for sale
The ceiling, floor and brick wall are original
The building was built in the late 1880’s
In the early 1900’s this was a grocery store
Before Four Leaves, this building was the furniture store, Casa Décor, they are now down the street
Before that this was Purgatory Sports
The mirror is not for sale
The grape lights are from Hobby Lobby
The bar rail is a narrow gauge train rail
The fish (on the wall) were caught in Colorado
Most artwork is for sale & we support local artists
Our Personal Guarantee …
If you are not having fun we will ask you to leave”
As mentioned above, Dean does not have a vineyard, but imports high-quality grapes. All of the Four Leaves wines are made on site behind the tasting room. The winery has 2-foot stone walls, is impeccably organized and completely sterile. It is a small operation and the wines are young, as they are ready in around 3 months. You can even make your own wine with Dean’s instruction and create your own label if you so desire. I would love to do it myself if I were going to be here for 3 months.
Since a boutique winery is a new idea for this area (beer is famous in Durango and there are 6 craft breweries in town), Dean was afraid he might have to fight the city about zoning laws and other issues prevalent in small tourist towns. However, he sent his proposal to the City Planning Commissioner on a Monday in October 2011. The Commissioner liked the idea so much, he called a special Council meeting for the following day, and Dean had the go-ahead on Wednesday. Three months later, he was open for business. Obviously the city council felt a need for the grape.
The tables mentioned above are beautiful, but Molly and I opted for the cozy sofa nook in the back to relax and chat while sampling various wines.
Dean’s prices are more than a little reasonable. A set of 3 wine samples is only $5, whereas a set of 4 samples + an additional full glass of wine is ridiculously low priced at $10. Your glass of wine might be substituted with a unique offering: the Winerita – a blending of a nice Sangiovese with the locally popular berry or peach frozen Margarita. Delicious on a hot day.
On my first visit, I sampled:
– Viognier, a non-oaked white with notes of peaches and apricots.
– Malbec, a smoky violet wine with a very intense plum-like flavor.
– Tempranillo, peppery with the flavors of dark fruits and cloves.
– Blackberry Merlot (Rocky Mountain Onyx), a smooth Merlot with the surprising rich and flavorful aroma of freshly picked blackberries.
I was so taken with the Rocky Mountain Onyx, I rounded out my tasting with a full glass and took a bottle home. Molly, on the other hand, was over the moon about the Raspberry Chocolate Port.
My second visit to the winery
I went alone and began with a full serving of Berry Winerita; so refreshing on a hot, dry day. Dean added an additional half glass of Sangiovese as only shaved ice was left after I drank all the deliciousness.
I was going to stop there, but started chatting with a group of tourists and decided to have a Pinot afternoon.
– Pinot Grigio, one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Crisp, clean and tart, but with hints of green melon.
– Pinot Noir, typical black cherry aroma with spicy and fruity undertones.
– Raspberry Pinot Noir (Ute Chief), the smoothness of Pinot and the crispness of fresh raspberries.
– Black cherry Pinot Noir (Twilight Red), the natural black cherry nose is accentuated with an addition of fresh black cherry nectar. I don’t normally like sweet red wines, but this one could make me a convert.
I was feeling pretty happy by the end of my tasting as each sample was 4-5 ounces. It was such a pleasant way to spend a lazy afternoon…excellent wine, great conversation, and my new buddy Max.
The Wine Train
One more interesting aspect of Four Leaves is their collaboration with the Narrow Gauge Railroad and Music in the Mountains to create the Durango Wine & Rails event (or what the locals simply call the wine train).
I haven’t had the opportunity to take the wine train yet, but I’m looking forward to enjoying this experiential wine journey on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Dean says that several wineries will be represented on each trip, all of who will be anxious to tell me the story of their vineyards, the grapes, the wines, and their businesses. We will sample a variety of Colorado wines and be able to converse with several award-winning sommeliers on board the train, as well as at the wilderness in Cascade Canyon where full-sampling stations from several wineries will be set up.
According to Dean, the fare includes wine tasting throughout the day, including a glass of the wine of your choice served in your souvenir Durango Wine & Rails commemorative wine glass and delicious food prepared by a local caterer. While in Cascade Canyon, there will be live music, and he says I must take a leisurely walk along the Animas River and/or walk out to the granite Mountain Railroading monument.
Does it sound as wonderful to you as it does to me? I’ll let you know how it goes.
Now back to the winery in town …
Dean serves 23 wines: 7 each of Red and Fruit, 5 Whites, and 3 Ports. I’ll be back to sample them all during my month here. Not only are they varied, interesting and complex, the atmosphere makes you instantly feel right at home.
If you are a posh wine snob, this is probably not the place for you. However, if you are a wine (and people) lover who seeks out unknown regions that employ unconventional methods and produce imaginative wines, Four Leaves Winery is definitely an unexpected treasure I heartily recommend.
Written by Susie Holman.