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Fruit and wine trail planned for Palisade

The wine business has become possibly the most famous portion of the tourism industry in the Grand Valley.

Sure, people might come to the valley to ride mountain bikes, visit retail stores and eat in restaurants. But those are activities offered in other parts of Colorado as well.

The plethora of vineyards and wineries dotting the valley, particularly in the eastern end of the valley, is unique to Mesa County. And in a study conducted for the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau in 2004, 22 percent of participants said they planned to visit wineries. Only the Colorado National Monument, at 31 percent, was a more popular destination in the report compiled by the Adams Group of Colorado Springs.

Since the time of the survey, Palisade has seen the opening of the Wine Country Inn near Interstate Highway 70, the addition of downtown businesses and voter approval of a local lodging tax to help advertise to attract even more visitors.

Now, an effort is underway to establish an official fruit and wine trail to capitalize on the wine industry as well as the long entrenched fruit industry. The annual Palisade Peach Festival is a big draw every August, followed by the Colorado Mountain Winefest in September.

“We want to be known as a recreation site,” said Naomi Shepherd-Smith, co-owner of Grande River Vineyards in Palisade and an active promoter of the fruit and wine Trail.

While Shepherd-Smith acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do before signs dot the roads from I-70 to Highway 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture already has approved a $9,000 block grant to jump start the project. The Colorado Association of Vintners and Enologists donated another $5,000.

Promotional material for the trail suggests signs could direct traffic toward Palisade businesses and points of interest. The plan fits with the Town of Palisade’s interest in promoting agri-tourism, an effort to lure tourists to agricultural-related sites and activities.

The signs also could augment the annual Tour of the Vineyards bicycle event, which encourages cyclists to ride through the vineyards.

“Some would like it to become the cruiser capital of the nation,” said Shepherd-Smith.


Mike Moran has worked as a news and sports reporter, and news manager for the past 30 years, in markets that include Rochester, New York; Colorado Springs; Panama City, Florida and Monroe, Louisiana. He also teaches Speechmaking at Mesa State College and assists his wife, Toni Heiden, in managing her real estate company in downtown Grand Junction. Mike is active in Kiwanis Club of Grand Junction, the Mesa State MBA Alumni Committee, Habitat for Humanity, the United Way and the Botanical Gardens of Western Colorado.
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