Our visits to Estes Park, Colorado are filled with hiking, cooking, lively conversations, looking for wildlife and visiting the fun park (A running tradition for the last night of the trip, which is always followed by ice cream!). But to us, a vacation isn’t complete without a visit to a local winery, and we found the perfect spot in town.
Snowy Peaks Winery, is located just outside of the Estes Park’s downtown shopping district (and within view of the fun park). It’s a small storefront location, enough out-of-the-way that parking is rarely an issue and close enough that you can easily combine an evening in town with a visit to the winery.
We first stopped at Snowy Peaks in 2010 and were pleasantly surprised. First, and foremost, the grapes are all grown in Colorado and the wine is made on-site. While we’ve been to dozens of wineries where the grapes are brought in from other regions (California, Washington, New York, etc.) and produced on site, Mike and I are more interested in wineries that use locally grown grapes. We’re not saying one way is better than the other, it’s simply our preference.
Snowy Peaks’ grapes are sourced primarily from the Western Slopes of Colorado where the elevations range from 4,000 to 5,400 feet. With more than 300 days of sunshine in Colorado (no wonder I love this place!), the long days of high-altitude sun help to build the grapes’ natural sugars; and the cooler evenings encourage the grapes to retain acidity, both of which are crucial to winemaking. So when Mike and I learned that Snowy Peaks sources all their grapes from Colorado, we were eager to start tasting. But that’s not all that sold us on this experience…
It was also the “no wine-ing zone!” This playful space, full of games, toys, books and crafts is a family’s dream. Located next to the tasting bar, the kids’ room is enclosed with low walls allowing parents to keep the kids within view. It’s a brilliant offering considering that Estes Park is known for being a family destination. Needless to say, Mr. N and Miss A were in the zone within seconds! In fact, the kids have remembered Snowy Peaks for the past five years and were actually asking us when we were going to visit the winery on this last trip. Of course, we obliged. Twist our arms.
Snowy Peaks offers five tastings for $5. While Snowy Peaks does offer a few sweeter wines, Mike and I prefer dry wines and typically share our tastings (10 tastes between the two of us). On our visit this summer we tried a dry Riesling, a Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Rhone and Bordeaux style blends, Petit Verdot, Cab Sauv and Petit Syrah. Having been before, we knew our preference would be for their reds. In 2005 we were partial to the Syrah and Bordeaux blend. This year the Rhone-style blend, Malbec and Mourvedre stood out and we ended up bringing several bottles home.
The Rhone-style blend, called Eleve was a 2011 blend of Petite Syrah, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault. It was earthy on the nose and had flavors of dark berries and plums. It had a smooth, dry finish and was easily my favorite this year. Mike’s preference was toward the 2013 Malbec. It was dark purple, presented a flavor of blueberries and had a beautifully long finish. We recently enjoyed this one at home and gave it 3 corks.
In addition to wine tastings, Snowy Peaks offers wines by the glass as well as snacks – cheeses, sausages, crackers, spreads, etc. They also offer a selection of wines from other Colorado wineries, beer and soft drinks. Mike and I will typically select a glass of a wine we enjoyed, but aren’t planning to bring home, then we grab some snacks and the kids join us outside on the patio for a late lunch. Another perk at Snowy Peaks is that they offer complimentary sparkling fruit juice tastings for the kids. This year Mr. N and Miss A (now sparkling juice aficionados) tried a cherry and a raspberry. Raspberry was the hands-down winner. As was our lunch, where the kids got a case of the giggles. See, we promise, it is possible to have fun at wineries with your kids!
Each visit to Snowy Peaks, we’ve enjoyed good wine and great hosts. The pourers are always informative, helpful and friendly. This year, our host even told us where we might be able to spot the ever-elusive moose! Mike has been dying to see a moose for years. Well, guess what – she was right! We saw one the very next morning as we set out for our hike. And not only did we see this giant bull, his family was in the woods next to him. Four moose in one day!
While we don’t plan our family trips around wine (at least not to Colorado), it’s certainly a bonus, and Snowy Peaks Winery is one of our favorites. It’s open seven days a week, year-round. It’s best to call for hours as they change seasonally. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a stop and don’t be shy about bringing the kids. After getting to play in the “no wine-ing zone,” they’re likely to ask to come back again!
Snowy Peaks Winery
292 Moraine Avenue
Estes Park, Colorado
Our winery rating: 4 corks.
The wines are enjoyable. The tastings are friendly and fun. The outdoor patio has mountain views. Parking is easy to find. And, it’s one of the most family friendly wineries we’ve found.
We were not compensated for this review. All opinions are our own.