Our journey to discover the West Elks wineries will begin with Mesa Winds Winery in Hotchkiss.

Mesa Winds is 36 acres of Provence-like terroir perched atop Rogers Mesa in the West Elks AVA .This farm features the intense sunlight and extreme temperature variations that yield the wonderful acid integration we have come to love in our Delta County wines.

This winery specializes in growing cool climate varieties including Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris and Chambourcin. The property’s soil has been certified organic for over 25 years and the current owners, Angelina Rice and Dan Matuszak, are applying even more progressive farming methods to the land such as crop diversity and animal integration to encourage regenerative agriculture. The couple also grows apples, peaches and cover crops, such as clover and grasses to improve the soil and retain moisture. Angelina and Dan are doing their best to collaborate with Mother Nature.

The first wine tasted was Pinot Gris. This grape, which presents itself in small clusters with a pinkish gray hue, grows well in our Rogers Mesa microclimate. This Pinot Gris is a light-bodied wine with clean acidity and a surprisingly refreshing effervescence. Savoring the mouthfeel of this wine, we picked up tasting notes of green apple, pear and some tropical fruit. This wine’s flavor profile would match well with the delicious summer salads and light chicken dishes served at the winery.

The winemakers of the West Elks AVA are discovering that Pinot Meunier thrives in our specific climatic region. The Mesa Winds winemakers love the hardy and reliable characteristics of this varietal. Pinot Meunier shares the same DNA fingerprint as Pinot Noir and is known to bring the bright fruit taste to champagne and sparkling blends. This wine greets your palate with red fruit such as cherry, red raspberry and red currant with hints of vanilla. Because of its crisp acidity, this wine is a delightful food companion for roasted chicken and grilled pork as well as mushroom-based vegetarian dishes.

As we moved up to the more full-bodied wines, we landed first on Petite Pearl. This wine is a French-American hybrid grape that is full of blackberry and black cherry fruit. The low tannins of this wine enhance the fruit characteristics leaving a rich, jammy taste. This wine pairs well with a number of dishes from Asian cuisine to a charcuterie board.

We finished our tastings with a full-bodied Petite Verdot embracing a perfect balance of black fruit earthiness and tannins. Due to the ridged tannin structure of this wine, foods with plenty of weight, proteins and fats are your best bets. Barbecue, wild game, and rack of lamb all stand up well to the rich appeal of Petite Verdot.

Most of us know that Delta County boasts several award-winning wineries, but it is rare to find a winery, like Mesa Winds, with chef-inspired cuisine. We visited Mesa Winds to enjoy their wines, but the epicurean experience that ensued was completely unexpected. After we finished the typical wine conversations of fruit, acidity and tannins, our attention was diverted to the food menu that was placed on the table. The menu peaked our culinary curiosity. The list of small-plate offerings which included duck confit, Korean beef skewers, and risotto gave us pause. Mesa Wind’s menu is truly farm-to-table, unpretentious and beautifully presented. Dan and Angelina strive to use the vegetables, fruits and meats from their farm as well as other produce from Delta County.

When the small-plate style food was served, the flavors did not disappoint. All of us agreed there was an element of creativity and sophistication to the Mesa Wind’s dishes that elevated it to the quality level of any fine restaurant. A distinguishing feature of the Mesa Wind’s experience was the vast food knowledge of the owners. They were able to describe in detail the house-made ingredients of each plate, where the meats and vegetables were sourced, and how the food was prepared and seasoned. We were all delighted to discover that many of the fruits and vegetables served were grown on the estate. Angelina and Dan believe the fresh flavors of the locally-sourced foods are enhanced by the wines they serve. As the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together.”

Mesa Wind’s vineyard tasting room is scheduled to open Thursday, April 15. The 2021 season will feature a beautiful patio, larger seating area and live music.

They are located at: 31262 L Road, Hotchkiss, and can be reached at 970-399-7491. Reservations are recommended for larger groups.

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