By Mckenzie Moore
Even with COVID-19 precautions in place, wine tasting events are still on for the North Fork Valley. The 12th annual West Elks Wine Trail will take place August 1 and 2, and many ticketed events have already sold out, proving the community’s dedication to the weekend’s offerings even amid the unusual circumstances.
“We always appreciate the support from everyone; I’m glad to hear other events were sold out,” said Alfred Eames, of Alfred Eames Cellars. “It’s totally positive. We all try to support each other, particularly in times like this. The wineries in this AVA up here have always cooperated.”
Social distancing and safety measures will be taken on the trail, including hosting many tastings and events outside to allow for easier spacing between attendees.
“It should be a good, safe event, and I encourage people to attend,” Eames said. “It’s an opportunity for people, they can get up and enjoy themselves.”
Throughout the pandemic, the community has given support to the local wineries by making purchases via curbside pickup or online. In addition, the wineries give support back to the community by bringing in tourism revenue.
“In a normal year, I’d say probably 90 percent of our sales are to people who are not residents, so it’s coming from tourists coming from outside the valley,” said Brent Helleckson, owner of Stone Cottage Cellars. “The wineries are bringing people in, and almost all are looking for recommendations: they’re filling the gas tank, looking for a place to stay.”
On Saturday (Aug. 1), multiple wineries will be offering events to kick off the weekend. Alfred Eames Cellars will host wine tasting and have street tacos and brats available for purchase from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Black Bridge Winery will have barrel tastings, a picnic area by the river and “u-pick” fruit from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Qutori Wines and Root and Vine Market will have live music with the Bromigos from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., as well as wine tasting. Mesa Winds Winery will also have tastings available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 2, the Wine Trail will continue with wine pairings with small food plates at Mesa Winds Winery from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Alfred Eames Cellars will repeat its event from Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Black Bridge Winery will also repeat its previous event from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Azura Cellars will have remote control yacht racing on the pond and an art gallery from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Endless Endeavor Winery will host “Sangria Sunday and Tapas” from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“If the community would like to enjoy the event, it’s a great way to get out of your quarantine area and be relatively safe,” Helleckson said. “We can stay spread out very far, we’re doing everything outside, and it’s an enjoyable way to spend part of a weekend.”
According to the West Elks AVA (American Viticultural Area, a designated wine grape-growing region), the North Fork Valley is “home to vineyards planted at the highest elevation in the Northern Hemisphere,” and the climate is ideal for producing various types of wine.
To begin the tour, participants can stop by any of the West Elk AVA wineries in the North Fork to pick up a trail map. More information on the event can be found at westelksava.com/west-elks-wine-trail.