Uncorking the World's Highest Winery

Updated: 4 days ago

Introducing Tasting Room Manager & Assistant Winemaker, Andy Roberts

IT'S NATIONAL DRINK WINE DAY! To celebrate, we sat down with local wine expert, Andy Roberts, who works at Continental Divide Winery located in Breckenridge, CO. Sharing insight into the wine world, Andy provided us with his backstory pursuing his passion in the wine business to become an assistant winemaker of an award-winning Colorado based winery somewhat unexpectedly.


Après-Ski (AS): "What's your background?"


Andy: “I grew up in the DC area and decided to move out West to Utah for a few years. I eventually moved to Breckenridge in 2010 where I fell into a job at Continental Divide Winery. My manager who's been in the industry for years, John Bellencula, would spend hours every day schooling me on wine. He was an incredible mentor who took the time to really teach me about the whole wine making process from picking grapes to bottling wine.”


AS: "How do you make wine at high altitude?"


Andy: “You take the grape juice and let it ferment with the yeast and the yeast just kind of does its job. There are a few small differences though... For example, the yeast likes oxygen. This makes the beginning process of fermentation slower which can sometimes work to our advantage, but they tend to need more yeast nutrients up here than they would elsewhere. Another bonus is we don’t necessarily have to refrigerate our wines the same way a lot of other places would. Other places typically usually use the steel tanks and when we want to cold stabilize we can just push our tanks outside. All of Continental Divide Winery's award-winning wines are produced in the South Park (Fairplay) area which makes Continental Divide Winery the highest altitude winery in the world!”


AS: "What varietals grow best in this climate?"


Andy: “In Palisade specifically, there's actually a pretty decent variety that do well. A couple in particular include riesling dessert wines, cool weather hardy wines and alsacian grape wines. These three do very well with the cold winters... Basically, anything that's going to be cold hardy over winter. That's one little problem we can sometimes run into is the risk of frosts with being at higher elevation. Bordeaux varietals, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc in particular do really nicely here as single varietals in the state. Did you know cabernet franc is actually called the king of Colorado grapes as it grows so well here?”


AS: "Does that make Scout the queen?"


Andy: "Absolutely! She knows how to sniff them (the grapes that is). She was even the inspiration behind our February Love Potion, 'Puppy Love'. In fact, we love having all dogs in our tasting rooms. Scout makes frequent appearances."


AS: What are the benefits of making wine at high altitude?"


Andy: “It saves us a little bit of energy not having to refrigerate our wines and that slower, cooler, fermentation gives us a little bit more time to extract flavor and color from the grapes. To me, one of the best things about it is the distinctness. We certainly have unique wines that are pretty much different from anywhere else since they have a dark fruit, minerality and savoriness to them which to me, makes them stick out from other regions like the more well-known California wine country.”


AS: "Andy, what do you get asked the most?


Andy: "The question I probably get asked the most is -- Where are the vineyards in Colorado? The vast majority of them are in Palisade just east of Grand Junction. Although, West Elks AVA is a little ways southeast of Palisade. It sits higher up and you see more of those cool weather varietals that do well up there like pinot noir, chardonnay, and burgundy varietals. In general, these vineyards do well in western slopes, but here in Colorado, we are still not that well known, so hopefully more hotspots will pop up!”


AS: "What are your favorite wines that you produce at Continental Divide Winery?"


Andy: “My favorites produced here at Continental Divide Winery include the Winter Is Coming blend. Both the 2015 and 2018 blends have become our flagship wine. This is a thick, heavy, perfect cool weather wine with a gorgeous velvety texture. Of the whites, I'd choose albariño all day. Our albariño exudes light and crisp notes perfect for a bluebird afternoon après-ski, and pairs great with seafood."


AS: "How can our fellow après-skiers enjoy Continental Divide Winery?"


Andy: "Continental Divide Winery has two tasting rooms located in Breckenridge and Fairplay, CO. You may not know this, but our wine club is pretty awesome and our members are too! They always get complimentary tastings and first dibs on private wine release parties, one of a kind limited edition wines and more!


Continental Divide Winery loves après-skiers! Mention this article to receive a free taster at their Breckenridge tasting room. Cheers!


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