Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group

Garrett Portra - Carlson Vineyards - Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group - Episode 7

October 14, 2020 Garrett Portra Season 1 Episode 7
Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group
Garrett Portra - Carlson Vineyards - Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group - Episode 7
Show Notes Transcript

As harvest season winds down, Christi talks with Garrett Portra of Carlson Vineyards about their approach to wine making, the effect of the late frost, summer wildfires and COVID, their new(ish) tasting room in Downtown Grand Junction, and more!

If you want to visit their two tasting rooms and learn more about their wines, visit the Carlson Vineyard website at https://www.carlsonvineyards.com/.

You can also watch a video of the podcast at https://youtu.be/82cRawLdHWA!

Christi Reece:

The Full Circle Podcast, compelling interviews and incredible tales from Colorado's Western slope, from the mountains to the desert Christi Reece and her team hear from the movers, shakers, and characters of the Grand Valley and surrounding mountain towns that make the Western Slope, the place we all love. You'll learn. You'll laugh. You'll love with The Full Circle. Hello everyone. And welcome to the full circle podcast. I'm Christi Reece, and I'm super excited to announce our guest for the day is G arrett Portra with C arlson Vineyards. Welcome G arrett. Thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely. So, u h, y ou brought wine. Thank you.

Garrett Portra:

Absolutely. I have a , I have a hard time walking anywhere without a wine in hand.

Christi Reece:

Well, and , uh, I have ulterior motives , uh, not only do I want to hear about your business and everything that you do for wine in Colorado and our Valley, but , uh, I love your wine and love to try it, and I want to learn more about it. So I'm really excited that you brought some samples with you today. And , um, I wanted to get started with talking about how you came to grand junction and how did you come to own Carlson Vineyards?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, so I always make the joke with everybody that Cailin and I, my wife came , uh, to Grand Junction in 2007 on a six month adventure. Um, my wife had just graduated from occupational therapy school. Um, I was a pipe fitter in St. Louis and we decided to come out West for her to do her internships. Um, we were fortunate enough that I had a good job in the oil field and , uh, Cailin was offered a great job atSst Mary's. And so she, we decided to stay for a little bit. Um, I think I come from a very traditional Midwest farm family, and so I'm kind of the black sheep of the family. Um, everybody else, you know, I , my mom did go away for awhile . I was actually born in Montana. Um , but we ended up back in Missouri when I was about 11. Um, and then I say from then on, all I did was hear about people, complain about my aunt who lives so far away cause she lived in Springfield

Christi Reece:

A couple hours drive .

Garrett Portra:

And so I think the thought was for Cailin and I, and then for my entire family always was that we would return to central, Missouri back to our farm back there. Um, and we just kind of fell in love with the location and the place and all the lifestyle that it offered. Um, so yeah, so I went to work for eventually Cailin got tired of me traveling. Um, and the goal actually was to go back to Missouri and start a winery. So I actually went to work to learn the commercial side.

Christi Reece:

So you had some farming background, but not necessarily wine background.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. So we had a livestock farm , um , and still do my uncle, my uncle and my cousin run it. Um, and so I grew up in agriculture, I'm the oldest of my generation. So I grew up working in the farm with my uncle. Um, and then when I met Cailin, they actually had like a little half acre vineyard in Southeast Missouri. Um, and that's kind of where I started to learn about wine. And I mean, I love agriculture. And to me, what I learned was wine is like the best of agriculture. You know, I tell people all the time, you know, it takes a lot of beer to make good wine, but if your favorite IPA tastes different, every time you buy it, you get irritated. The difference being on wine, your favorite cab should taste different every time because it reflects the year that it was grown and it flux reflects the season. You know, this year we've seen in the news about smoke, which it's knock on wood, I'm looking like we're doing, we're doing fine and we're not gonna be affected . But those, all those components actually will affect the flavor of this year's wine, which really drew me in. Um, but yeah, so I went to work for , uh , Carlson Vineyards in 2011. Um, and then

Christi Reece:

The hope of learning the business more. Yeah ,

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, it was, I mean I told , uh , Parker Carlson in my interview that has like, look, I'll promise to work here five, six years, but you just need to understand I'm not here to run the business or manage the business. I'm here to move on and start my own thing. Um, but yeah, it was completely cause I mean, we've made home, we had made home wine at scale, you know, a few hundred gallons, which for a home wine makers, a big batch , um, but you know, working in making a thousand gallon batch, the winery was a very different animal. So I was just there to kind of see the ins and outs and see, you know, learn that the cashflow wine business is extremely capital intensive and can be a big challenge from a business perspective. Um, and so I knew that I wanted to have some kind of experience with that before I just jumped off into the, my own production. So,

Christi Reece:

And so how did you end up owning Carlson Vineyards then?

Garrett Portra:

Well , um, you know, I, like I said, I was really honest with Parker. Um, and while I'd been in the oil field , we'd , I'd kind of only been chasing money in order to be able to start a winery. Um, and I think Parker knew once I'd worked for him for a while , he knew I was serious. Cause we'd had a lot of conversations. He was really, really good to me on, I could call a tank company and say, I'm, you know, Oh, I'm that I manage Carlson Vineyards. Can I get quotes on these tanks? Cause you know, they didn't really want to talk to you at the time, a 30 year old random guy, that's just calling for heck of it. But if you can drop a name in there, you get a little bit more respect. And he was great about allowing me to call equipment companies and call tank companies and kind of start to learn and sort out the business. And I think in the meantime he realized how serious I was about what I was doing. Um, and they came back from a , a trip to Northern Wisconsin , um, in 2013 I guess, and basically had us over for dinner. And you know, was that still your plan? Did you know it was coming? Oh, I had no idea. Like they'd had us before over before Parker and I, according to Mary and my wife were almost too much alike. We get along really, really well. And uh, I tell people I'm the son he never had or wanted. Um, but yeah, so it wasn't, it seemed odd timing, but because he had just gotten back, but it wasn't completely a surprise I guess. And you know, we had to enter and towards the end of dinner, he basically was, is that, you know, going through my plan, is that still your plan? And I was like, yeah, that's, you know, at some point we're going back and , and then he's like, well, would you have any interest in purchasing this place? And I was like, yeah, exactly. But for anybody that's been to Missouri, Western Slope's kind of Western of Colorado is hard to beat. So, so yeah, so we , uh , uh, kind of started the process and , uh, started working towards, you know, finding the best way to make it happen.

Christi Reece:

What attracted you to Carlson Vineyards in the first place? Because there's a lot of wineries around grand junction. What was it about that particular business or those owners or what they produced that made you want to work there and own that business?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, so I think it's , uh, the Carlsons were a lot like Cailin and I , um, and we could see that and you could see that at the winery , um, you know, where they were always and we still are all about quality, but we're more about approachability as well. Um, you know, we want to make the best wines possible. Um, but on the same note, you know, we want them to be available to everybody and we're not pretentious. Um, and they just really fit our style. Um, I think, you know, one of my favorite things about the wine business , as I tell people all the time that in Napa the guy in the suit and tie pouring you, the wine probably knows half about the wine is the guy in the Carhartts in the window, in the backyard. And I like that. And, and that was more the approach we wanted to go. Is that very approachable? Um, you know, I like, you know, we make a wine for everyone. Like, I mean, I make sweet wines and fruit wines and dry reds and yeah .

Christi Reece:

How many wines do you produce? Right ?

Garrett Portra:

Um, currently we're at 19. Wow. Yeah, let's do many . Um, my wife and I tried to do now that harvest is kind of officially on the downward slide. Um, we try to do a weekly meeting and this was our first one back after harvest. And one of the things we said is we gotta get, start to focus a little bit more. Yeah . Not, you know, not getting crazy, but , um, but we definitely want to get a little more focused cause we just think we can take , um, you know, continue to take quality to the next level and being able to focus our energies will help with that.

Christi Reece:

I'm trying to figure out a segue to actually tasting the wine that's in front of me. So I'm like, okay . Um , um, so you've talked a little bit about your approach to wine making and I love what you said about, you know , uh, that it , it comes from the earth and it varies every year. Talk a little bit more about your specific approach to wine making and what you hope to accomplish here. And then we can talk about this wine in front of him .

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. That's a perfect segue. Um, yeah . Uh, so I tell people like, I'm , you know, I've taken a lot of classes. I went to Washington state have taken some courses to UC Davis, but I'm primarily trained on the job. So I don't have a , you know , a professional degree in it. So it's kind of a nonstop learning process. Um, you know, wine is a kind of a walking contradiction, if you would, it's a, you know, if you talk 99 wine makers, you'll probably get 99 answers on the different ways to make it. Um, you know, there's a lot done on, you know, you catch us in one conversation and we'll preach science, science, science , um, and then you'll say, well, why didn't you pick that burn low it's the numbers seem right? And you're like, well, they didn't taste right. And they're like, well, we just threw the science out the door. Um, so yeah, my approach is I think ever evolving. I think the wine that I brought today , um, is a good example of that. I mean, I think we have core wines that we make that we kind of , you know, making the same style and we try to make year after year, like our Lemberger, our T-Red , um, some of our semi-sweet wines, like our Sweet Baby, Red', our top seller , um, our fruit wines, you know, we, we really try to be focused on how we're making those, but then on some of the other wines , um , in both the wines I brought today are good examples of that. Um , there, I'm always trying to evolve as a winemaker and become better. Cause I just, it's my belief in business. You're never, you're never sitting still you're either moving forward or backwards and if you stop pushing, it means you're going backwards. And so , um, the Gewurtz that you have in front, it's a dry Gewurtztraminer. Um, the rest of the world's very, very familiar with that. And the United States has kind of ruined Gewurtztraminer and Riesling. So everybody thinks it's always sweet. Um , but this one is a as a bone dry , um, Gewurtz. Um, the one in our glass is the one that is currently for sale made in a real traditional modern way. I mean , uh, harvested , um, straight to the, our destemmer. We go through a sorting process. We destem them straight to our press , um , and then press them off the skins immediately , um, to, to just get them off the skin . So you're not picking up that tan and things like that. Um, and then I also brought a tank sample of the Gewurtztraminer that we made , um, this year. Um, so these gratefully been in the tank for just right at around a month or so. Um, but the big difference here is we destem them , um, two separate containers , um, and then let them sit with the skins for like 45 hours. Um, and in that you'll, to me, at least it picked up a lot of tropical notes. Um, it actually has a little bit more body, a little more of a viscosity it's heavier than the mouth. Um, and it's something that, you know, I think more traditional places you would, you would find , um, it's not all the way to a craze right now is an orange wine and it's not completely there cause we didn't fermented on the skins, but we did do what's called a cold soak. Um , and let it sit on the skin. So, so yeah, I think my winemaking style is hard to put in a box cause I feel like I'm ever I'm so I'm learning so much.

Christi Reece:

I love it. It feels very local. So me and you have a new tasting room downtown. We'll talk about that a little bit more, but um, tell us the proper way to really enjoy this line. I should I, so yeah. I mean, smell swish , swirl, any of that?

Garrett Portra:

I think it depends on who you talk to. I mean, one of my pet peeves you'll find from people is that like, to me, there's no proper way. Um, I think you should drink it exactly how you like, but I mean a good, you know, typically when you're tasting, you're going to , you're going to look at the appearance and see how the wine looks. Um, I typically like to , to smell it before I swirl it around, because sometimes there are some aromas that are sitting in the top of the glass from the poor that as we start to swirl it, we're gonna like, volatize more and it's going to push them out. So then you can pour and it'll typically, it's going to bring more of those out. It's actually what you're doing is you're adding a lot of oxygen to the wine, which is helping the wine breathe. Um ,

Christi Reece:

And is that as important for a white as it is for a red?

Garrett Portra:

It really, you know, I would say to me it's more important on the styles of wine. So our wines aren't going to need to be , um, you know, decanted or air rated as much as some other wines that were made to age, our wines are made more for what I consider immediate consumption. Um, when I go to market with the wine , um, I expect people cause 90% of them are. I mean the statistics show us that, that when people go home from the liquor store, they're not going home from the liquor store to hold onto it for three or four years, they're going home to drink it. And so that's how the majority of wines are made, whereas the, the aeration , um, while it can help, it's not as, maybe as important as if you have a wine that you'll hear people talk about a wine that say is tight or closed up. And a lot of what that is, is it , the wine maker has made that wine , um, with the idea that it's going to age for a long time. And so if you open it a little early, you kind of need to get that oxygen there , help some of that stuff come out. But yeah.

Christi Reece:

Will you hold that bottle up too ? So our , um, the people that are viewing the podcast on video will be able to see the label Dry Gewurtztraminer. It is absolutely delicious and you're right. It's not sweet.

Garrett Portra:

No , not at all. And that's what , um , yeah, that's we do three Gewurtztraminer. We do a semi-sweet and we also do a dessert style suite as well. But , um, this is , uh , uh , Gewurtztraminer in the, we, we absolutely love to make, so,

Christi Reece:

So I don't know how many acres you have , um, in your vineyard, but you don't grow all the grapes for the wine that you produce,

Garrett Portra:

Correct ? That's correct. No, we, we only have a couple acres , um, that we grow ourselves, we grow Lemberger and petite Syrah. Um, and then we buy from too well announced like four different growers, but the two biggest are Peach Fork Orchards and Vineyards, and then , uh, Talbott farms. And then we also buy from, I don't know if you're familiar with Eureka Science Center , um, Jen Morgan Jesse's Aker have Willow Wind Farms and we just started, we I've been buying, Jen usually hits me up right in the middle of the season and says, Hey, I need it. And I'm a sucker. So I'm like, yeah, what ? So then this year we talked beforehand and I bought almost all their grapes this year. So yeah. So I love working with them as well.

Christi Reece:

Have you seen, there's a lot of different crops that grow in our Valley. Um, but, but in Palisade, a lot of grapes or any other regions in the, in the Grand Valley that are particularly good for grape growing ,

Garrett Portra:

Uh, as far in the grand Valley, you know, you have the two AVAS in Colorado, you have the West Elks, it's down by Paonia, Hotchkiss and then you have the , um , Grand Valley Ava , which is , uh , here in Western Grand Valley. Um, and I, you know, I typically tell people that , um, I don't like to get, I tend to like to stay from about 35 road and East. I like to be in the mouth of that Canyon cause , um , the , the winds that come out of the Canyon really help keep everything from freezing or keep, you know , cold temperature stirred up and you tend to have a better crop. I mean, I think we saw that this year with the unfortunate freeze we had with peaches down in the violence , right in the mouth of the Canyon, there were still a lot of , um , orchards there that still had a pretty good crop. Um, but like the farther you get away, it just gets cooler and you get less airflow and that can be a real issue with, for us. Um, so yeah, the introduction of , um , some hybrids, which is just kind of a fun wine, cause it is a vinifera um, and then we have these cold Hardy cultivators or French American hybrid grapes that , um, so this one has Shamerson in it, the red , um, that they have more cold hardiness. And so that has probably expanded some vineyard potential in the Valley , um, to a little bit cool cooler areas. Um, but yeah, for the most part, I like to stay right in the mouth of that cane as far in the mouth of the Canyon, as I can.

Christi Reece:

Have you seen more people converting to grapes or converting away from grapes? What's the general atmosphere for growing in Palisade right now? Because there are a lot of different,

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think peach is still King. Um , for sure. I think , um, you know, every year we see certain varietals there's excess grapes in the Valley when we have good years. Um , and then we have certain varietals that are , um, um, you know, on a shortage. And I think that's the biggest thing is that, you know, people need to keep in mind, we're super young , uh , pioneering industry still. We're just like, I'm one of the first, second generation owners of a winery. So , um, I think that's what we're, we're starting to see more as people are replanting or doing that. I think you're starting to see more people taking , uh, the information that we've got from previous years, you know, pioneer, pioneering regions. Usually what they do is they plant whatever the owner likes. Like I like cab I'm going to plant cab. Um , and then after you have, you know, 10, 15, 20, 30 years of experience, you could take that knowledge and say, okay, actually that vineyard site was horrible for cab, but it might be great for recycling or another variety. So, so yeah, I think that's, I think we're not seeing a whole lot of positive or minus , um , fluctuation in acreage maybe, but more , um, replanting with varietals that do better here in our Valley and do better in those locations.

Christi Reece:

What do you think are the varietals that do the best here?

Garrett Portra:

Uh, I think Riesling and a Cab Franc to give a white and a red, I think both of those are really, really great. Um, we've, we're doing them all back . Um, that seems to, I really like it and I like some of the other Malbecs I've had in the Valley. So I think that's another variety that is , uh , coming along fine. And then there's some, some newer varieties that are being tried every day as well, which is kind of exciting, but yeah, you like to experiment. Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah .

Christi Reece:

So you've been a huge advocate for not only Western slope wines, but Colorado wines.

Garrett Portra:

Sure. Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, we have like Storm Cellars, we have a Blackbridge Winery and Paonia and Hotchkiss area , um, Buckle Family wines. I just had one of his at , uh , uh , Palisade cafe

Christi Reece:

And that's not a Gunnison, right? Yeah . But their grapes don't come from Gunnison today .

Garrett Portra:

No. Most of those like, so Buckle family. I think most of his grapes actually come from here in the Western slope, in the Grand Valley. Um, a lot of like storm cellars is there not a hundred percent of state, but they grow a lot of their own fruit and they also buy some grapes from here on the Western slope. And then I think Lee , you haven't been down to see Lee in a long time, but they're Blackbridge. I kind of call him the Pinot King. I think he's a of Colorado Pinot Noir. I think he's the man that knows what's going on. And, u h, he, he g rows most of his own f ree. I'm just not sure if he's a hundred percent of state or not, but yeah.

Christi Reece:

But so how do you advocate advocate for West Slope wine and how do we compete in the international wine market?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, I mean, it's a great question because I mean, it's something that we , um, are continually trying to do and trying to push forward. You know, we have Colorado wine board , um, CAVE does a great job of kind of advocating for us. Um, I'm the Rocky mountain , uh, delegate for Wine America, which is , uh , our national lobbying organization for the wine industry. Um, and a big part of the reason that, I mean, Naomi from Grand River was for a long time. And then as she retired , um, they had an open seat. Um, and so I thought it was important to keep a Colorado winery as the representation for that region. Um, so I think we're, you know, slowly , um, it's hard to say, but I think we're slowly starting to push into the mindsets of other people. I think it's always hard because you know, you have the gorilla in the room, California sitting over there. Yup . Um, and so it's always hard to push and , you know, I think we're finally getting to a spot where there's a lot of great wine makers making Colorado wines versus trying to make California style wines in Colorado. And I think we're just going to see over the next five, 10, 15 years that we're going to start having a leg to stand on is saying, no , no, no, this is a , you know, a Colorado Cab Franc, not a Cab Franc from Napa or that so

Christi Reece:

Well, and obviously they produce amazing wines in California and it's a beautiful place. And it's heartbreaking to see the fires raging through that area in some of the resorts, lodges and vineyards that have been destroyed. I mean, it just makes me cry. Um, but even though you can buy some of those wines, it's still hard to go out there and get that wine experience whenever you want it. And I think that's one of the beautiful things about our areas. How many vineyards do we have here now that you can go do a wine tour and what a great experience though ?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. I mean, you , uh, I tell people at this point I I've lost track, but I know there's over 20 I'm basically. I always just tell people when they ask, I'm like, well, if you hit them all in a weekend, you're not going to be very happy camper on Monday. I'll say that. Um, but yeah, there's, there's so many , uh, you know, new places popping up , uh, Colorado Vintner's Collective just popped up over in Palisade, which is a fun new place. I honestly haven't even been there, but I've just been following them on social. And I mean, everything that they're doing, it looks really incredible and like a great addition. Um, Savoie Spectrum's doing some sparkling lines now, so yeah, I think it's a , we have an incredible, I mean, and it's, you know, we just moved to the Palisade area from , um, from Fruitvale and I told my wife, and it's like, when we stand outside and just do a three 60, the views that we have in the Western slope are amazing. And I think it's easy to, you know, when we all live here, like it's pretty easy just to take it for granted and not realize it, but there's not a lot of places in the world. You can sit and have a glass of wine and a vineyard with these kinds of use . So it's a pretty great

Christi Reece:

For sure. Very true. So where do you sell most of your wine? Do you sell it online? Do you sell it from people stopping in? Do you ship around the world? We , we shipped to certain States ,

Garrett Portra:

So shipping wine and alcohol is a nightmare. Um, every state controls the importation of alcohol separately. So you can either go through a third party vendor, which we've chosen not to do cause they obviously take a portion , um, or you can, you know, gather licenses yourself. And so some of it then it just becomes , um, you know, it just, it really depend on it's a business decision. You look at, you know, for instance , um, Missouri, where I'm from one, I have so many contacts there that if I didn't shift to Missouri, I'd be in a lot of trouble. But the, but the other thing is it's like 50 bucks for two years for a license. Um, and then we report tax to him and we pay him excise tax. Um, now Missouri, his next door neighbor, Illinois. It used to be like 500 to a thousand dollars a year to ship there. I'm not going to ship enough wine to Illinois in a year to probably even break even on that license, let alone make money. And so, you know, we just , um , have chose , we just pick and choose what States we're going to ship to. And typically we have a database at the winery that we keep track of when people request wine to be shipped. And if we see a certain state start popping up over, over, over again, we typically have , uh , their contact info as well. So then we might give it a few years and we'll go ahead and buy the license. We send those emails out saying, Hey, we now ship here. And we see, then we can look over a course of a couple of years if it's a beneficial to do or not. But we've, you know, honestly, like one of the goals for us when we bought Carlson Vineyards was to become a winery of the Valley. Like we wanted that's was one of the reasons we opened up downtown, was it , um, we really wanted to , um, you know, there's so many, there's such a large population here that don't even know that we have wine in the Valley, which is amazing. And so our big thing was really, you know, we wanted to be a local winery is first and then we've kind of started to branch out. We do distribute throughout Colorado and we still , you know , um, our distribution company does a great job for us. Um, and then we have a wine club that we've put in place three or four years ago and has been great for us as well. It's been growing,

Christi Reece:

But you must have a lot of just stop in people out at the vineyard that are doing a wine tour or driving around or taking a guided tour.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, absolutely. The tourism in the Valley is Um, yeah. Great. We , you know, that was one of the things that did make it difficult this year was obviously with the lack of tourism. Um, but luckily we, you know , change our business model enough to where we came out of it as good as we could have hoped. Yeah . Um , but yeah, we had a lot of tourism we start to really slow down , um, right about now is when we start to see that start to slow down into the winter. Um, but yeah, the , the summer for us, for sure, summer through about through middle of October is really

Christi Reece:

Well let's boost your winter sales. What kind of wines do you suggest for the holiday season?

Garrett Portra:

You know, well, one of the, you know, the number one of the number one wine pairings you're gonna find for Thanksgiving is going to be Gewurtztraminer. Um, and it's not so much because you're pairing it with Turkey. It's more that you're pairing it with the stuffing, you know, you're always pairing your food .

Christi Reece:

Yeah. I'm just imagining stuffing with this. That would be fantastic.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. It was great . I mean, you always, when you're, anytime you pair with food, you always want to look at your dominant flavor. Um, and then I also tell people , um, ham and Riesling go well together and there's a lot of good dry Rieslings. I do one in conjunction with Bin 707, Josh over there, we do one called White Light. That's a dry Riesling.

Christi Reece:

And he serves at , in his restaurant and you sell it.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah , absolutely. Yep . Yeah. The only places you can currently get, it are in our tasting rooms or , um , Taco Party, Bin Burger or Bin 707. So yeah. Which has been a really, really fun , um, fun.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. Because Josh also is really into , uh , where the food comes from and fermentation and all that. It's really fascinating.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. That's what I mean , great partnership. Yeah. It's really fun. I mean, a quick story about why we went to the cold soak on the Dry Gewurtztraminer is in 2017, we did it as well. And Josh had come over to taste some wines and he came in and I had these bins of grapes that were just sitting on skins and covered. He's like, what's this? I'm like, Oh, I'm cold soaking our Gewurtztraminer. He goes, Oh, do you always do that? And I'm like, well, every time my chiller goes down, when I receive grapes, I gotta figure out something to do and it kind of came serendipitous, but then we really liked what it did. So yeah.

Christi Reece:

So how many kinds of special wine do you do then? Special label ?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, so, I mean, right now, you know, we do a few , um , we do, you know, the wine has been, someone said seven , we do this, the wine that I brought , um, Tara, we do that in conjunction with Colorado Canyon Association. Um, and then,

Christi Reece:

Which is a fundraiser for them. That's fine .

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. We just wrote them a check for a little over, I think, $5,000 from the last one. And then we just literally released this last night and a beautiful label. Yeah, it's gorgeous. Um, Jeff Crisler , uh , is the photographer. Um, I met him at Kiln and actually we were standing in line getting coffee and David and Kiln him, said, do you know Jeff? You should and struck up a conversation. And next thing you know, next thing you know, he's doing the photography for the Tera. It turned out great. Um, yeah, so we do, and then we also do have a couple of labels I do with Forever Our Rivers. Um, so another nonprofit that we do for river health , um, you know, water's pretty important when it comes to wine making . So when you live with , when you live in an area that's known for the junction rivers, you've got to take care of what brought you here. Right .

Christi Reece:

Um , that's a great subject. I think. What do you have to do to the water that comes out of the river, that irrigation water in order to use it for your grapes?

Garrett Portra:

We don't typically have to do much when we do. They have to filter out sediments in that. Um, we use on our grapes, we use a micro sprinkler system. So it comes through, goes through our pump , um, to be completely honest, I contract most of it out to Talbott farms. And so , um, as long as the sprinklers are coming on , when they're supposed to, I'm usually pretty happy.

Christi Reece:

Okay. Um, let's talk about your tasting room downtown, because I think that's a great addition to Main Street in Grand Junction. So if you want to not only buy Carlson , uh , wines, but taste them, you can go right down here. And not that it's a far drive to Palisade and we love going out there, but it's very convenient. So tell us a little bit about the impetus for that and how it's going for you.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, so we, I looked at spaces, I think in 2014, maybe right. When we agreed to purchase the winery, I thought it would be a great idea to have a downtown tasting room. Um, and we looked, I did a lot of research on it and reach out to some folks. And just after like doing, looking at our business and looking at, you know, being new business owners, I decided the risk wasn't worth it. And we had other places we should probably put our money. Um, and then in 2000, I guess just it's just over a year ago, we were actually, it was a bummer. We were closed for our one year anniversary cause the COVID , um, but it just, it was kind of a , it just worked out well, actually. Um , Dustin, the owner of that building is , um, Colorado Canyon Association. This is our fourth wine we've done with them and their offices are upstairs. And at the time , uh, Joe, the executive director said, Hey, the space below us is going to be open if you're still cause I talked to him before about maybe doing it. And uh, yeah, I talked to Dustin and honestly he was great to work with and you know, was willing to do , um , some short term lease agreements so I could get a feel for if it was going to be a good fit. And so far we're really, really excited about it. We we've, it's been a , there's been challenges. I mean, obviously COVID was not great. Um, yeah . Cause a wine tasting room is not great if you can't taste. Um, but, but um, yeah, no, we're, we're looking to make it, you know, a longterm addition. So,

Christi Reece:

So tell for the people that haven't been there, tell us about , um, what the procedure is and do you provide food as well? I mean, can someone come in there and spend all afternoon, do you have outdoor space? It's about the wine tasting experience and what you want to provide to people there?

Garrett Portra:

So they're at the downtown , uh , location. We don't have , um, outdoor , we don't have any outdoor space, but supposedly it wasn't, it's proved in the plan for that building to have some, and we just wanted to make sure it was gonna be a longterm area for us. Um, but yeah, so we, you know, we have changed things. We do wine flights now. Um, so great with COVID and everything else, you know, ideally you weren't supposed to use a common container to pour from. Um , so by doing the flights, it allowed us to use the common container into five separate, you know, clean containers and then let people , um, kind of do their own thing. So, but yeah, it's, you can do a flight, you can do, you know, bottle of wine, glass of wine. Um, we were just meeting today about one of the things we're gonna be going over tomorrow is we're looking to add some like happy hour times for after work to where , um , like half price bottle every week or that kind of thing. So, and then we don't currently we were doing cafe soul platters , um, again with the whole COVID and figuring it all out. Um , we don't currently offer any food, but we do encourage people to bring their food and they're welcome to bring their food and have a glass of wine. So , um, it's been nice I think, cause like, you know, with superheroes they have limited seating, well somebody can put in a to go order and grab their superheroes and come sit down at the table. Great idea. Yeah. So it works great. Um, yes , we have a lot of folks that bring their own food. Um, and it's kind of the same. Th the , the winery, we have a great outdoor backyard space and um, so we have a lot, we encourage people to bring picnics or that , um, cause I mean the challenge out the winery is there is nowhere to pick up food. And so we, we used to again have cafe, soul platters , um, and we hope to bring those back again. Um, it's just the chain of custody of package or something. I don't know , um, that it just didn't work well with the COVID plan. Um, but, but yeah, well we still encourage people to bring their own food and hang out as long as they'd like ,

Christi Reece:

Obviously covert had an effect on tourism here in the Valley and, and people stopping by the vineyard and, and the tasting room. How else has COVID affected it? You know, we talked a lot about in the real estate business, what efficiencies did we learn through this process that we will continue with? And is there anything that's happened in the last year or less , it's just been six months really , um, that you think has affected your business in a positive way or that you've, you've learned that you'll carry forward?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, no, I think we've learned a lot. Actually. We , um, you know, one of the things we used to put , um, a foil ours , um, we started going without a foil. Um, as you can see, this one, doesn't have one and what's nice is we have custom corks. And so you can actually read the cork and you can see our logo on top and you can read it. And the main reason that we got rid of that was that when we were bringing, we didn't lay anybody off for , um, when we got shut down , um, we sent everybody home for a couple of months. We paid everybody. Um, and then when we brought them back, we still weren't supposed to have our tasting rooms open. And so in order to, you know, keep everybody going, we brought everybody back when I told people the tasting room got new perspective on how the wine gets in the bottle. Um, but one of the things we did is by eliminating the area that we put the foils, it actually allowed us to keep spacing well with everybody. And so it was kind of one of those, I actually have anybody needs them. I have like 150,000 foils that we didn't use this year. Um , but it was great because we didn't have to figure out how to like crowd everybody in together. And it allowed us to do a little better job spacing. Um, and it also, I mean, a lot of people really liked it, cause it, you know , helps the branding cause it gets our name out there one more time. Um, and then I would say, you know, the flights everybody's really been a really big fan of flights cause , um, it kind of allows people to taste it their own pace. You know, if they, if they're in a hurry to go, they're not waiting on somebody to get to them. But on the same note, if they want to take their time and you can go nice and slow, they're welcome to , so I think that's gonna , um, continue on. And then I would also say that in our annual wrap up meeting or looking forward reading last year , um, the biggest area of improvement I saw for us was online sales and boy, if we improve that fantastic. Yeah. So I mean the goal is, you know, I've been

Christi Reece:

Right. Keep that where it is or improve it and bring the person tourism back.

Garrett Portra:

So it's been , um, yeah, it gave us kind of a chance to, you know, you know, some of our tasting room folks got a chance to actually focus on how, you know, different optimization and social ideas and figuring out how to push online sales. And it was kind of great cause it really allowed a lot of people to cross train. So I think we're really going to come out of it as , uh , a stronger, better business.

Christi Reece:

So you just had your harvest. Yeah . And is there a long harvest period for the different kinds of grapes? I mean, is it all throughout the season or does it all come at once?

Garrett Portra:

And again, this is what I love about the wine business it's agriculture. So there is no like rule , um , you know, typically like obviously there's no wine Fest this year, but yeah . You know , but um, Wine Fest weekend, you know, I was telling people that I was like, there's been years during wine Fest weekend where we might only have two or three tons of grapes in our cellar at the time. I think this year we had around 80 , um, yeah, we were crushing grapes in August, which was eyeopening. And um, as of Wednesday I've brought my last fruit in from the field. So, and I've just in the time that I've worked in the industry, I've, I've pressed recently and in November. So it tells you how early we are , um, to have all of our fruit in house already. Um, and why is that this year? They just got hot and stayed hot and they were , you know, normally I kind of feel like there's two weeks in the Grand Valley that , um, you know, it's like there for awhile . I would always say, man, I don't remember getting this hot last year. And I like those first couple of weeks of July to me are always there in the hundreds. They're always super hot and they don't ever, and then they seem to kind of taper off and go back. Well, this year the hundreds just kept coming and uh, the ripening of the fruit kept coming in . And so everything kind of came together pretty early and kind of came all at once. And so that's why I've been joking that this was the fast and furious harvest for us. Cause it was just like I was, yeah . I just , yeah, I , I tell all my, my seller team, if we had a time they could go home early or get I'm like, you better get it now. Cause I can't you when the next one's going to be. Yeah . Um, but yeah, so it's been a , an interesting year. The nice thing is so far, we haven't seen any , um, negative effects of the smoke, which we were worried about. Um, and, but thus far

Christi Reece:

California has got to have some horrible effects, right?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. I would assume I don't. I mean, give you an idea. Um, I had to call a lab cause I send my grapes off to a lab in , uh, California to get analysis and testing and that, and I was calling one of them and was talking to him about, they call it smoke taint. Um, and there is a chemical markers that you can test for to see if it's there or not. And right now, I mean, they're so overwhelmed. They're telling people one to two months before you'll have results and they're telling people that aren't already set up as customers, they're listing their competitors as like you should check with them. Cause we just don't have room for you right now. Wow . So I mean they're yeah. They have a long, long road ahead of them I think.

Christi Reece:

And do you think that a lot of those California vineyards will have to dump grapes? I mean, what do you do with the tainted?

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, it's um, you know, this happened a few years ago for them as well. And it was actually a big deal in the wine industry because there's a lot of fights between growers and wineries and who was paying for what, and if the insurance companies would cover it. And so I'm hope the hope would be that in that they learned a lot. And so, you know, if , if a grape is considered unusable now with a lot better analysis, they can actually have chemical analysis to show that those grapes are not born unquote usable. Um, so hopefully that'll, I mean, for the growers, hopefully there'll be some insurance there that can help them. Um, for the wineries. It's just, it's kind of a tough deal. Cause if you don't have grapes, you know, you're suddenly out of a product and the problem is that you're not out of a product immediately. You have to plan for being out of a product in two years. Um, which is a tough business planning model.

Christi Reece:

Yeah, no kidding. Well, we certainly wish the, all the folks in California, well, especially the wineries and hope they get back on their feet soon, but it's a great opportunity for the people in Colorado or even all across the country to try some Colorado wines.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean it's um, yeah, I , I tell people all the time, if you come into it with an open mind as a wine drinker, it's not Colorado wines should be Colorado. They shouldn't taste like a California. I mean, it's back to what I love about it. It reflects where it's grown. Um, you know, and so I think that, and I think we're starting to see that I know , um, Mesa Parks just got a 90 point , um, score on his , uh , cab, I believe. So Brandon, Laura doing great over there. Um, we've had multiple 90 points, I think , uh , Corey from Evolve, wine's got a 90 as well, so we're starting to get more and more of those scores , um, that reflect and show that as an industry we're like moving forward and becoming , uh , an actual player will never be California. We'll never be that size. We don't have the ground to do it, but I think we are starting to see a push for, you know, I think it's the way it works. It's kind of a push for quality, you know, in the beginning, pioneering, it's all about survival. You're just trying to stay afloat. Um , and I think we're starting to see as these, the next generation of wineries, like now we get to stand on the shoulders of the pioneers, it created a Colorado industry and then start trying to push it to the next level. And you just hope that each generation gets better and better and better. Yeah. And yeah, I think it's a future is bright for Colorado wine . Yeah .

Christi Reece:

I love it. Um, what do you think are some of the specific attributes of the soil or the conditions here that give Colorado wines , uh , uniqueness?

Garrett Portra:

You know, it's hard to say. Um, I mean I think obviously all the different deposits we have with, what's been really neat for me at least, and I needed find more time to research it, but all the deposits, cause it's all based off the rivers and how they flown over the years or is that we have a lot of different little micro-climates in different, like, so you can get, I mean, even grapes from just the bottom of the Valley up versus up on top of East Orchard Mesa, where I'm at, you can have the same variety of it can be completely different. Um, and I think that , uh, that alone really lends to a lot of , um, Oh, there's just a lot of differences in all of our wines, which I think is pretty unique. Um, I think it can add to some really complex different reds cause you can do some blending. And then I think also just, you know, like we've been beat over the head with on peaches are , you know, warm days, cool nights that it works. It works in all fruit. The reason our peaches are so good is we have those warm days, cool nights, so on and so forth. It does , it has the same effect on all fruit. And so it has , you're going to have, you know, great grapes produced as well. Awesome.

Christi Reece:

Well , uh, as we wrap up what , uh, let's, let's move on to our next , uh , tasting here.

Garrett Portra:

So ,

Christi Reece:

So this is the dry Gewurtztraminer that just been harvested.

Garrett Portra:

So you can see it's still cloudy. It's not it , uh , it hasn't , uh, then we do that. Um, yeah, so it hasn't even settled out yet. I mean, it's just, but it's just the nose on. It's really tropical. Yeah .

Christi Reece:

It's very tropical. It's totally different than the bottle.

Garrett Portra:

Yeah. And it , I mean, it's kind of , I mean, if you smell, I, I would automatically almost assume it's going to be sweet, but it's the same way it's bone dry.

Christi Reece:

That's amazing. The smell is the aroma is so different than the taste

Garrett Portra:

And there's, I mean, you can get that at the end, you get a little bitterness. Um , and then what that is is that some of those tannins coming from it , um, over time, hopefully those are gonna soften a little bit, but, but yeah, I mean it's , um , completely different wine, but it's just a good example of, like I said , what I love it reflects the year it was grown or flex the temperatures we've had and

Christi Reece:

What's delicious. Interesting Garrett , what else would you like to share with us today and our listeners,

Garrett Portra:

Man? I don't know. Um , I mean just thankful to be here. I mean, it's kind of a , a really neat , uh, uh, idea that you guys have going on with the podcast . I love seeing , um, you know, I was excited to bring, you know, some of this stuff, the CCA wine, some of the other things, cause I know you guys do so much of the community outreach as well, which is really important to us. We've always believed in a , uh , you know, a successful business relies on a successful community and you're very seldom going to have one without the other. Um, and so it was like , uh , yeah, I mean that's when, one of the things that I thought there was like a little bit of similarity between us as I feel like, obviously just from the outsider, looking in and looking at your all's business that you guys kind of have a lot of the same core values that we do at Carlson Vineyards. Is it, you know, if our community's super successful and moves in a positive direction , um, it's just going to do nothing but help our business. So, so yeah, I think it was a fun, I super excited to get the invite

Christi Reece:

Absolutely Wine Fest next year. I imagine everybody is just keeping fingers crossed . It's far enough away that we hope covert will be done and we can have events again, but wow. I think everybody will just be stuck. So there'll be a bash right in the back .

Garrett Portra:

I hate to say the new normal, but I just like any kind of scope of normal bags .

Christi Reece:

Right. We will look forward to it so much. Um, well it's been a pleasure having you here today and enjoying your wines. I think we're going to have a little bit of that. What's in the,

Garrett Portra:

The Colorado Canyons the CCA, yeah , the CCA wine. It's one of the biggest wines I think I've ever made from a red perspective. Um , it's , uh , Cab Franc and Shamerson. Uh, it started out back to where you're always pushing forward. I did a quick , um, I did a , uh , a wine with my cellar crew called SWAG. I always wanted a name of a wine SWAG. Um , it dates back to my favorite biology teacher in college. He used to say that hypothesis was just a stuck up wave saying a scientific wild ass guess. And that's essentially what that wine's supposed to be. And we liked the blend so much that we decided we'd use it as a stay, as a mainstay for us. So, so it became the new Tera, but yeah, I've, I've wanted to call a wine SWAG. Since I thought about having a winery ,

Christi Reece:

You're going to put that , uh, the acronym , um, excuse me, the acronym explanation somewhere on the bottle or we did on the last one.

Garrett Portra:

So on the wine that has a swag and we're going to continue to do SWAG. I tell people SWAG is wine makers, making wine for wine makers. It's doing off the wall, weird stuff. And we're trying to , we're trying to become better wine makers and not all of them will be successful. We were lucky in this one. It was , but we're going to do some that were just like, eh, it didn't work. But the idea is that we get to keep pushing, to find out and learn new things.

Christi Reece:

Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a real pleasure and love your wine and love promoting , uh, not only your company, but the wine industry in Western Colorado. I think it's one of the great things about living here. It makes us so unique. The towns up in the mountains are so beautiful and I love them , but I think we just have such a unique combination of so many great things here in town. Yeah. Yeah. That's hard to beat this place to let you and the rest of our listeners know that , uh , next month we're going to be interviewing Scott Winans , uh, from COPMOBA and talking about the plunge because the plunge is another amazing part of Palisade. It's going to bring some more tourists to that area and hopefully they'll ride down that crazy trail and then some wine . There you go. Sounds good. Thank you, Garrett . Absolutely. Cheers. Thanks everybody for listening. And we'll talk to you next time on the flow circle podcast. Thanks. Thanks for listening. This is CristieReece signing out from the Full Circle Podcast.