By Jennifer Pund
Candice and Erik Mohr, the owners of Snowy Peaks Winery, believe sharing a glass of wine with someone often leads to interesting conversations, new friendships and tighter bonds. This is exactly what the locally-owned Estes Park winery has been doing since it began bottling its award-winning Colorado wine for 10 years ago. To celebrate the milestone, the owners have put together Vintage10, July 22-24, a weekend celebration of ten vintages of Estes Park wine.
“We wanted to do a party this year to partially show off the huge expansion we just went through,” Candice said. “And partially to celebrate getting to 10 years, because that’s kind of a big deal.” The weekend includes a rare Vertical Wine Tasting, July 22, where patrons can sample wines from all 10 vintages. SnowyGrass Festival, a bluegrass concert celebrating 10 years of wine and friends, takes place July 23 and a five-course Winemaker’s Dinner with wine pairings takes place at Twin Owls Steakhouse, July 24.
Snowy Peaks wines are all carefully handcrafted on site in Estes Park. They are made from handpicked, Colorado-grown grapes from over a dozen vineyards near Palisade and Paonia on the Western Slope, and a vineyard in Burlington on the Eastern plains. “Day to night temperature variations typically range from 25 to 30 degrees during the grape maturation months of August and September,” Candice Mohr explained. “The long warm daylight hours of intense high altitude sunlight mature the fruit completely and build the natural sugars. The cool evenings and nights allow the grapes to retain the acids so vital to premium winemaking.”
Mohr doesn’t really know how it all started, but she points the finger at Erik. “My husband decided one day that he wanted to be a winemaker and have a winery. He still, to this day, can’t give me an answer as to where that came from,” she said. “So, with no real experience or training or anything, we decided to have a winery.”
In 2005, Snowy Peaks opened at 292 Moraine Ave. The couple received their first batch of Colorado grapes that fall and bottled their first vintage in 2006. “Part of our decision to open in Estes Park was that we wanted to live in Estes, and wanted to be in the mountains,” Candice said. “And, we figured it made a lot of sense with the tourism to try to do a business like this.”
The couple received help from an experienced friend while Erik did a lot of reading and learning from classes taught by the Wine Association. “Eric Glomski was a consultant for the first few years and helped us work through any problems we were having,” Mohr said. “Now, 10 years later we have just expanded into the building next door and doubled our production space.”
The Morhs took over the building next door a few years ago, and immediately removed a wall to enlarge the tasting room. “We were busting at the seams, and had no room left to produce wine. Under the expansion had been parking and open to the outside, so we enclosed the space and blew out another wall so the winery could expand,” Mohr explained. “Then, we added The Backyard just a few weeks ago. It is our new patio space behind the winery. You can enjoy views of the river while you have a glass of wine with some local cheese and listen to great music. It’s a fabulous way to unwind and recharge. You even have the option to order food from the neighborhood food truck, Two Chicks Henhouse, and a new restaurant, Oppa, with delivery to your table.”
The couple has been thinking of their weekend anniversary celebration for over a year. “We have been rolling around with this idea for awhile, but we were in the middle of a construction project doing the addition to the winery, so it just wasn’t practical to do a big event while we were trying to get the project done,” she said.
Kick off the Vintage10 weekend, July 22 at 7 p.m., with a special Vertical Tasting of Snow Peaks’ Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Mohrs have stashed wine in the cellar for the past 10 years and periodically open a bottle to see how it is aging. “Usually reserved for staff, close friends and family. It’s been really fun to try the wines from different vintages and compare them,” Mohr said. “It’s kind of cool because most people don’t get to try wines that old in the first place, and it’s cool you can get an idea how wines evolve. She said tasting the wines side by side to explore the evolution is not something the public gets to do very often. “It’s going to be a ton of fun,” she said. Erik will also talk about the differences between the vintages and reasons why they have developed the way they have. “These wines are extremely limited, so we will be tasting them for the first time right along with you.”
Enjoy bluegrass bands and local food at the SnowyGrass Festival, July 23 from 1-5 p.m. Local favorites Ran Off the Rooster, ReinTarnation and Follow the Fox will perform while patrons enjoy wine with food from Esmerelda’s Tamales and Ripe Tomatoes Wood-Fired Pizza along with Colorado cheese plates created by local culinary students. “We’ll be taking over Baldwin Park behind the winery, right next to the river,” Mohr said. “The music is our gift to you, admission is free.”
The weekend concludes with a Winemaker’s Dinner, July 24 at 6 p.m, at Twin Owls Steakhouse. The owners of Twin Owls were the winery’s first wholesale contract, and have become loyal supporters. “It’s only natural that our birthday dinner will be celebrated with them,” she said. Erik will explain the background of each wine served and Twin Owls owner, Thad Eggen, will talk about the process of creating the perfect paired dish. “This will be an interactive evening with plenty of time to ask questions and delve deeper into the world of wine and food,” Mohr said. “This will be a great opportunity to learn more about the process behind the scenes and how you can create great pairings at home. And there is a vegan option for the dinner.” Tickets are very limited.
Stop in the winery daily from 11 a.m. -7 p.m. to taste samples of their award-winning, wines from Colorado grown grapes including Merlot, Syrah, Viognier and Riesling along with wines from some of Colorado’s best boutique wineries. Try a tasting flight to find the wine you like best, it’s just $5 for samples of five wines of your choice. Snowy Peaks also carries gourmet foods made by Colorado artisans and also has a selection of wine related gift items made by local artisans.
Snow Peaks Winery is located at 292 Moraine Ave. in Estes Park. Call 970-586-2099 or visit www.snowypeakswinery.com to learn more.
Originally published in the July 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly. Photos by Jeffrey V. Smith ©2016