North Fork Food and Wine
Today’s vibrant local food and wine culture has led many to call the North Fork Valley the “American Provence”. In addition to our long-standing ranching tradition, the North Fork Valley’s scenic beauty and temperate growing season have attracted the largest concentration of organic and chemical-free growers in the state of Colorado. Farmers and ranchers furnish high-quality fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, wines and specialty products. Our farmers’ commitment to quality and the stewardship of clean soil, water and air are crucial to consumers and their perception and choice to buy clean, organic food.
You can purchase North Fork Valley products at many of our local farms and shops and eat our fantastic fresh food at our local restaurants and bed and breakfasts. We supply markets and top restaurants throughout western Colorado, including Aspen, Telluride and Crested Butte, as well as in many Front Range communities, including Colorado Springs, Golden, Denver, Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins.
Our agro-tourism opportunities also include family farm camps, “you-pick” fruit throughout the season, and cooking classes with many of our amazing local chefs.
JOIN US AT ANY ONE OF OUR FANTASTIC YEARLY FOOD, WINE AND FILM EVENTS!
Farms and Ranches
At first glance in the North Fork Valley, you see livestock grazing almost everywhere you look; ranchers often move their cattle from summer to winter pasture much as they did when the valley was re-settled by white settlers in the 1880s. Looking closer, however, you will note that the landscape is also covered in orchards, with an expanded diversity of apple, peach, pear, apricot and cherry varieties being grown. Both the fruit and some of those cattle and sheep that you see grazing in the distance qualify for the “organic” label…and squint even more and you will find that some of those are not cattle or sheep at all, but rather buffalo and elk (or even ostrich, emu or llama)!
The North Fork Valley also fas opportunities for WWOOFers – visit the WWOOF web site.
Whole Foods filmed Delicious Orchards‘ Jeff Schwartz regarding his Big B’s juices – click away.
Amidst our sagebrush and pastureland, the vineyards and wineries surrounding Hotchkiss, Paonia and Crawford have been steadfastly building a vibrant, locally-based relying on premium quality wine crafted from premium quality and heritage grapes.
Visitors to our wineries, which are set amid sweeping views and a pastoral, bucolic landscape, also enjoy our many food and wine events, as well as our local recreational opportunities. Our vineyards, as they exist in the North Fork area today, are the embodiment of the hard work, perseverance and risk-taking of individuals who believed this area has the potential of making great wine. Check out the West Elks American Viticultural website to view a map of the wineries.
Located in Southwestern Colorado, the terroir of the West Elks American Viticultural Area (AVA) is fed by the North Fork of the Gunnison River. It encompasses an area between Delta, Montrose, Paonia and Hotchkiss. These are the nation’s highest elevation vineyards, at 6,417 ft (1956 m) above sea level, growing Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. West Elks can by reached by driving south from Glenwood Springs, Hwy 133 over the beautiful McClure Pass; from Grand Junction, south on Hwy 50 to Delta, and east on Hwy 92; or from Montrose, north on Hwy 50 to Delta, then east on Hwy 92.
Low precipitation and canals allow West Elks growers to precisely control the water that feeds their grapes. However, cold winters lower the yields West Elks vineyards produce, growing less than one ton per acre, compared to about 3.5 tons in the Grand Valley AVA.
At least 95 percent of the state’s vineyard acreage is planted in premium vitis vinifera varietals. The popularity of planted grape varietals in Colorado is, from greatest to least: Merlot, a tie between Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, Viognier.
Many of the vines in Colorado are “own-rooted,” or grown with with their original root stock and not grafted onto different roots, a common practice in viticulture. This helps the grapes develop the original flavors and characteristics that these varieties have long been noted for.
Here’s a video that help describes the characteristics of West Elks wines.
Brewery and Cidery
Paonia is home to two great brewing traditions both of which use the highest quality local ingredients: Revolution Brewing Beer and Delicious Orchards Hard Apple Cider.
At Revolution Brewing, beer is made by humans for humans using only the finest grains, hops and water. It has not been pasteurized, centrifuged or filtered. There are no chemical additives or artificial ingredients. Check out the video about the brewery below!
Delicious Orchards has their many varieties of hard cider on tap, in addition to wine tasting room, café and market.
MarketsThe North Fork Valley has a number of markets that can satisfy your whole food needs.
Hardin’s Natural Foods Store
As a full service natural foods store, Hardin’s has on hand, among other items: local, organic produce; organic meats, organic dairy and frozen items; gluten free products; vegetarian and vegan-friendly products; bulk fruit, nuts, grains and beans; organic, fair trade coffees, teas and chocolates; natural supplements and herbal extracts and capsules.
Delicious Orchards is nestled in the North Fork Valley just outside Paonia. The valley produces some of the finest fruits in the world. High elevation, crisp, thin air, Rocky Mountain water, cold nights and warm days. These factors in concert with the most conscientious farmers help create fruit with the highest brix (natural sweetness) levels in the world. The store’s fruit is grown in this valley, supporting local sustainable agricultural and land stewardship.
Orchard Valley Farms
Orchard Valley Farms is all about eating and drinking local and sustainable and is located in the rugged and pristine North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River near Paonia, Colorado – a place so beautiful our produce can’t help but taste great! The 80-acre farm was established in 1976 as a grower-supplier for wholesale fruit packing houses in western Colorado.
Old River Trading Post
Since its beginning, over fifteen years ago, the Trading Post’s purpose has been to facilitate the mutual support between local farmers and local community. Recognizing the treasure that is our farmers, farms and the highest-quality food they produce, our aim is to provide a place for people to enjoy, share and learn about them. We also believe that its lasting strength, the ability of this community to adapt and thrive is measured by the quality of the connections within it. At the Trading Post we forge these connections at our grocery counter, in the kitchen, over lunch in the restaurant, in the classroom, and out on the farm.
Located at 15495 Black Bridge Rd. in Paonia, the Trading Post is open 10am-6pm, Monday through Saturday and 12-6pm on Sunday.