Penrose is already famous for its apple orchards, but the small community south of Colorado Springs is quickly becoming known for its wines, ciders, and meads. Their makers have formed a cooperative and individually sell products and offer samples worthy of a Fremont County day trip.
Here’s a look at five of the tasting rooms and what you can expect to find.
Apple Valley Cider Co.
103 Broadway, applevalleycider.com
Owner Kevin Williams is from Penrose and grew up working in apple orchards. He has been making beer, wine and cider for over 15 years and started his cider company in 2018.
It makes four flavors: semi-sweet, peach, blackcurrant and cherry. All of them won medals at the 2019 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.
Apple Valley Cider is pretty much a one-man operation, though Williams does get help on days when he’s filling larger orders. He’s trying to get as many apples as possible from Penrose, but the apple harvest has declined. There was not enough fruit to support its production, due to a combination of drought, frost and hailstorms.
“In the three and a half years of making the cider, I’ve only had apples for one year from Penrose,” he said. “It was in 2019 and it was really good. There were a lot of Golden Delicious apples – really good. I rely on Washington State for my juice supply.
Hard cider is available in 12-ounce bottles, packs of four, or cases. All are 6% alcohol. Williams distributes the cider to liquor stores along the Front Range. You can visit its tasting room on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. And if you’re hungry, you can eat nearby at the Penrose Pizzeria & Pub.
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C Square Ciders
910 L St., csquaredciders.com
Charles “Andy” Brown and Chad Hatlestad founded C Squared Cider Co. in Denver in 2015. The name of the cider house comes from the initials of the men’s first names.
“It also meant taking cider to the next level exponentially,” Brown said. “We had a strong local market and started to introduce ciders to other states. We won awards and our production was increasing. However, our lease was running out and I started looking for a new location with lower taxes and potential for growth.
He found a 5 acre farm in Penrose and bought it in late 2019 and moved in 2020.
“Chad stayed in Denver, but he still sells cider for me,” Brown said.
Brown grew up in Maine. He went to brewing school in California and worked in the beer industry for 15 years before moving on to hard ciders.
“There are about 300 craft brewers in Colorado and 12 to 15 cider producers in the state,” he said. “I could see the potential for growth. There are a lot of crossbreed beer drinkers who learn about hard cider and head for them. Strong cider has an alcohol content of less than about 5 to 8½% alcohol. Technically, it’s a wine, and it’s gluten free, which helps.
Brown also gets most of its fruit from the northwest, but the western slope of Colorado provides it as well. He planted apple trees on his land, but it will take him three to four years for them to bear fruit.
The opening hours of the C Squared Cidres tasting room are noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Call 720-437-1428 to book a cider house tour, book a special event or make an appointment Monday through Friday.
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Brush Hollow Winery
465 D St., 784-7245, brushhollowwinery.com
This family business has 20 years of winemaking experience. Christina and James Roth made wine at home, and Christina’s son Robert Vanatta is the main winemaker. Vanatta owned a distillery in Wyoming that was shared by a winery, so he was able to train in that winery.
When they all moved to Penrose in 2019, they saw the unique climate, high altitude and limestone soil as the perfect place to plant a vineyard and build a winery.
“The Colorado banana belt is the perfect base for growing Malbec, Pinot Noir and Muscat grapes,” Vanatta said.
Their small vineyard is young and will take several years to produce enough grapes to support their wine production. They get other fruits from the fences.
“We always got our grapes and other fruits from Palisades,” Vanatta said. “Our farmers told us that the early frost wiped out fruit crops and that we will only be able to get about 20% of what we need this year. We will have to change our 100% Colorado labels for this year’s vintages.
They look forward to the day when they can once again say that their wines, ciders and meads are made from 100% Colorado honey, fruits and grapes.
In their pretty tasting room, they offer wine-themed gift baskets and wine-related gifts. There is a large patio behind the tasting room with a pizza oven, outdoor fireplace, games, seating and four cabanas. The cellar is available for weddings.
They offer an ever-changing selection of a dozen red and white wines, around three ciders and two meads. Tastings cost $ 5, but the price is waived with the purchase of bottles. Cold cuts and baguettes with imported Italian olive oil for dipping are available for purchase.
The tasting room is open without appointment on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Call to book private tastings.
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Jenkins Farms and Western Skies Winery
448 K Street, 240-2737, penrose apples.com
Justin Jenkins is the fifth generation owner and farmer of this Penrose farm and orchard. He had the equipment to make cider and wanted to try his hand at making hard cider, but after consulting with Jeff Stultz – the award-winning winemaker for The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in nearby Canon – Jenkins was inspired to make wine instead.
He worked with Stultz and now produces and sells four wines: Riesling, Wild Berries, Apple and Merlot. His grapes come from the western slope and he gets his supplies of other fruits in Hotchkiss.
The farm’s tasting room is modest and rustic, and is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The farm is open in the fall for pick-your-own apples and pumpkins.
1940 13th Street, 499-4749, popsvineyard.com
Pop’s is the newest in the neighborhood, having opened for public tasting in late June, but owner and winemaker Steve Smith started the winery decades ago. Winemaking was a hobby for him and his son Paul.
“We planted the vineyard in 2006,” Steve said. “But we used to make wine in the kitchen before that.”
Father and son had fun making wine and their family and friends encouraged them to think bigger because it tasted so good. When Steve retired in 2014 as director of the Colorado State Department of Corrections, he and Paul decided to make wine on a larger scale. They started selling bottles with custom labels to realtors for their clients and weddings.
In addition to the grapes they grow, they use the western slope more and in Lodi, Calif., Paul’s wife makes the labels.
The tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The tasting room is in a hay field at the corner of T Street and 13th. On tasting days there will be flags for you to follow. Once there, you can taste their six to seven grape varieties. All bottles cost $ 20.
Contact the editor: 636-0271.