Penrose emerging as cider, wine and mead production center

·7 min read

Jul. 21—Penrose is already famous for its apple orchards, but the small community south of Colorado Springs is fast becoming known for its wines, hard ciders and meads. Their makers have formed a co-op and are individually selling products and offering samples worthy of a day trip to Fremont County.

Here's a look at five of the tasting rooms and what you can expect to find.

Apple Valley Cider Co.

103 Broadway,

Owner Kevin Williams is a Penrose native and grew up working in the apple orchards. He's been making beer, wine and hard cider for more than 15 years and launched his hard cider company in 2018.

He makes four flavors: semi-sweet, peach, black currant and cherry. All of them took medals in the 2019 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.

Apple Valley Cider is pretty much a one-man-operation, though Williams gets some help on days he is filling larger orders. He tries to get as many apples from Penrose as possible,;however the apple harvest has dwindled. There hasn't been enough fruit to support his production, thanks to a combination of drought, frost and hail storms.

"In the three and half years of making cider, I've only gotten apples one year from Penrose," he said. "That was in 2019 and it was really good. It had a lot of Golden Delicious apples — really good. I rely on Washington state to source juice."

Hard cider is available in 12-ounce bottles, four-packs or cases. All are 6% alcohol. Williams distributes the cider to liquor stores along the Front Range. You can visit his tasting room on Saturdays and Sundays from noon-6 p.m. And if you're hungry, you can get food next door at Penrose Pizzeria & Pub.

C Squared Ciders

910 L St.,

Charles "Andy" Brown and Chad Hatlestad founded C Squared Cider Co. in Denver in 2015. The name of the cidery came from the initials of the men's first names.

"It also stood for taking cider to the next level exponentially," Brown said. "We had a strong local market and started introducing the ciders in other states. We won some awards, and our production was increasing. However, our lease was coming up, and I started looking for a new place 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 does some sales of 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 getting into hard ciders.

"There are roughly 300 craft brewers in Colorado and 12 to 15 hard cider producers in the state," he said. "I could see the potential for growth. There are a lot of crossover beer drinkers getting educated about hard cider and make the move over to them. Hard cider is lower alcohol at about 5 to 8 1/2 % alcohol. Technically it's a wine, and it's gluten-free, which helps."

Brown also gets most of his fruit from the Northwest, but Colorado's Western Slope provides some as well. He has planted apple trees on his land, but it will take three to four years for them to bear fruit.

C Squared Ciders' tasting room hours are noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Call 720-437-1428 to book a tour of the cidery, book a special event or make an appointment Mondays through Fridays.

Brush Hollow Winery

465 D St., 784-7245,

This family-owned business brings a combined 20 years of wine-making experience. Christina and James Roth made wine at home, and Christina's son, Robert Vanatta, is the primary winemaker. Vanatta had owned a distillery in Wyoming that was shared by a winery, so he was able to train at 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.

"Colorado's banana belt has 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 Palisades.

"We've always gotten our grapes and other fruit from Palisades," Vanatta said. "Our farmers told us the early freeze wiped out the fruit crops, and we will only be able to get about 20% of what we need this year. We'll have to modify our 100% Colorado labels for this year's vintages."

They look forward to the day they can once again say that their wines, hard ciders and meads are made from 100% Colorado honey, fruit and grapes.

In their attractive tasting room, they offer wine-themed gift baskets and wine-related gifts. There is a spacious patio behind the tasting room with a pizza oven, outdoor fireplace, games, seating and four cabanas. The winery is available for weddings.

They offer an ever-changing selection of about a dozen red and white wines, about three ciders and two meads. Tastings cost $5, but the price is waived with the purchase of bottles. Charcuterie boards and baguettes with imported Italian olive oil for dipping are available for purchase.

The tasting room is open for walk-ins noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Call to book private tastings.

Jenkins Farms and Western Skies Winery

448 K St., 240-2737, penrose

Justin Jenkins is the owner and fifth-generation farmer at 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 City — Jenkins got inspired to make wine instead.

He worked with Stultz, and now makes and sells four wines: riesling, wildberry, apple and merlot. His grapes come from the Western Slope, and he sources other fruit from Hotchkiss.

The farm's tasting room is modest and rustic, and is open 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The farm is open during the fall for pick-your-own apples and pumpkins.

Pop's Vineyard

1940 13th St., 499-4749,

Pop's is the newest kid on the block, having opened for public tasting in late June, but owner and winemaker Steve Smith started the vineyard decades ago. Wine making was a hobby for him and his son, Paul.

"We planted the vineyard in 2006," Steve said. "But we were making wine in the kitchen before that."

Father and son had fun making the wine and their family and friends encouraged them to think bigger because it tasted so good. When Steve retired in 2014 as statewide director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, he and Paul decided to make wine on a larger scale. They started selling bottles with custom-made labels to Realtors for their clients and weddings.

In addition to the grapes they grow, they use more from the Western Slope and from Lodi, Calif. Paul's wife makes the labels.

The tasting room is open noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The tasting room is in a hay field at the corner of T Street and 13th. On tasting days, there will be flags you can follow. Once there, you can sample their six to seven varietals. All bottles cost $20.

Contact the writer: 636-0271.

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