Twenty years ago on a ranch deep in Southwest Colorado a tiny vineyard was planted on a whim.
John says in his charming Welsh accent, “On a road trip through the area, I saw a sign that read ‘Peaches, cherries and ranch for sale’. I ended up buying all three that afternoon.”
Reggie Gibson, an architect and friend, came visit on the ranch and said rather whimsically “plant a vineyards.” With no lofty ambitions. Planting vines was more aesthetic landscaping than a business venture. So we planted some vines in 1995 and squeezed the grapes in the kitchen. Is was actually palatable, and then when we fermented it, it actually turned into wine! (Which was a bit of a miracle.) We got absolutely plastered in celebration. We had no lofty goals, and in our first year of production, we made 10 cases and it was jolly good!
The idea of churning out wine in a place that is absolutely ideal has no appeal, so there was something entrancing about the idea that it’s impossible to make wine here, in the harsh wilderness of McElmo Canyon. The first wines we made were in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 that were good but we later discovered they didn’t hold up over time. Then we brought these lads on board, Ben Parsons and Joe Buckel (both renowned wine makers.) Twenty years later, the vines are weathered and strong. The wine gets evermore complex and flavorful. This tradition is maintained by Jesus Castillo.
The date stands out as the birth of a fundamentally new approach to winemaking in Colorado, defining and leading the burgeoning Colorado wine industry. Although they haven’t gone through the organic certification process, the wines are organic, with no pesticides, much like many of the European wines are. Additionally all wines are 100% vegan friendly. The Vineyard now produces over 5,000 cases which find their way into some of America’s most celebrated restaurants and resorts, wines that are sought by serious wine lovers, keen to celebrate the obscurity, idiosyncrasy and brilliance of Sutcliffe Vineyard’s wines.
SOME NOTEWORTHY DATES.
1990. John Sutcliffe bought Battlerock Ranch.
1995. The architect said plant vines.
1997. First wine made.
1999. First vintage bottled.
2001. Sutcliffe Vineyards on the wine lists of terrific restaurants.
Thoroughly ensuring the chronology of madness would continue.