High goals for High Country Orchards & Vineyards in Palisade, Colorado | PostIndependent.com

High goals for High Country Orchards & Vineyards in Palisade, Colorado

Newly harvest peaches at High Country Vinyards and Orchards stand ready for packing in Palisade, Colorado.
Caitlin Row / crow@gjfreepress.com | Free Press

High Country Orchards and Vineyards in Palisade is a labor of love for Scott and Theresa High. They began farming locally in 1999.

“We wanted to live to work, not work to live,” Theresa said while touring ripened peach orchards recently. “We’re working with our dream in mind, so we work twice as hard because it doesn’t feel like work.”

That commitment, along with the couple’s previous sales careers, influenced how the Highs approached running a family business. Since acquiring their first orchard 16 years ago, their farm has grown to 126 acres — 71 acres dedicated to peaches, 36 acres dedicated to grapes (for their Colterris wine brand), plus space for their home, an events pavilion, an on-site commercial kitchen, a packing facility, a tasting room, a country store, and more. Anywhere from 30,000-40,000 boxes of peaches are sold annually to Whole Foods Market stores around the country, along with jams and salsas.

“We built our packing facility so we had control over quality, premium tree-ripened peaches,” Theresa said.

At peak season, the Highs employ up to 35 locals. They are also currently exploring expansion plans for a larger tasting room and an events center.

According to Scott, a “keen interest in wines” and the desire to own a vineyard led to the Highs purchasing land in Palisade.

“I have been very fortunate to have visited many of the famous wine regions and wine producers from all over the world in the past 35 years,” he said. “Those visits led to hoping and dreaming that one day Theresa and I might be able to fulfill our dream and own a vineyard of our own somewhere.”

Then, almost two decades ago, the couple began exploring land options.

Theresa confirmed that owning a vineyard together was part of Scott’s marriage proposal. Now they’re sharing it with three grown children.

“We looked at vineyard properties in Umbria and Tuscany in Italy, Bordeaux in France, and then Oregon, Washington and California before passing through the Grand Valley after attending a friend’s wedding one weekend,” Scott explained. “That was Theresa’s first time in Palisade and she remarked that it reminded her of the wine areas of Sonoma County, Calif., 30 years ago. We bought a 110-acre peach orchard just a few weeks after that visit with the idea of replanting to vines when that year’s peach harvest was completed. Those peaches were so wonderful we couldn’t tear out … [the] trees, and we got involved in the world of peach growing kind of by default.”

Now the Highs have four primary vineyard sites, purchased one by one over the last decade. From those grapes only, they produce Bordeaux-style wines, like Colterris Cabernet Savignon and Cabernet Franc. For summer, they make a “Coral” White Cabernet Savignon. Stop by the tasting room at 3548 E 1/2 Road in Palisade to try Colterris varieties.

Olivia Ludke, the Colterris tasting room manager, said she offers full tastings with a focus on producing an enjoyable experience for visitors.

“I talk about the variety of grape, the story of Scott and Theresa, and I love to find out people’s stories,” she said. “Lots of out-of-towners come off the highway.”

When asked what she liked best about working for High Country Orchards and Vineyards, Ludke immediately said “the owners.”

“They’re not removed from the day to day” life of the farm, she noted. “It’s a lot of hard work, and they’re doing it, too. It makes you want to work harder.”

For more information, visit http://www.highcountryorchards.com.

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