Summer Sunday: Sutcliffe Vineyards

It’s not always easy to keep house guests happy in Telluride. Especially when they’ve been to our box canyon over a dozen times and are finding Bear Creek a little predictable. Which is why Andy and I decided to do something different with parents when they visited last week: we took them to Sutcliffe Vineyards in McElmo Canyon, just outside of Cortez.

Happy Parents Hiking Canyon of the Ancients

Happy Parents Hiking Canyon of the Ancients

Andy and I had a chance to visit this Arcadia, which is nestled at the base of the Sleeping Ute, last year at this time and found it enchanting. Spending a few hours with John Sutcliffe and his vineyard is like taking a trip back in time and visiting a nobleman on his estate somewhere in Europe. Time actually disappears as you sit outside and taste his wine, eat food prepared from his garden, and listen to his stories. This is another world, a land of lush green vineyards juxtaposed against red canyon walls, a land that has been farmed by many over the years, including the Anasazi, the Ute, and most recently by a Welshman who has spent time working in restaurants across America.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. No Telluride adventure is complete without some kind of physical activity and some time outside to earn your treats at the end. This is where the Canyon of the Ancients Trail fits in. This mellow stroll through the desert weaves in and out of scores of  Anasazi ruins. You’ll see ancient granaries, portions of homes, and the remnants of ancestral fires. The trail stretches for 6 miles, with additional side loops, so you can either do a section out and back or park a car at the other end of the trail and run shuttle. Either way, you’ll have spent some time outside in that good desert heat (temperatures are generally 15-20 degrees hotter than Telluride), you’ll have caught glimpses of an earlier civilization, and you’ll feel more than justified in drinking wine over lunch.

Sutcliffe Vineyards is always open for tastings but if you’d like to schedule a meal, you’ll need to contact the vineyard ahead of time. Plan on at least three hours for lunch or dinner as this is a place where you’ll want to linger (and to at least let the wine digest before you return to Telluride.) The food always consists of local ingredients and is always incredible. Last year, we had tomatoes and squash, pan-seared millet, and roast chicken. This year, we had grilled peppers, sliced heirloom tomatoes, risotto with bacon and porcinis that John had picked, and pasta in a cream porcini sauce. Every course is paired with a different wine, and if you have had enough wine but want some for later, you can always buy a few bottles for those future dinners in Telluride.

Hanging out with the John at Sutcliffe Vineyards

Hanging out with the John at Sutcliffe Vineyards

My parents don’t love long drives, and we weren’t sure what they’d think of this adventure. (We didn’t, in fact, tell them what we were doing until we’d arrived at the Ancients’ trail—they only knew we’d booked a sitter for the entire day.) Yet, as we sat down in the Sutcliffe patio (which looks like an Italian courtyard with its trellised grapevines and yellow stucco walls), they both squeezed my hand at the same time: “This is amazing,” they said. Finally, a winning activity for return guests, a trip back in time to McElmo, a trip we will return to again and again with pleasure.

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