Take an educational, agricultural tour of wine country with JR’s Carriage | TheFencePost.com

Take an educational, agricultural tour of wine country with JR’s Carriage

Story by Carolyn White | Cedaredge, Colo.
Photos Courtesy of JR’s Carriage Service

There's still enough time to squeeze in one, last fun fall event on the Western slope of Colorado, especially if you're looking for a truly unique way of exploring wine country.

For the past four years, Joseph Burtard, the owner of JR's Carriage Service in Palisade, Colo., has been taking guests for daylong tours which both begin and end at the Wine Country Inn. Driving various styles of Canadian Undercut wagons, pulled by teams of Clydesdales or Percherons, "We stop at seven wineries," he told me during a phone interview on October 9, "in addition to the Peach Street Vodka Distillery, a local brewery, and several gift shops. (Lunch is also included.) It's a hands-on experience. We go behind-the-scenes in the wine-making community and learn how to pour, taste and even how to choose the right wine off a menu. It's highly educational and includes nearly everything you want to know about the industry." In-between stops, Mr. Burtard even allows individuals to climb into the driver's seat so they can get a chance to hold the lines and learn more about the historical aspects and art of driving horses.

A vintage carriage collector, he says that "driving helps me to unwind. It's a hobby as opposed to a business or a career." His weekday job — as a Public Relations Officer with the Ute Water Conservancy District — fits in well with the mix because it allows him to educate folks along the way. "I am able to explain, along the tour, the significant value of water to Western Colorado's economy," Joseph told me, "and why vineyards, orchards and agriculture in general do so well in the Grand Valley. It's not only the irrigation infrastructure that we've long had in place, but also the soil and temperatures that are found in the valley. The nearby Debeque Canyon creates a wind tunnel, if you will, that in many cases helps keep the orchards and vineyards in Palisade from freezing." What does he suggest to the public, especially considering that 2012 has had one of the worst droughts on record? "It goes beyond turning off the faucet when you're brushing your teeth or shaving. Get involved and become educated on the water issues your community is facing. Take a look at your landscaping; shut off those ornamental fountains; consider not filling swimming pools; and ask business and governmental agencies to take a leadership role in water conservation. This drought has affected EVERY industry from agriculture to tourism," Joseph warns "and it's too early to know what's coming down the pipeline in 2013."

From his vantage point high on the wagon from April through early November, he watches water levels each weekend as well as the progress of the grape vines and fruit trees which surround every winery. Depending on the time of year, Joseph can customize the trips to correspond with what is in season such as cherries, peaches or apples. As a bonus, the Inn offers 10 percent off the cost of a room if a patron books a stay there. Chances are, after a full day of swaying gently in the carriage, listening to the slow clop of hoof beats on the road, visiting with others who've come along for the ride lingering over a wonderful noon meal, shopping … and of course, sampling the wines … you just might need it.

JR's Carriage Service is also available for weddings, horse-drawn "pub crawls," sunset tours and various other special events. (Watch for a feature story on Mr. Burtard's antique carriage collection, plus more on his Amish-trained livestock, in a future issue of the Fence Post.) For more information call (719) 671-7145 of log on to http://www.Facebook.com/JRsCarriageService. ❖