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Better with age: River Garden Winery, a decade in the making, comes to fruition

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By Jeremy Johnson

FORT LUPTON — Like a fine wine itself, a Fort Lupton couple’s vision of opening what the claim is the first winery in Weld County, the “new” River Garden Winery, had to ferment awhile before coming to full-bodied fruition.

Bob and Mary Stahl were no strangers to farming when they married in 1978 in northwest Ohio — both grew up on one, but left their respective farmsteads for Colorado following their marriage. Mary went to work for the oil and gas industry — a job she retains to this day — while Bob was a self-employed carpenter and cabinetmaker before taking on a career with the state of Colorado.

After 22 years serving the state as a “public servant,” Bob said he left his job to begin construction of a winery. That was in 2004.

“The completion of the winery in April … was the culmination of a plan conceived exactly 10 years ago,” Bob Stahl said.

Stahl said the plan began a decade ago when he decided to test the land to see if he could grow some grapes.

“In the spring of 2005, the first acre of grape vines were planted as a test to see if wine grapes could be grown here,” he said, referring to he and his wife’s land, nestled along the Platte River on County Road 25 about five miles north of Fort Lupton proper. “We are not the usual winery located in an industrial area — we are in the country on the Platte River with old cottonwoods and an abundance of wildlife.”

Stahl said the first crop “exceeded expectations,” leading to the planting of an extended wine grape crop of about five acres the following season. Stahl started “making wine commercially” in 2008, as the first good wine grapes became available.

“All of our wines are produced here and available only here,” he said. “We have wines made from our own grapes as well as grapes brought over from the Western Slope and Washington state. Our estate wines are made from hardy grapes and are quite unique for the area.”

For that reason, Stahl said the response from customers in the first four weeks of being in business has been, as they say in the wine business, palatable. “The feedback already has been very positive,” he added. And that’s a relief for the Stahls since, as Bob Stahl points out, the end result did not come easily.

“We are the first winery in Weld County and there many obstacles that we had to overcome,” he said. “Being in a flood plain complicated things more. Getting the winery built has been the biggest challenge by far.”

But now that their winery is finally getting its legs, the Stahls can kick back, cheers and enjoy the finish.

For more information, visit River Garden Winery at www.rivergardenwinery.com or on Facebook, or contact the Stahls at 303-304-4064 or by email at rgwinery@gmail.com. 

 

Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Johnson at 303-659-2522, ext. 217, or jjohnson@metrowestnewspapers.com.