The West Elks region, Colorado’s second AVA, boasts the highest vineyards in the northern hemisphere, at just over 6400 feet—and you have to go up and over an 11,000-foot pass in the Rockies to get there. By comparision, the highest vineyards in the world—at the moment—are in Argentina in the northern Andes planted at an elevation of 7,000-plus feet. There are only a handful of wineries in this AVA as of yet, but they are producing some exciting wines. This elevation produces some scintillating Riesling and Gewurztraminer. These aromatic styles of wine are generally are made with some residual sugar left in the wine but acidity levels are high which make an excellent counterpoint to sweetness.
More intriguing perhaps is the potential for Pinot Noir. Alfred Eames, whose winery is just south of the town of Paonia, grows Pinot at an altitude of some 5400 feet, getting good color and intensity of character and vibrant richness. These are not the fruit bombs of California’s biggest Pinots, but that isn’t the aim here.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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