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Wine, Food and Wandering in Paonia

April 26, 2013

One of the wonderful things about the small town of Paonia, Colorado is that while there is plenty to do there, it’s also the kind of place where it feels ok to do absolutely nothing.  On the Saturday of my birthday weekend getaway, we did a little of both.

After an epic breakfast at Fresh and Wyld, we spent the rest of the morning lounging around the B&B.  Eventually we decided to head out and do a little of what put Paonia on our radar in the first place: wine tasting.

Liliputian Winery

Because we arrived in Paonia before their peak tourism season began, most of the area’s tasting rooms were closed until Memorial Day.  Luckily, the boyfriend had done his research and tracked down the one winery that had an open tasting room that weekend.  The owners of Liliputian Winery also operate a natural foods market and coffee shop on the same property as their tasting room, so it is open year-round for tasting!

The owner and winemaker, Lisa, was the one who ran our tasting and we had a great time chatting with her while drinking her wines.  One of the perks of being there during the off-season is that we were the only people in the tasting room and got to talk about wine, farming, dogs, skiing and life for the better part of an hour.

As for the wines, we enjoyed them so much that we bought three out of the four wines Lisa poured.  The first was my favorite, an off-dry Riesling that was crisp, refreshing and fruity.  I’ve grown to really enjoy Rieslings so long as they’re not too sweet, and this one was delicious.  I can’t wait to enjoy it on a hot summer evening, if it makes it that long in my wine rack. 

Liliputian Wines

The second wine was their Fat Head Red, a Cabernet Franc with a finish that almost tasted tart to me. I thought it was pretty good, but my boyfriend really liked it.  My favorite part was the label, featuring a picture of the owners’ dog Lily, who they nicknamed Fat Head as a stubborn puppy. 

Liliputian Winery

Next we tried a dry Apricot Wine.  I usually don’t like fruit wines because they are so sweet, but this one was light and refreshing without any residual sugar that I could taste.  The last wine, and the third that we couldn’t help snapping up, was their Shangri-La Ginger Wine.  I’d never heard of ginger wine before and it was totally unique.  Made of fermented ginger, raisins, oranges and lemons, this unique wine was light and tasty (at least to this ginger lover).  Lisa recommended pairing it with sushi or Chinese food, which sounds great to me.  Plus, she said that an opened bottle will keep for several months in the fridge, which is good because I didn’t think we would drink a whole bottle of ginger wine in one sitting.

After lingering over our tasting, we drove down into the town of Hotchkiss, where Dava, the owner of Fresh and Wyld, had suggested we check out the Creamery Arts Center.

Creamery Arts Center

The Creamery is an arts center displaying the work of about 50 local artists.  For a rural area with a small population, there certainly is a thriving arts scene.  We enjoyed looking around for a little while, and bought a couple of gifts from the store up front.  Dava specifically told us that we had to check out the bathrooms.  Curious and with a full bladder, I obliged.

Creamery Arts Center Bathroom

It was tough to get any decent photos, but the bathrooms were beautiful works of art unto themselves.  If you ever find yourself passing through Hotchkiss, make a pit stop at the Creamery.

Hotchkiss Elephants

After dancing with the elephant statues out front, we realized how hungry we were and hopped on Yelp for a lunch recommendation.  The restaurant with the best reviews (and one of the few restaurants with any reviews in this small town) was Zack’s Bar-B-Q, which sounded great to us.

Zack's BBQ

Zack’s serves Texas-style BBQ with an emphasis on beef.  At the recommendation of our waitress, I ordered a French Dip and loved every bite.  The beef was perfectly smoked and so flavorful, and the au jus brought extra flavor and saltiness to the sandwich.  I devoured it in minutes.

Zack's French Dip

The boyfriend ordered a sliced beef sandwich and a side of ribs.  Yes, friends, that’s a side of ribs.  I tried one and if ribs are your thing you would have loved them.  They were smoky and tender.

Zack's BBQ Ribs

Feeling absolutely stuffed to the gills, we headed back to Paonia with plans to walk around downtown a bit.  When we arrived downtown it was windy and raining so we returned to the B&B instead.  Shortly thereafter the rain stopped and the sun came out, so I headed out for a long walk.

Paonia Walk

It was a great time for a walk because while the sun was beating down on me, I could see pockets of rain all around.  The sky was dramatic and beautiful, as was the rural scenery.

Paonia Walk

A little ways down a country road I suddenly felt eyes on me.  Feeling uneasy, I looked up the hill to my right, only to see this guy checking me out.  See if you can find my friend in the photo below.

Paonia Horse

Yep, it was just a horse coming down to say hello. 

Mt. Lamborn

I loved this walk down quiet country roads.  The farm scenery was so unlike what I’m used to at home and just beautiful.

Paonia Walk

Much later, we decided to head out for dinner, less because of hunger than because there was another restaurant in town we wanted to experience.  Dava had recommended The Living Farm Cafe, a restaurant downtown serving farm-to-table cuisine.

Living Farm Cafe

Our waitress explained to us that the cafe sources 80% of its food from a 10 mile radius surrounding the restaurant.  I love the concept and had never dined at a true farm-to-table restaurant before.

Living Farm Cafe

We each ordered a different glass of local wine so that we could taste from a couple more local wineries before we left town.  A Syrah from Stone Cottage Cellars for her and a red blend from Jackrabbit Hill Wines for him.  I preferred his selection to mine but didn’t steal too many sips.

Living Farm Cafe

To start, we couldn’t resist an order of Goat Egg Rolls, because we both love egg rolls, and I mean, really?  They didn’t taste notably goat-y but were tasty.

Goat Eggrolls

For my dinner I ordered a small portion of Lamb Enchiladas which were good but didn’t wow me.

Lamb Enchiladas

I was wowed, however, but the Chicken Pot Pie served across the table from me.  Yum

Chicken Pot Pie

Overall I didn’t like the food at The Living Farm as much as I had at The Flying Fork, but I suspect I might have just ordered poorly.  Plus, I really like the farm-to-table concept of the restaurant and would happily go back.

When we returned to the B&B after dinner, the three other guests staying in the farmhouse that night were sitting in the living area drinking and chatting.  We joined them and ended up having a great time trading stories and getting to know each other.  (And drank almost our whole bottle of Ginger Wine, so there goes my theory that it’d take forever to get through!) Getting to meet new people was another great benefit of staying in the more intimate atmosphere of a B&B at Fresh and Wyld.

Eventually we dragged ourselves to bed – we needed to rest up for a hike the next morning!

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