Serve & Protect

Garrett Portra, left, new owner of Carlson Vineyards in Palisade, and Joe Neuhof, executive director of Colorado Canyons Association, recently partnered to serve Portra's new red wine blend, River's Edge, as a fundraiser for the nonprofit association, which cares for three Grand Valley national conservation areas.

Garrett Portra, left, new owner of Carlson Vineyards in Palisade, and Joe Neuhof, executive director of Colorado Canyons Association, recently partnered to serve Portra's new red wine blend, River's Edge, as a fundraiser for the nonprofit association, which cares for three Grand Valley national conservation areas.

Being a new business owner, Garrett Portra wanted to find a way to give back to the community, but he also didn't want to be overzealous with his finances. So he got creative.

Instead of donating money directly to a nonprofit, Portra, who recently bought Carlson Vineyards in Palisade, decided to partner with someone the winery had been working with for several years and create a new wine in the process.

Portra came up with a new red wine blend and has been selling it out of the winery and at select stores in the area, with $2 per bottle going to the Colorado Canyons Association, a local nonprofit that cares for three Grand Valley national conservation areas — McInnis Canyons, Gunnison Gorge and Dominguez-Escalante, spanning more than 400,000 acres — and also works with children to give them opportunities to explore these lands.

"This was a way to use the business and still put an influx of cash in," Portra said. "This was an opportunity to push things in a new way."

Portra worked with former owner Parker Carlson, Colorado Canyons Association Executive Director Joe Neuhof and Amy Nuernberg, a marketing and design specialist who has worked with Carlson Vineyards for more than two decades. They came up with the name "River's Edge" for the new blend after selecting a scenic photograph for the label from Robert Kurtzman, a local photographer and former association board member.

"The grove of aspens could be in a national conservation area along a stream," Nuernberg said of the photo that sparked the wine's moniker, adding that she was looking for a name that gave a sense of a place where people would want to go.

The wine was unveiled at the association's annual fundraiser at Carlson Vineyards in June. The winery had 185 cases of wine, accounting for approximately 2,000 bottles, but Portra said they are down to less than 30 remaining cases.

Once the blend is sold out, Portra will donate about $4,000 to Colorado Canyons Association, which Neuhof said will go toward river restoration projects and a program that will allow some District 51 students to raft on the Colorado River and other educational trips in 2018.

The association is also working on a new venture known as the Catalpa Project, which will expand outdoor education opportunities for the community along the Horsethief section of the Colorado River that has been leased to the nonprofit.

Neuhof said this is the first time the association has partnered with a company on a beer or wine, but is excited about the success so far and is glad to still work with Carlson Vineyards under new ownership.

"It's wonderful to continue the tradition and keep working with Garrett," Neuhof said. "In the end, we'll be improving the health of the river corridor and engaging students on the river."

While this is a new project for both of these organizations, the concept is familiar to those who know Many Rivers ale. With that beer, the organization that brews it gives all profits to organizations that work to improve rivers.

The River's Edge wine is listed for $24 on the Carlson Vineyards website, carlsonvineyards.com. It's also sold by the glass at the Hot Tomato pizza restaurant in Fruita and is available at Fisher's Discount Liquor Barn.

The blend is made of 68 percent lemberger grape and 32 percent cabernet franc grape. The lemberger grape is one that the vineyard is known for, and Portra said he wanted to create something with which he was already comfortable.

Portra hopes to unveil a new wine next year at the association's annual benefit, this time a blend of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon wine and create a new name and label.

Hopefully, there will be a new blend each year, he said.

"I like the idea of each wine being its own individual thing," Portra said.

He added that giving back to the community is important for all business owners.

"It's pretty much common sense that if you have a successful community around a business, you're more likely to continue that success," he said.