A Colorado State University study found the wine industry contributed $144 million to the state’s economy in 2012, a figure that has more than tripled since a similar study was conducted in 2005.
Colorado wine sales surpassed $28 million during the most recent fiscal year, up from $11 million in 2005.
Though many of Colorado’s wineries are along the Front Range, Fox Fire Farms, Sutcliffe Vineyards and Guy Drew Vineyards make wine in Southwest Colorado.
Richard Parry, who owns Fox Fire south of Ignacio with his wife, Linda, said the state’s wine industry should continue to grow.
“I think it’s going to keep growing because the technology is there, and the cold, hearty varieties are there to grow,” he said.
Fox Fire produces wines such as Colorado Riesling and Colorado cabernet sauvignon.
Fox Fire is a relatively small winery, producing about 500 cases per year. The winery operates seasonally and has up to eight part-time employees.
Sutcliffe and Guy Drew are near Cortez. Another nearby winery, Wines of the San Juan, is near Navajo Lake, east of Aztec, N.M.
The CSU study said Coloradans drink 3.1 gallons of wine per person each year, 24 percent more than the U.S. average. The state’s consumers spend more on Colorado wines than other wines, the study said.
“We see this as an indication that Colorado wine drinkers consider our local wines as a special-occasion selection, perfect for their holiday feasts,” Dawn Thilmany, a CSU professor who was the lead researcher for the study, said in a news release.
Colorado wineries harvest nearly 2,000 tons of grapes annually, according to the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. The board is part of the Colorado Department of Agriculture and commissioned the CSU study.
“The Colorado wine industry is increasingly strong and vibrant,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the wine industry board. “We are ecstatic about the results of the study, and excited to see these numbers validate all of the hard work of our growers, winemakers and everyone involved in wine production.”