Photo by Carmel Zucker
Paonia’s wineries are on the rise, so try a sip at Black Bridge, Terror Creek, or Stone Cottage Cellars.
Why go now: A recent organic farm boom has made this town (and the North Fork Valley in general) a major player on the locavore food and wine scene, and fall is the best time for a taste.
A-list harvest: The valley’s five-star fruits and veggies—this month apples, grapes, and pumpkins—give neighbor Grand Valley a run for its money, and are now showing up at swanky Aspen restos.
Banana-belt bonus: The warm climate gives the valley its bounty, and cool nights give wine grapes their zing.
Elevation: 5,674 ft.
Population: Around 1,600
Who’s here: Ranchers, coal miners, hippies, and young urbanites ditching the city for cheap, fertile land and mountain scenery.
Main drag: Walkable Grand Ave. is lined with shops and restaurants, plus the indie Paradise Theatre (where movies still cost $7).
Know the skyline: That’s Mt. Lamborn (11,396 ft.), Landsend Peak (10,806 ft.), and the hill with the painted white “P” is P Hill, naturally.
Sweet side trip: Hike the rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, an overlooked national park 40 miles away ($15/vehicle; nps.gov/blca).
Pick a bucket of forbidden fruit: It’s hard not to get apple-greedy at Delicious Orchards, where rows of tempting fruit dangle in front of Mt. Lamborn. Pick organic Macs till you’re pooped, then head to the farm’s shop—a locavore’s Christmas with Colorado wines, artisanal cheese, local honey, and jugs of Big B’s organic apple cider. West of town at 39130 State 133; 970/527-1110.