I never realized that Purgatory existed in Parker Colorado. But we were told there was this little winery that makes some terrific wines and that it would be worth our time to stop and have a tasting. On a hot Sunday afternoon we decided to do just that and were we glad we did.
Purgatory isn't easy to find. Parker is about 26 miles from downtown Denver and the winery is off the mainstream- Parker Rd - in a little strip mall area. The signage faces the internal parking lot - not the main street so we missed it at first.
The tasting room and production facilities are housed in the same building. The winery is known for creating some interesting combinations and blends but what they are going to be known for is something called the amphora process - more on that later.
They have won a number of awards for their creations and we decided to taste a few.
The grapes they use are all from Colorado....western slope. It was an area that was becoming popular for its wine production in the early 1900's until Prohibition when the vines were replaced with peach trees. The Palisade area is well known for their peaches...but wine is making a comeback and the grapes they are producing are used by many local wineries across the state like Purgatory....but here is why THIS little place is unique.
Marko Copic is the CEO and owner. He and his wife and just a few more employees have brought the Amphora process of wine making from Europe to Colorado. I had never heard of the Amphora process so learning about a different way to make wine was special and he walked us through it.
Before barrels came into being during Greek and Roman times wine was made using CLAY POTS. As wine production moved to barrels, casks and tanks the process changed and sulfur was added to prevent the wines from oxidizing...to keep wine from spoiling. Natural Clay prevents the oxidation without have to use any additives. It is a more natural process that can be used during fermentation but it is more difficult to employ on a large scale.
Marko had the amphora clay pots shipped from Europe. They are fragile. He ordered eight but four were destroyed during the transport. The pots come in different sizes but the ones he uses in production I believe he said hold about 500 gallons each.
The wine will stay in the pots depending on the type of grape (red or white they can be used for both) until they decide to complete the bottling. We sampled a couple of different amphora wines and the smoothness was amazing. There wasn't the same alcohol aftertaste that sometimes accompanies wine. It was almost as if they were finished with a smoother liqueur. Devine.
Then he let us sample the most unique wine they have. It is a "sparkling amphora". Apparently there are only about three (3) places in the US that make a sparkling wine in the amphora process. It was outstanding !!!!!!!!! It will be a special celebratory offering in our house.
Purgatory Cellars Winery is a small facility. It is a very labor intensive undertaking and as you can imagine the wines aren't cheap.....but they are good!!! They recently added a new bottling machine which will allow them to increase production four fold. They offer a charcuterie plate wine meats, cheeses, some fruits and crackers but they do not have a restaurant - yet. They are also opening another tasting room with food service in Castlerock and plans are to open another one in the Denver area later.
We had a delightful time including talking with Marko where he gave us a quick tour and learning about the amphora process. It was a wonderful "wine tasting" experience.
If you ever find you self in Parker Colorado..........enjoy !!!!
July 18th was a beautiful day with magnificent blue skies, puffy white clouds, warm air and the sight of the monolith called by the Souix: Mateo Tepee translated as Bear Lodge.
We call it the Devil's Tower. It is located on the western edge of the Black Hills and rises abruptly from the surrounding terrain. It is also known as the place where the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" had its finale with Richard Dreyfus discovering a back trail leading to the top in order to fulfill his destiny of alien encounters - total science fiction - (there is no back trail to the top....as for the aliens.........I am not sure).
The monolith rises 1,280 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is located about 33 miles from Moorcraft, WY and 27 miles southwest of Sundance, WY on highway 14.....304 miles from Cheyenne or 422 miles from our front door. In other words ....it ain't that "Close to Encounter".
I have always wanted to see the Tower. How the geologic creation came to be is still under discussion. There are four standing theories at first thinking it was an extinct volcano where the soil around had been eroded away. Lately one of the more prevalent theories is that it was created by an Igneous Intrusion.....which means molten lava....magma.....pushed through the crust but didn't penetrate it. Over time the magma cooled and the surrounding landscape eroded away leaving the tower. And...there are other creation ideas too.
I like this version:
"Seven little girls were playing a little too far from their village. Suddenly a group of bears began chasing them. The sisters were terrified. They ran and came to the stump of a great tree. The tree spoke to them to climb upon it and as they did it began to grow. The bears ran to get them but the tree grew beyond the reach of the bears. As the bears clawed at the tree trying to reach the girls the tree grew to the heavens and the sisters became the stars of Pleiades and the claw marks from the bears can be seen today on the side of the hardened tree".
It is still a sacred place.....especially for Native Americans. It is to be respected
There are a number of hiking trails in the area including one where you can encircle the tower. It is about 1.3 miles around the base. I chose to walk part of the Joyner Ridge Loop ....just for the pictures. Additionally according to the Park brochure about 5,000 climbers a year attempt the challenge. There are over 220 routes that have been used......now climbing up the wall WOULD be a "Closer Encounter".
I will leave you with this. Teddy Roosevelt started his thoughtful preservation of land to protect them for generations from unbridled commercial development and exploitation by proclaiming this Tower as the FIRST EVER NATIONAL MONUMENT !!!!!! He did this in 1906 - 34 years after the establishment of Yellowstone as our FIRST NATIONAL PARK. Forethought not afterthought.
Devil's Tower or Mateo Tepee is spectacular. It may not be easy to get to but if you do....may you - someday have your own "Close Encounter for the First Time". It will be unforgettable....especially when you return home and every time you look to the Pleiades you know how they came into being.
This bench is waiting for you:
Of the so many places we have been fortunate to visit - I believe that Hallstatt Austria is one of the most magical and beautiful regions ever. The city is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited Village in Europe. It is due to the discovery of salt and the importance of the salt trade which dates back to as far as 5000 BCE...and you can visit a still working mine - Salz Welton ! But more on that in a bit - let's talk about the city.
Situated about 200 miles from Vienna or 50 plus from Salzburg on the western side of Lake Hallstatt. It is in the mountainous Salzkammergut Region. If you are getting the idea that "salt" played a dominant role in the development of village and surrounding areas you are catching on !!!!
Salt was a commodity that carried significant importance in days past. It was used as a preservative - especially for meats - but added flavoring as a spice to simple foods. The term salary was derived from the latin term "salarium"......sal is the root - which meant salt. Roman soldiers were paid a "salary" which was enough money for them to buy salt...very important !!!!!
Even today you might hear phrases like "worth his weight in salt" or "take it with a grain of salt". Salt was the lifeblood of this area and because of its value - a damn was built to raise the level of the lake so barges of salt could be transported to other significant cities in Europe. Amazing what we take for granted these days with our table salt.
Anyway - before we get to Salz Welton - I want to talk about the village of Hallstatt.
To say it is beautiful is an understatement. Hallstatt does not allow traffic in the main village without special permits so you park outside and take a shuttle in to the center square. We decided to spend the night in the village and were so glad we did.
During the day it is a "Tour Bus Magnet". The region is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Region so tours from around the world find their way to Hallstatt. But in the evening most of them leave. We had the village to ourselves. It was a bit rainy but that added to the magic.
The lake provided a mirror of the surrounding mountains and high above there is a Skywalk that juts out over the city. It is about 850 feet above the village. Not for those who don't like heights but it offers spectacular views and heart pounding excitement and amazing photo ops.
As I said we were so glad we decided to spent the night in the village. We found a little restaurant for dinner - had wonderful Bavarian Sausages, wine and beer and just thoroughly enjoyed our time. No rush. I don't think we would have felt that way had we spent the day just dodging selfie taking tourists who regularly walk into traffic. I know I said that you needed a special permit to drive in the city but there are plenty of folks who work there or deliver goods that do drive. We heard that earlier in the week a self-absorbed selfie taker had actually walked onto the highway that goes around the city and was hit by a bus........be warned.
Above the city sits one of the oldest known salt mines in the world Salz Welton. The mine entrance sits about 1,200 feet above. They offer tours of the mine as well as a museum with photos and remarkable history. Tours run about 60 EUR per person - or about $70.00. Obvisouly it isn't cheap but it was worth it for us.
You take a furnicular to the top where you can hike around and just enjoy the scenery. You don blue, orange or green "anti-salt" suits - and travel deep into the mines. It is a guided tour - our guide spoke impeccable English and was funny and informative. As you walk deeper into the mines you can only imagine what the conditions must have been like to work there - and someone had worked there for hundreds and even thousands of years. Then you get to board the "salt train". It takes you even deeper into the mountain squeezing through small passageways - a fun ride.
There is the story of the "salt man". An ancient miner who they believe must have been in a mining accident about 1000 BCE. He was found in the 1700's by another group of miners and because salt is such a great preservative......some of his hair and skin still visible - his clothing and tools and other artifacts in virtually intact. Unfortunately -he was buried somewhere in the Hallstatt area so what we have is only historical documentation. Still a great story.
Finally before you leave - there is a wooden slide that you can take. It is over 200 feet in length not too fast but great fun. That was a highlight.
Leaving the mine your rewards are breathtaking views of the Mountains, the Lake, the Valley and the city.
Hallstatt is a must see and a wonderful trip through history.
Couple of travelers points:
1. Spend the night. There will be a bunch of people during the day. It is better at night.
2. Don't take a tour bus - control your own time to wander the city and enjoy what it has to offer.
3. You will shuttle into the village so pack light.
4. Watch out for self-absorbed selfie takers.
5. Bring your camera.
6. Be very polite to the restaurant folks and shop owners - they get sick of rude people.
7. Go in the "off" season if you can. We went at the end of September beginning of October....perfect even if the weather was a bit iffy.
8. Book Salz Welton online.
9. Walk the Skyway - stunning
10. Enjoy the beauty and appreciate the history.
Yes - that is Dora the Explorer behind the ferris wheel and she is smiling because she is wanting you to come on in and have a great time.
Of all the things we have done and places we have visited I didn't expect to enjoy the Mall of America as much as I did.....but I did.
Last week we took a quick trip to Minneapolis - St. Paul. It was a family trip and we had kids with us .... so of course everyone was excited to visit the Mall of America specifically the amusement park that is inside.
It was a blast. The kids range from five to eight and many of the rides fit that age group perfectly....with a couple extra "CRAZY" ones that even the eight yr old decided to skip. The park itself is amazingly clean and well kept. Our daughter (who worked at Disney World one summer) commented that it was the cleanest amusement park she had ever seen. The operators were kind, friendly and helpful. It was a lot of fun...and this is part of the reason why:
We stayed at the Embassy Suites by the airport. I will give them two thumbs up for the accommodations and the facilities. On TripAdvisor they didn't earn the highest ratings but are undergoing extensive renovations in the public areas. They have two room suites, they offer complimentary evening drinks and morning breakfast. They have a shuttle that takes you to the Mall or to the Airport. I included some pictures just to give you an idea that this is a very nice property....although the rooms seem a little dated it worked well for us. Book the hotel - I don't think you will be sorry.
We took the shuttle from the hotel to the Mall which opens around 10:00 am. As the day went on there were many - many school programs that brought kids over for field trips. We decided to leave around 12:30 when it became crowded and the lines grew long. We returned around 3:00 when we thought many of the school groups would have left and we were right. It was perfect. Short lines. Lots of rides. Fun !!!! We stayed another couple of hours and played until the girls were so tired we headed back to the hotel for dinner....and treats. It was a great day.
I titled the Post from the Mall to a Prince.....so here goes:
I rented a car and journeyed to Paisley Park but not before a stop to explore "The Electric Fetus" a well-known, historical record store in Minneapolis. It literally was....a trip.
The store is known for their support of local musicians and Prince was one who returned the favor and supported the store. Inside you will find an eclectic mix of music, vinyl, cd etc as well as art, books, goods and various other items...lots of items. Make this a place to visit even though the construction on the road in front makes getting in a little difficult it is worth it.
On to Paisley Park....Prince's home.
Paisley Park is located in Chanhassen - a suburb of Minneapolis. It has been turned into a museum to honor their hometown hero. You need to purchase tickets online with date and time. The tour lasts about one hour and 20 minutes. No pictures.
At first I was disappointed that I wasn't allowed to take pictures. They actually have you power down your phones or cameras then lock them in a little bag which you carry with you until the tour is over - then they unlock it to give it back to you. Like I said, at first I was disappointed but the more I have had a chance to think about it .... I think the point was to just enjoy the moment. It was a wish that Prince left....for you to just enjoy the experience.
The "house" is about 65,000 square feet. It is a misnomer to think he lived in a such a large house. His personal living space was quite small and very simple by celebrity standards. But his "house" included recording studios, performance stages, production studios for videos and movies as well as a very hip "nightclub" called the NPG Studio where family and friends and some fortunate locals would gather for late night spontaneous shows, movies or just enjoy themselves rocking out to a DJ. Even though there are hundreds of artifacts and memorabilia this place was very different from Graceland which I visited earlier this year (see my blog). Graceland was a place where Elvis could get away from it all. Paisley Park is where Prince got to it all......very different, all Prince.
Finally - since I couldn't take pictures of the inside of Paisley Park - I was able to take a couple of shots of one of the homes that Prince lived in while he was growing up AND was used in filming Purple Rain. It was called the kids home. From such humble beginnings with two jazz musician parents we are able to enjoy an outstanding musician and performer........he was unique.
We had a wonderful time in Minneapolis and will be back. There is so much to see and do and the people were fantastic. We are even talking about having a family reunion there next year. No wonder Minneapolis-St. Paul is almost always one of the top cities of the country in which to live. It was terrific. We didn't even have a chance to get to any lakes that Babe made.........hmmmmmmm.........next time !!!!!!! Can't wait.
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.