Le Fuselier Farm Winery at Spring Creek Vineyards 
                            At the foot of the Rockies, 1702 Willow St. at Highway 115, Canon City, Colorado  719-285-5550
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Our Vines

We see ourselves as grape explorers, testing many different vines. We grow high-born Vinifera grapes from France, Germany and Austria, but we aren’t snooty about it. We also grow several working-class hybrids, French-American cross-breeds and some of the lastest releases from America’s best research universities like Cornell and the University of Minnesota. It’s the wine that matters and we’d rather grow a great hybrid than an ordinary Vinifera.


Testing is needed because the climate and challenges here are unique. Many universities and other growers test vines for winter hardiness, but that is not the issue in our unique valley. Our winters are mild enough to grow peaches. In fact it is our mild winters that create the problem. It is very common in Canon City to have beautiful, sunny 60 or even 70 degree days starting in late January or early February. But we can still have killing frosts in early May. Vines tempted by those early warm spells, vines that emerge from dormancy too soon, will be zapped by later chills.

We need vines that stay dormant and hardened up until May no matter how warm it gets in February. Then we need vines that break bud late to better survive late frosts. But they can’t be short season grapes. Despite our history of late frosts, we actually have a very long growing season. Warm Indian summers mean we can safely hang grapes well into October. Grapes that mature too early will have to be picked early when it may be very warm, a circumstance that degrades wine grapes.


We are currently testing 11 varieties. Here’s a rundown:



CABERNET FRANC is the parent of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, but is milder, fruitier and easier on the pallet. It is widely planted in France, particularly in St. Emilion and the Loire Valley. It is enjoying a rising tide of popularity in America because its lighter tannins and smoother qualities make it more approachable than Cab Sauvignon and easier to pair with a wide variety of food. The secret to producing a great, stand-along Cab Franc is to limit its crop load to no more than two bunches per shoot.

MALBEC is a  fine Vinifera used as a blending grape in many great French reds. But is has recently moved into the spot light on the east slope of the Andes in Argentina. There is produces a stand alone wine of incomparable depth and richness, capable of aging for decades. Because East Slope vineyards in Colorado share so many attributes with Argentina, we had to try this grape. Unfortunately, we had almost no surviving buds when I pruned last March after a pretty mild winter. It rebounded quickly with fast-growing new shoots. But this rapid growth creates large cells which are even more vulnerable to cold. I expect this species to struggle here for several years but, like in Argentina, it may settle in with age and experience.

ZWEIGELT is an Austrian Vinifera that produces a fine, medium bodied red wine similar to Pinon Noir. We're the first growers to plant this vine in Colorado. It's off to a slow start in our vineyard but we remain hopeful.

FRONTENAC, a recent release from the
University of Minnesota, is a very cold hardy vine that can be grown in Minnesota and Wisconsin where it produces a deeply colored red wine of good quality. It is a very high acid grape and needs a secondary M/L fermentation. Beacuse it produces so much sugar, Frontenac is excellent for Port wines and the best examples have been show stoppers at recent national judgings.

NORTON, also known as Cynthiana, has been grown in America for perhaps 200 years. For a long time it was believed to be a native American grape but recent genetic testing indicates it has substantial Vinifera in its family tree. How it got there is anybody’s guess. In any case, Norton is capable of producing a world class, full bodied dry red. It is difficult to establish and in our alkaline soil it is often iron deficient. A regular program of soil acidification keeps it more or less happy. When Europe lost all its vines to Phylloxera, French growers brought over Norton from America, confident that Norton would continue their tradition of great wine making. But the French couldn’t get this finicky vine to grow there.

COROT NOIR was released recently by Cornell University. A late budding, early maturing vine, it is perfect for our frost pocket down near the creek. It’s a red grape with a very complex genetic background. In fact, Cornel lists more than 60 different varieties in its family tree. It produces a medium bodied red wine with excellent tannins and a total absence of typical hybrid aromas. A number of great American universities have exciting breeding programs that are producing many new varieties. Every other fruit has eventually been improved by such breeding programs, and it is almost certain that grapes will be as well. For that reason, we like to test the best of new varieties as they are released.


RIESLING is our primary grape and nearly half our vineyard is planted to this noble European variety. Few vines are more durable, hardy or easy to grow and no grape is more versatile. Riesling can be made into many styles, from sweet desert wine to dry, oak aged wine. In our vineyard, this grape reaches very high sugar levels, 24 Brix or even more. The most intense and concentrated Riesling can be aged for years.

Cornell University cross between Chardonnay and Seyval. Few red hybrids have been produced which come close to the quality of Vinifera, but this is not true of white grapes. In some climates and terriers, white hybrids will consistently outperform Vinifera in the winery. This is one of the best new vines. It produces a nice dry white than can be M/L fermented and aged on oak to get a buttery wine similar to its French parent.


TRAMINETTE is a hybrid of the spicy Gewürztraminer grape, one of my favorites. It has excellent balance for winemaking and when fermented on its skins for a couple days it develops great spiciness. Besides that, it’s the most beautiful grape I’ve ever seen. It grows in absolutely perfect bunches with a pretty yellow, round berry.

CAYUGA WHITE, made famous in upstate New York, is very similar to Riesling in both winter hardiness and wine characteristics, thus many commercial growers pass it by. Too bad. It is my favorite vine to grow and drink. When everything else seems to be suffering, Cayuga is always happy. In the vineyard you can almost hear it singing. It produces beautiful bunches of big, juicy berries with good skins. It is highly disease resistant and needs no chemical sprays. The wine we have produced so far is absolutely delightful: clear, fruity, mild and neutral. This is the best grape for beginner wine makers. You can make ANY style of wine, even sparkling wine, and it's almost impossible to make a bad one. Cayuga is one of the earliest releases from the Cornell University breeding program. Its parents include the marvelous Zinfandel grape. It is one of our most promising varieties.


 VIGNOLES (pronounced VEEN-YOLE) is the best of the French developed hybrids. It's popularity is exploding where it is grown, mostly in New York and Missouri, and late season dessert wines are selling there for $16 to $24 a bottle. It's a new addition to our vineyard and is a couple years away from the first harvest.






Our Mission is to find the few perfect grape varietals that will reliably produce most every year a local wine that is unique and distinctive to our area and widely appreciated by discriminating consumers.

New berries in early summer
Our laboratory was the very first part of the Winery to be completed, which should tell you something about me. There is some argument in the industry over whether winemaking is an art or a science. My  answer is yes. It is certainly an art and I deeply respect those old world craftsmen who work from experience and intuition. But I love the science, too. Not science in the sense that I want to control the wine processes, but science in the sense that I want to understand them. I’m interested in the why, not just the what. Producing great wine is the goal, but knowing why it became great is really much harder and much more challenging.


On my lab wall I have a big picture I love. It looks like this:




It’s a picture of a molecule of sucrose becoming two molecules of ethanol and two molecules of carbon dioxide. There are all kinds of chemical reactions that can occur as grape juice becomes wine, but this is the one that really matters. It is a picture of the miracle of wine.

                                              ----David Fuselier

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