Sunday, May 31, 2020

Balistreri Vineyards in Denver, Colorado



Does the state of Colorado have wineries?  Yes, many!  There are many wine regions in Colorado--click this link Colorado Wine--to see their locations within our valleys and plateaus, fueled in summer by mountain snowmelt and three hundred days of sunny weather and cool dry nights.



Please click on to enlarge

Last summer my husband and I visited Balistreri Winery located at 1946 E. 66th Ave, in Denver, Colorado.  

John Balistreri’s ancestors immigrated from Sicily to the United States in the early 1900s. They eventually found their way to Colorado, where they worked as “truck farmers” producing local vegetables in the North Denver community. In 1964, John Balistreri built greenhouses and started his own business growing carnations. During this time, John continued the Sicilian tradition of producing wine for family and friends.  In 1998, John’s daughter Julie and his wife Birdie encouraged him to make his wine production a commercial endeavor. On the very same land that the family had once grown carnations, stands a new facility equipped with a wine cellar, tasting room, event center, and restaurant. 




Although located in what is now a very industrial area of Denver, the winery is a green oasis with beautiful grounds and is often used as a reception or wedding venue.



Inside is a large seating area that also can be used for receptions and other events.



We enjoyed a few sips of different wines in their tasting room. Among the wines they produce are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Muscat, Cherry Wine, Viognier and Port.

John Balistreri’s wines are made naturally.  Only grapes that are hand-harvested are used to make the wine, and they are selected from high-quality single vineyard sites across Colorado and occasionally California.  The grapes are fermented on their own yeast, unaltered by sulfites and aged in American oak. More facts about their winemaking process can be read on their website on this link.





We decided to stay for lunch in their tasting room cafe and we were very impressed with their menu selection and quality of food! We both enjoyed a very delicious lobster risotto. It was presented so beautifully with a scattering of edible flower petals on top.

* As of this writing, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, they are not offering in-house wine tasting or food, but have online ordering available for curbside pickup of take-out food and wine, and hope to be able to return to normal as soon as they are allowed.


We really enjoyed our visit to Balistreri Vineyards. We purchased a few bottles of their wine we enjoyed the most during our tasting, to enjoy at home.  One of the bottles we picked up was "Little Feet Merlot" wine--more about that extra special wine in my next post!


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Monday, May 25, 2020

Dinosaur Ridge Geologist Tour


Four years ago my husband and I made our first visit to nearby scientific attraction in our area, where dinosaurs once roamed, called Dinosaur Ridge. We visited with my daughter and her family--click here--to read that post. Our oldest granddaughter was just 3 at the time!  Last summer we made another visit with a community group that we belong to, on a special tour called "Walk With A Geologist."




Dinosaur Ridge is located at 16831 W. Alameda Parkway in Morrison, Colorado, and is part of the Dakota Hogback, which you can see in the top left of the photo collage above. It is one of the world's most famous dinosaur fossil locations! In 1877 the bones of many dinosaurs were found here, including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus. Full-size models of some of the dinosaurs can be seen around the grounds of the Dinosaur Ridge. 

In 1973 the Dinosaur Ridge area was recognized for its uniqueness as well as its historical and scientific significance when it was designated the Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.



The Dinosaur Ridge Trail (map above--click on to enlarge) is approximately two miles long and has interpretive signs along the way that explain the geologic and paleontological features. The rocks on the east side of the ridge are part of the Cretaceous Dakota Formation. When Alameda Parkway was being constructed in 1937 to provide access to Red Rocks Park, road workers discovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints. along the exposed ridge. The west side of the ridge is called Triceratops Trail and is part of the Morrison Formation of Jurassic age and it is where geologist Arthur Lakes discovered the dinosaur bones in 1877.


On this visit, a local resident and retired geologist volunteer with Friends of Dinosaur Ridge gave us a very informative tour.  Usually, this is a walking tour, but as we have many seniors in our group we were allowed to drive up the ridge and make stops along the way. The road is now closed to traffic and usually can only be walked or traveled on a shuttle bus service as part of a paid tour.




Here our tour guide is pointing to dinosaur tracks left in what was once the sandy shore of a great sea 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. 




There are many areas on the ridge with hundreds of these footprints left behind by dinosaurs so long ago!



There are also many dinosaur bones to be seen...



... as well as giant imprints of the dinosaurs.   

Dinosaur Ridge is really a fascinating way to travel back in time.




We went up and around the ridge to the western side where we had this beautiful view of Colorado foothills.




Off in the distance can be seen the famous outdoor Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  The two large red rocks that are seen in the photo above form its outer walls, with the seating located between them.  I have many posts on my blog featuring concerts we attended at Red Rocks Amphitheatre--here is one--click here--where we saw Josh Groban perform.  It will show what the theater looks like inside.




On this side of the ridge, we saw the Morrison Formation.  The Morrison Formation is a distinctive sequence of  150 million-year-old Upper Jurassic sedimentary rock found in the western United States which has been the most fertile source of dinosaur fossils in North America. It is composed of mudstone, sandstone, siltstone, and limestone and is light gray, greenish-gray, or red.


Please click on to enlarge

The Morrison Formation was named after Morrison, Colorado, where the first fossils in the formation were discovered by Arthur Lakes in 1877. That same year, it became the center of the Bone Wars, a fossil-collecting rivalry between early paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. In Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, the Morrison Formation was a major source of uranium ore.



Another area of interest shows the slimy carpet like beach area where the dinosaurs roamed 92 million years ago. The placard explains that microorganisms created sediment in layers in supratidal zones where the high tide water would saturate and feed the mat and then quickly drain away. This mat was one of the reasons the dinosaur prints were so well preserved.



When the tour was completed we dropped into the Dinosaur Discovery Center to look at the exhibits. They had replicas of scales and horns from stegosaurus, dinosaur claws, casts of footprints, and actual dinosaur bones, as well as other exhibits, and there is also a visitor center and a gift shop.  Dinosaur Ridge is now open to the public, but new protocols are in effect during this COVID-19 pandemic--you can read them on this link.




If you'd like to watch tour videos provided by Dinosaur Ridge --click here-- for the Online Education page and you will learn all the fascinating details we learned during our tour on multiple videos.




Memorial Day 2020
Remembering and Honoring 

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Denver Union Station and the Crawford Hotel



Denver Union Station is the main railway station and central transportation hub in Denver, Colorado. It is located at 17th and Wynkoop Streets in the present-day Lower Downtown (LoDo) district and includes the historic terminal building, a train shed, a 22-gate underground bus facility, and light rail station,



The station was first opened on the site on June 1, 1881, but burnt down in an electrical fire in 1894. The current structure was erected in two stages, with an enlarged central portion completed in 1914. In 2012, the station underwent a major renovation transforming it into the centerpiece of a new transit-oriented mixed-use development built on the site's former railyards.  

Please click on photo collage to enlarge

During World War II eighty trains passed through Union Station daily, but by the 1980s train travel had decreased and there were only two trains passing through daily.  Now, Union Station is also the transportation hub for The Mile High City, offering access to RTD's front-range bus route, the free 16th Street Mall shuttle, the free Downtown Denver Circulator, the FasTracks light rail line, and Amtrak trains.  Rail Service is available between Union Station and Denver International Airport (DEN) with six stops in between. It takes about 37 minutes to get from the airport to downtown at a cost of $10.50 each way (with discounts available).


In 2012, the station underwent a 54 million major renovation transforming it into the centerpiece of a new transit-oriented mixed-use development built on the site's former railyards. The station house reopened in the summer of 2014, hosting the 112-room Crawford Hotel, several restaurants and retailers, and a train hall.




The main Great Hall is very impressive in its romanesque revival style.


It is filled with comfortable couches, benches, tables, and chairs for train travelers.  A florist, bar area, many retail shops, and eateries and fine restaurants.  It is a destination for many locals as well as travelers and is affectionately referred to as "Denver's Living Room."



Also, inside the center of Union Station's Great Hall is The Shuffleboard Platform. The Platform holds two beautiful handcrafted “Fritzi” Shuffleboards that may be rented individually for small groups up to 30 or in addition to a larger event taking place in the Great Hall.



Some of the many beautiful architectural details inside Denver Union Station




The Crawford Hotel's main desk is located within the Great Hall.  The hotel offers tours of Union Station on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 1 p.m. and most other days at 4 p.m. Tours are $20 per person and a portion of the proceeds benefit The Crawford’s Dollars For Dreams non-profit partners. Tours last one hour and showcase Union Station’s history, art, transportation, restaurants, retail space, and The Crawford Hotel’s luxury guest rooms. Each tour is followed by a complimentary Union Station Kolsch, house red or white wine, or non-alcoholic beverage at the Terminal Bar.


We took the tour last fall and enjoyed a glimpse into many of the different beautifully styled style hotel rooms.


We saw original framed blueprints for Union Station on one staircase, and an interesting framed collection of vintage artifacts found in the original Great Hall's waiting benches. Click on the photo collage to enlarge it to see more detail.




Situated in the mezzanine of Denver Union Station, the Cooper Lounge offers inspiring views of vibrant downtown Denver as seen through soaring 28 foot high cast-iron windows on one side, and the panorama of the Great Hall on the other. The Cooper Lounge provides an elegant, intimate setting for cocktails and a bite to eat and is open to the public although reservations are strongly advised.


I enjoyed seeing all the wonderful and fun "Art Deco" style details of Cooper Lounge.



The lower level of Denver Union Station features 4,300 square feet of conference and function space. There are four well-appointed meeting rooms and a unique event venue set in the foundation of the historic building featuring beautiful exposed original stone.

Our tour guide also showed us the Webb Gallery which has a rustic, 20s-era feel with custom artwork created just for Denver Union Station. This private space offers a built-in bar, granite top sideboard, and two 80” HD monitors. The space is ideal for private events for up to 100 guests seated; cocktail parties and reception style events up to 150 guests.



The black and white vintage photos of Union Station in the gallery were fascinating.

Union Station is lite and decorated for the seasons and is a delight to visit any time of the year.  

My husband and I are looking forward to taking an Amtrak ride west from Union Station to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to enjoy the views over the Rocky Mountains. It is something we look forward to doing when life gets back to normal after this Novel Coronavirus pandemic--hopefully not too far in the future. In the meantime, we are staying safe at home. Stay healthy everyone!

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Butterfly Pavilion


One of the wonderful places we visited last summer, with our oldest granddaughter, was the Butterfly Pavilion, which is conveniently located just 15 minutes from downtown Denver off Hwy 36 at 6252 W. 104th Avenue in Westminster, Colorado. 

The Butterfly Pavilion, founded in 1995, is the first stand-alone, Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited non-profit invertebrate zoo in the world! Their immersive exhibits provide guests the opportunity to discover the wonders of nature's hidden heroes through hands-on, interactive experiences that are catered to all ages.  (All photos and collages will enlarge if clicked on)




As you can see in my video aboveas soon as one walks into the extensively skylighted conservatory area called "Wings of the Tropics" you are surrounded by over 1,200 butterflies that hail from around the world. They are all flying free within the brightly lit climate-controlled environment which is kept at 80 degrees, making it the ideal climate for butterflies and the over 200 lush tropical plants and flowers that grow inside. 



 It was quite exciting to have butterflies flying all around you as you walk on the paths inside the pavilion. They sometimes even land on your clothes and hands.


 It can also be a photographer's dream to be able to take photos of all the different colorful butterflies as they rest on leaves and flowers...


...and I could spend hours there!


There was a butterfly release, and a few different educational demonstrations presented to the children during our visit which added to the overall experience.




Some of the many different tropical flowers, ferns, and fauna within the rainforest area.



The Butterfly Pavilion purchases butterfly chrysalides (butterfly pupae) from butterfly farms in tropical rainforests around the world.  This allows people that live in or near rainforests the opportunity to make a living to support their families without having to cut down the rainforest trees. Visitors can watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides, and twice a day can watch the staff release them into the rainforest. 


In another section of the pavilion, there is an area called "Water's Edge." It has exhibits about animals in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean tide pools. Visitors can see and touch sea stars, sea cucumbers, and horseshoe crabs. Also, there is an exhibit area called "Crawl-A-See-Em" which allows visitors to observe tarantulas, leaf insects, scorpions, beetles, giant millipedes...



...and even hold Rosie, a Chilean rose hair tarantula!

That was really the highlight of our visit for my granddaughter--she is a brave little girl!




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