E18: Hillary Eales, the Mafia Princess of Western Colorado Wine

What’s a mafia princess doing running a winery in Western Colorado? The name might have started as an inside joke between friends, but the wine is serious business.

Hillary Eales spent six years at Meadery of the Rockies, Talon Winery, and St. Katherine’s Cellars before taking the leap and buying a winery and vineyard that she could make her own, alongside her husband, Casey. And Mafia Princess Wines was born.

Casey takes care of the grapes while working full time, Hillary takes care of the winemaking and tasting room, and they both take care of a couple sweet kids, an adorable dog, a cat that remained unseen, a few sheep, and a bunch of chickens.

Hillary and I tasted some of their Beaujolais Nouveau-style Colorado Nuovo in their cozy tasting room while we chatted about her path to the Grand Valley, how she went from EMT to winemaker, the wines she’s most excited about making, why biodynamic principles are a no-brainer when it comes to vineyard management, and about building an intentional community – making your own family away from family.

And of course, we got into some of those stories that led to her nickname.

For more about Mafia Princess Wines: mafiaprincesswines.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

What’s a mafia princess doing running a winery in Western Colorado? The name might have started as an inside joke between friends, but the wine is serious business. Hillary Eales spent six years at Meadery of the Rockies, Talon Winery, and St. Katherine’s Cellars before taking the leap and buying a winery and vineyard that she could make her own alongside her husband, Casey. Casey takes care of the grapes while working full time, Hillary takes care of the winemaking and tasting room, and they both take care of a couple sweet kids, an adorable dog, a few sheep, and a bunch of chickens.

Hillary and I tasted some of their Beaujolais Nouveau style Colorado Nuovo in their cozy tasting room while we chatted about her path to the Grand Valley, how she went from EMT to winemaker, the wines she’s most excited about making, why biodynamic principles are a no-brainer when it comes to vineyard management, and about building an intentional community – making your own family away from family. And of course, we get into some of those stories that led to her nickname.

All that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

Also, I had the cutest sound checkers on this episode:

Kids: I love everybody and I love Lucy
LM: you’re silly
Kids: you Lucy
LM: no I’m Lisa
Kids: Lisa Lucy Tucy


LM: oh my god

HE: that’s our sheep they’re in the yard right now because we need to move their fence we have like so they we usually run them in the vineyard but we need to move the fence out there so we usually move them up here and then move the fence and then move them back

LM: cool well thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me um I love to just start by having people introduce themselves and what you do and um just like any little bit of background you want to share about yourself

HE: ok so I’m Hillary Eales I’m part owner and wine maker for Mafia Princess Wines um my husband Casey is my partner and he’s still nursing full time but he also manages the vineyard full time so life is a little hectic and then add in two kids that are four and six and that adds to that but it’s great

LM: and some sheep looks like

HE: and some sheep and some chickens and of course a dog and a cat and a whole bunch of vines

LM: so how did you get into owning a winery and making wine

HE: uh so I got into wine via Craigslist so we moved here um in 2014 so it’s been nine years and I was a EMT before so we moved up here and I was going to try to get a job on the ambulance again and then there wasn’t anything available so applied for 911 dispatch went through the whole like hiring process which was like 5 hours of testing a panel interview and an interview with a psychiatrist and then didn’t get the job and by that point they had uh a position on the ambulance open and so I was like oh can I just transfer my application and they’re like no you can’t apply for another public service position for a year

LM: what

HE: and I guess it’s just like government because it’s all a city run and so I was like okay so I’ll just find something for a year and then go back to working on the ambulance and so applied for a bunch of stuff and then saw a position for cellar and grounds like entry level at Meadery of the Rockies in Palisade and I was like oh that’d be kind of cool like we had we kept bees back in Texas before we moved planned on keeping bees again here so I was like well I’ll work there for a while I’ll learn a little bit maybe I’ll learn enough to be able to make my my own honey wine someday and like that’ll be that

and then started working there and pretty soon realized like there’s opportunity to move up into wine making without having to go back to school which was a big deal for me because I’m not super good at school I’m very good at hands-on stuff and and to be able to make as much if not more than you do on an ambulance because with you’re an EMT you make like squat on an ambulance and decided since Casey’s a nurse that it would be nice to not both be in stressful jobs with crazy schedules and so decided to stay there and just kind of see what happened

and so it was really a good experience because Meadery of the Rockies is part of Talon and St Katherine Cellars and so I made the wine for all three and I worked up to head wine maker position and like so in 6 years I think I figured cuz we could ferment all year round because of doing the honey and the fruit so in the six years I think I did about 150 fermentations

LM: wow

HE: which is a lot

LM: that’s a lot

HE: and um and then doing honey wines and fruit wines they both do weird things that grape wines don’t and no one has put a a whole lot of money into like research or anything because there’s just not a lot of it out there and so it was a lot of problem solving and like talking to the lab and being like hey this weird thing happened and what do you think it is and trying to figure out solutions uh which was really fun and but then after like six years my husband he had planned on going back to school to be a nurse anesthetist and so we were going through the pro like he was putting in applications had an interview um the school that he really wanted to go to was in uh Portland and this was like 2020 that he really started doing applications and stuff 2019 2020 and so of course Portland was like burning itself to the ground at that time so he’s like well there goes the top school that I really wanted to go to and then we just started talking you know especially as like covid hit and work became even more and life and everything just became more stressful and he was second guessing staying in medicine anyways and so it’s like all right like if you’re not going to go back to school for this like we got to figure out something else cuz he’s just ready for something different

and uh instead of you know we can either invest in schooling of a different kind or we could find something else to invest in and but the idea was when he went to school I would quit and be home with the kids and so it’s like all right like I still want to make that transition and figure out how to make it work

so I ended up quitting in January of 21 to be home with the kids and so I had about a year and we still hadn’t decided what we were doing with ourselves and and I was doing consulting started a consulting business and so because of that I was at VinCo the wine and grape symposium that Grand Junction does every year in January and I had a booth there and I ran in to Brett Neil who used to own this place and he owns Stony Mesa Winery in Cedaredge and so I was chatting with him because I’ve known him for years and just asked you know how things were going what was new cuz I hadn’t seen him since I had quit the winery and so he told me that he was thinking about selling his place in Grand Junction and I was like huh I was like I didn’t know you had a place in Grand Junction so tell me about it

so he tells me it’s 7 and a half acres has tasting room production area a two-bedroom apartment and I was like huh if you’re thinking about selling we’re thinking about buying and then I went home to Casey and I was like so I told someone we were going to buy their vineyard and we’re going to go look at it tomorrow hope that’s cool with you and you know it was like hindsight like months later that I was telling someone this story and I was like he could have just said I was being crazy and not gone like I’m really kind of lucky that he was game to like even come and look at the place

but we came and we looked at it and just fell in love with it I feel like it’s kind of this like hidden gem of a location like it’s off the beaten path but you can see Mount Garfield the Monument the Mesa I mean it’s just so peaceful and and so we’re like well let’s let’s just see if we can figure out how to make it work cuz if we can figure out the finances on a nursing salary then like we should do it and so it took us about five months to figure out financing it was definitely a struggle and it was there was times that I was like I are we making the right choice like this is this is a huge leap you know what if we try it and totally fail like all all those what ifs you know

and then Casey came home from work one day and he came in and it was like a really bad day at work and he’s like you know what I’m just so tired of being cussed at and yelled at and pissed on and shit on and thrown up on he’s like I’m just ready to work with vines that just sit there and are vines it’s like okay we’re making the right decision like just keep pressing forward through like all the mess

and like even the week of close in was probably the most stressful week of my life like as we like tied up lose ends made sure we had like the cash for the down payment and even like our we worked with an insurance broker to get insurance for the place they were rejected from like 15 different places because we were a new business and new farmers and no one wanted to take a chance and so we got insurance like 30 minutes before our closing time and it’s like

LM: my God

HE: it’s like so crazy

LM: down to the wire

HE: yeah and then of course like you’ve probably bought a house right you know it’s so weird you like go and you sign your name a million times and then it’s like all right you own a home

LM: here you go

HE: really

LM: this is yours now

HE: are you sure and then nowadays like half the time you don’t even get keys when you close like it’s just this whole weird thing but but yeah so we closed and then we came out with with the Neils to the property and opened someone the patio it was this like really surreal like feeling

LM: oh that’s sweet though so sort of like a hand over almost like yeah

HE: yeah and the the Neils were really great like they they included almost all the farm equipment we needed basically all of it a lot of wine equipment that he wasn’t using anymore and so it made it that much more feasible that we were able to roll those equipment costs into the purchase price and um so yeah so it was it was really great

LM: well so what do we have in our glass here like what what kind of wines do you grow what kind of grapes do you grow I mean what kind of grapes do you grow what kind of wines are you making what do we have here

HE: uh so this wine since you said you like red it’s the only red I have right now released this is our Colorado Nuovo

LM: oop

HE: so so we did this in a Beaujolais Nouveau style

LM: that was a very aggressive swirl for people listening

HE: yes these glasses I love them but they’re not the easiest to swirl it does

LM: I am an aggressive swirler oo that’s awesome

HE: yeah so we did this in a Beaujolais style because I I just love the tradition around Beaujolais um you know Beaujolais is a region in France where we named ours Colorado and then Nuovo means new in Italian

LM: mhm

HE: and so the tradition though for the French is that you harvest ferment bottle and release by the third Thursday of November which happens to be Thanksgiving for us is kind of awesome they do a whole race from the wineries to the stores which I think is cool and then it’s supposed to be like a celebration of end of harvest beginning of a new year and so I just love like that whole concept and just the whole concept of having like an easy drinking fun red wine it’s like red wines can take themselves too seriously sometimes and so having something a little lighter and just fun and then this one is a blend of Crimson Cabernet and Merlot

LM: I’ll just slowly swirl it yeah that’s awesome I love Beaujolais Nouveau is so much fun and that would be if we could get more producers around here or more wine stores to actually like stock more varieties that would be really fun because it’s always really fun to just get different you know more than just the George Debouf or you know the one that you can get everywhere like get a bunch of different ones to try side by side and see the variations and

HE: yeah well

LM and actually add this into it

HE: I’m excited cuz um the full monty liquors that used to be College liquors like they’re going to do a Beaujolais release this year and they’re going to feature this our new wine that we just started we started fermentation on September 30th which was actually the same time we started it last year which is kind of fun I thought it would be later this year cuz harvest started later this year it’s a weird year so but he he said the same thing he’s like more people should be doing Beaujolais I’m going to try to like promote it more

and then I had a customer who was talking about how like France has the whole race or I was telling him about that and he’s like oh you guys should get other wineries to do Beaujolais and then do like a bike race I was like that’d be so much fun I was like but

LM: that’d be so cool

HE: it’s November like it could be gorgeous or it could be like

LM: it could be terrible

HE: terrible yeah it would always be an adventure

LM: either mountain bikes or road bikes then

HE: yeah that’s true I’m totally in I love well maybe I should talk to some wi sounds amazing try to get it rolling for next year l this year

LM: oh my gosh yeah if I could oh that sounds amazing totally in

HE: all right well maybe we should make it happen yeah okay I got I wuss when it comes to weather and like biking in the cold like my rule of thumb is it has to be at least 45 and sunny so

LM: 45 is kind of our cut off too yeah sunny you know either way but definitely warmer than 45 cuz below that your hands get too cold no matter how many gloves you’re wearing

HE: I agree yeah I’m I’m solar powered so it has to be if it’s going to be cold

LM: awesome I love it okay I got sidetracked though so like what other kind of grapes do you grow and what wines are you going to make this year

LM: yeah so we have a muscat canelli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot a little bit of Gewurztraminer and Riesling I think that’s all of it and then we we planted Crimson Cabernet and Cab Franc this year and we’ll do some more planting next year but I’m super excited this year because we have more than double the crop than we had last year and a lot of that is like last year the vines were still recovering from the freeze in 2020 we just had we had more time to tend to the vineyard than Brett did cuz this was like low on his priority list cuz he has like 30 acres up in Cedaredge like he was already spread real thin and and so we we do we’ve got more than double the crop which is awesome am uh I’m not sure where I’m going to put everything like if I have tank space but we’re going to make it work but it’s cool because so this year the majority of our vineyard is our Riesling or the largest percentage is in Riesling um and our Riesling was actually planted in 1982 so it’s one of the oldest vineyards still in production in Colorado which I think is really cool

LM: oh wow that is really cool

HE: um I mean the vines are starting to show their age a little bit we we have like a 10 year replanting plan but um but because the majority of it is Riesling then I’m going to split the Riesling this year and I’m going to make a sparkling Riesling which I’m super excited about

LM: awesome

HE: and I still haven’t figured out exactly what method I would love to actually take the sparkly I would love to take half of it and do a pet nat and then take the other half and do like a traditional so you could like have side by side like from the same tank and everything so I think that’d be super cool

LM: that would be really cool

HE: that really depends on my glass company getting me glass on time cuz they’ve not emailed me back

LM: so you bottle age it then or ferment it

HE: so for pet nats the difference between like pet nats and Champagnes is um for a pet nat you towards the end of primary fermentation you go ahead and bottle it and let it finish in bottle and then for champagne you finish primary and then you bottle it and you dose it with more yeast and sugar and then most time with champagne you also age it for 1 to three years I don’t know that I’m patient enough for that or have enough room but um we’ll see

LM: later vintages

HE: yeah like first is just making the wine and then I’ll figure it out

LM: that’s cool so it sounds like you’re doing some more experimental stuff and like some interesting things that other people aren’t necessarily doing doing here

HE: yeah yeah the other thing um that we have we have we did actually just bottle our um our other 2022 red which we’re calling the Tommy Gunner I just haven’t I don’t have labels yet so I haven’t released it but I’m excited like this one we it’s a blend of Suzau and Cabernet Sauvignon and then I have these Flex Cube tanks that they’re a poly tank but the company that makes them patented this polymer that breathes like a barrel so you can mimic like aging in

LM: that’s cool

HE: yeah and it’s super cool especially for the Grand Valley it is so freaking dry here that you can’t store barrels dry you can’t like there’s just so many issues you get so much evaporation and so I I think it’s a really like smart way to go you save a lot of water and space and um less chance of bacteria growing in it than you do it with wood and so what I did with this blend is I actually fermented in the tank with oak staves so I could like mimic a barrel fermentation but with a red wine which you actually can’t barrel ferment a red wine because of the skins and seeds like you would never get it out but since it’s a tank I mean it was a pain to get it out but I was able to do it and so and we also left it on the skins we didn’t press for 10 months

LM: wow

HE: so normally you press like at the end of fermentation or maybe two weeks afterwards uh we didn’t press for 10 months

LM: oh wow

HE: and and so like I found doing that like just gives this like really big mouth feel without like being super harsh tannic a lot of Colorado wines do tend to be like really acidic up front especially if they’re young really acidic up front kind of a mid palette gap and then a lot of tannin on the finish and I found during this method like really fills in a lot of that mid palette and kind of rounds out the tannins and stuff so it’s it’s really cool so I think we’ll probably do that with of our reds and this year we actually have enough Merlot to do a straight red Merlot which is exciting last year we just did a dry rosé of Merlot because that was and then the Colorado Nuovo but we have way more this year and it’s like almost like I don’t know what to do with all my Merlot right now

LM: awesome I love Merlot um but yeah it sounds like you’re just you’re kind of flexible based on what you have and that’s interesting just to kind of say like okay here’s what I have what am I going to do with it and just always kind of of coming up with new new solutions or new ideas for what you have

HE: yeah and I I think it’s fun too because we’re we’re small enough and we’re not distributing I mean we’ll probably eventually distribute and have like a few main stays like we’ll always do a Nuovo we’ll probably always do like a dry Rose of Merlot and um a Rielsing but then like I just want to kind of do whatever you know depending on growing season what we what we have in stock what we I don’t know get a wild hair and decide to do something crazy I don’t know we’ll see

LM: well okay so I know when you’re naming your business there’s so much thought that goes into it like I’ve named a lot of things and you just like think and think and think about like what’s the best name so I I’m just so curious about you know I’m sure everybody asks but what’s a mafia princess doing in the Grand Valley you know so much of the Wild West is like cowboys and Native Americans and prospectors and miners and like probably people running away from the mafia like honestly there are probably a lot of people who were just like I got to go west to escape what’s happening in my life but so yeah so how did you come up with a name and uh why did you decide to kind of bring that um that like different lore to the West

HE: yeah so we um my great-grandparents immigrated from Italy and every time we go back to New York to visit you always hear all these crazy Mafia stories and like one time I was driving around with my aunt and my grandma who still lived there and they were talking about how like the Russian mafia had moved in and how terrible it was because they didn’t have the same ethics as the Italian mafia and it was causing all kinds of problems and I was like 16ish at this point so really understood all the ramifications of those other stories I’d heard over the years and so I was like wait like those stories were true my grandma’s like oh yeah then I heard more stories

and so I told a friend and she nicknamed me Mafia princess and so just and it kind of stuck and so when we were um starting the winery and even before that we kicked around like if we ever started a winery like what would we name it we kicked around some ideas and it was actually Casey who was like well it’s obvious you just name it Mafia princess like I was like really like are you sure and then as we actually started a winery it’s like all right I guess like we’ll go with that and then it’s actually been really fun cuz as I share stories um I get other people’s stories

so like our Merlot Rose that we have I named it wedding day Rose and I named her that to share the story of how my grandparents great- grandparents got married cuz they actually had an arranged marriage after immigrating so 1920s New York they had an arranged marriage and supposedly like how it happened is the families arranged it and my Grandma Rose got all dressed up and my uh grandfather Joseph had the chance to look at her and decide if he really wanted to marry her

LM: like just look at her

HE: yes

LM: don’t talk to her just look at her

HE: and so I guess he liked what he saw and they they got married and had five kids and stayed married for 60 some years til he passed away so it worked um I mean it’s a family tradition I’m glad to not carry on like I can’t imagine but um but yeah and then I I’ve so I’ve told customers that and then I’ve had lots of them be like oh yeah like my grandparents or great-grandparents immigrated and several of them have had arranged marriages either before immigrating or like after immigrating and like one one customer was telling me that that was really common then around immigration just because of financial reasons and making sure if you pool your money together you’re more likely to succeed and be able to make it and so it just kind of interesting

and then hearing you know other people’s stories been really fun um and also just digging into my own family history and you know like I actually knew both my great-grandparents which I feel very fortunate because most people didn’t but like digging into and really thinking about the timeline of everything of all those stories I heard you know because it’s like if I I’m pretty sure my grandma said that my great-grandmother Rose was like 16 when she got married which isn’t an uncommon for that time frame

LM: yeah back then

HE: but then the the other story that I love is that before she got married um she had a mafia Don who was interested in marrying her and her family didn’t want her to marry him and so they hid her in the mountains of New York for like 9 months

LM: oh my gosh

HE: and so then I’m doing math and I’m like wait like if she got married at 16 and she had a mafia Don interested for at least 9 months before that she was probably like 14 15

LM: oh gosh

HE: and then I’m like well maybe that’s why they actually did the arranged marriage just to make sure like she’s off the market

LM: let’s get her married wow yeah that’s fascinating man and so one of the things you say on your website is that you want to like reclaim the idea of family and loyalty and excellence and you know all those kind of things that were maybe like a little twisted by that concept of family so I thought that was really interesting

HE: yeah that was one of the things when we we bought this place and we were um really talking about it and my husband and I are both Christians and so we were praying about it and praying about like whether we should do this and what this would look like and decided you know it wasn’t just about building a business and a winery and you know those things are great but it’s like building community and providing a place that people can go and like have some peace and like just a little haven from the craziness of the world and and building that sense of community in family and I think especially after covid I I am an introvert by nature and was going crazy during covid like and realized how important community is

LM: same

HE: and how little community people have these days especially when you take work away a lot of times that’s the only community people have is at work and so it’s like we really want to build that community that family you know that that family that’s not blood and neither of us have family here like nowhere close to here and so we’ve really had to build that community and it’s not easy to do and so being able to provide a space for people to do that I think is also important

it’s actually really cool like we did for Wine Fest we did this big Italian family style dinner and we set up on our patio just like one long table and we had 28 people and I made like a bunch of family recipes and like it was super fun and there like so many people afterwards are like we either said like they never experienced something like that or like there was a lady who she told me after for the dinner she’s like you know I come from a Mexican family and this is what Thanksgiving looked like every year and just brought back memories from that or like one guy that said he was stationed in Russia and they would always do like a big meal for Thanksgiving with all the other guys and that sense of camraderie and family like away from family and he said like he hadn’t experienced anything like that since being in Russia

LM: oh wow

HE: and I was like that’s so I mean it’s so sad on one hand and then I’m like like I’m so glad you could find that here you you know

LM: you can provide that same feeling that’s really cool

HE: yeah and it’s just it’s so I think it’s just so necessary a lot of people don’t get that from their own family

LM: yeah absolutely no and you know I had a very similar experience during covid I always thought I was an introvert and you know didn’t wasn’t really was way really totally too focused on my job and to the exclusion of anything else and yeah that made me just realize that that was not important at all and the most important thing was having a community that made me feel happy and like I could give back to other people and help people and you know just have fun together so I totally feel you um that was a lot of the reason I want to start the podcast is like well let’s get people meeting their neighbors and hearing from other people in the community that they haven’t maybe heard from finding out what’s going on and then finding about these places that there are that that they might you know like fit with like this might be exactly what they’re looking for so I totally hear you there and that’s that’s really cool to have that opportunity and then to get that feedback from people that it’s like you’re having the impact that you wanted to have

HE: yeah

LM: that’s cool

HE: yeah it was it was a really cool experience I like one point while we were serving the dinner I was like paused for a second while I’m like going crazy in the kitchen and it’s like hearing people just constant chatter and laughter and it’s like okay this is much like well worth the effort and you know and it was stressful cuz it was the first one but it was it was so rewarding

LM: are you doing any kind of regular events or anything like throughout the season I know we’re at the end of the season here but

HE: yeah so during the season we did sunset sips where we stayed open until a little after sunset cuz the sunsets from our patio are just amazing and we’d get a food truck out and we did so we do that the last Friday of every month and we’ll do that again next year and then we might try to do it twice a month like we’ll see it’s so it’s so hard when you’re starting a business to be like what works what do people want like we found out July is a terrible month to do something outside like no one came cuz it was so blazing hot

LM: right yeah and sometimes there’s just so much going on that it is it’s hard to yeah it’s hard to kind of compete with everybody

HE: yeah

LM: too um well that’s cool though I’m I’m excited for that I’ll look forward to that next year um are you going to do any more dinners like that or you think maybe just around winefest

HE: we’re actually thinking about doing one in the spring as well and then so we’ll do the annual around Wine Fest and then do one in the spring um probably in May I don’t really know I got to figure that out and then we we did our grand opening let me think when it was it was um May 22nd and so so we’ll probably do like an anniversary thing then and it’s actually kind of cool cuz we closed May 25th so it’s almost like a year from the date that we closed we we were able to do our grand opening and

LM: wow

HE: yeah and then it’s also like crazy when it’s like we do our grand opening it’s like oh my gosh I can’t believe we’ve had this place a year already you know that we’re already in our second harvest is just insane but you know time flies when you’re having fun

LM: yeah right now the tourist season is kind of winding down a little bit but you are I mean when you own and run and a winery and a vineyard you are just shifting into like your most busy wine making time right now right so do you think like through the next few like months and winter and everything you’re just going to be focused on like making wine and working on getting all of that stuff into whatever it needs to get into

HE: yeah the the goal for us is to have the bulk of wine making done by Thanksgiving and then and some of that is like getting the Nuovo done and in bottle um we last year we bottled uh November 22nd and released it the 23rd which was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I mean like we just got it done in time I would like to maybe have a little bit more leeway this year but we’ll see how it goes but then we can hopefully take some time off in December you know I also though probably what’ll happen is I’ll do most of my wine making get the bulk of it done like I said by Thanksgiving and then December is going to be like catching up on computer work I have like this whole list of like okay I need to deep clean the house the house is a disaster um make sure everyone’s got clothes for winter like I’m realizing as it gets colder I was like my kids don’t have any warm clothes

LM: just life maintenance

HE: yeah life stuff it’s like the other day cuz this last week was like we harvested all of our Merlot and it ended up being like 5 days straight of harvesting and then processing some of well processing all of it so it ended up being like 5 days straight harvest and then the nights we were processing usually what happens is we pick all day and then we like have dinner and hang out with the kids put them to bed and then we process our grapes after we put them to bed and then we’re up till like 1:00 at night and then get up the next day and harvest again we were able to like break up to where we were processing grapes every other day so there was only like three nights that we were up till midnight 1:00

LM: oh my gosh

HE: um and then when we hit Sunday we like like we’re going to sleep in and then we’ll just finish it we were picking till 7:00 at night like but we finished but yeah by like Sunday I was like I have no food in the house like nothing I was like I need to at least go to the grocery store and get something I bought pizza that’s what we had so

LM: hey that works

HE: that works

LM: totally so you don’t have anybody who works for you at all

HE: no it’s just us yeah and it’s it’s worked out okay um last year was a lot more manageable with just the two of us and and we were able to get a lot of like friends and stuff that came out and helped and um this year we have more than twice as many grapes which adds you know more than

LM: twice as much work

HE: and then um Casey’s schedules really sucked at the hospital cuz we could we’d only pick around the days he was off and last year he was off a lot more weekends and then of course it’s easier to get help on the weekends and so it’s it’s been really challenging and then we’ve had the tasting room open too

LM: right

HE: and so that so whenever we’re open in the tasting room that pulls me away from helping pick um and so actually starting last week what we did on Wednesdays because we’re only open Wednesday through Saturday we just decided like to try to keep our family life work balance like we had we could not be open seven days a week there’s just no way especially with Casey working a whole another job

LM: yeah makes sense

HE: um and so Wednesdays and Thursdays are pretty slow and so we put a sign on the door saying we’re out harvesting like I’ve got a cooler of wine out in the vineyard you’re welcome to come out and have a tasting among the vines

LM: that sounds amazing like that sounds really fun

HE: yeah I was like and it was like this last minute thing that I was like we’re just going to do this and then it was like this super like sunny hot day and so and we had people that came and there was two ladies that braved the heat and they’re like no we want to stay in the vineyard this is super cool we’ve never been this close to vines and to grapes like and they were like all into it and then other people were like no I want air conditioning which I totally get like totally again so we we’re like okay we’ll do a little bit better this is a good idea for the week we’ll get like one of those canopy tents bring a table out you know have some shade it’ll be fine like

LM: I love the idea

HE: we’re building yeah

LM: no I mean what a good way to balance because like that was going to be one of my questions for you right you have to figure out how to balance everything like when I got here you’re in there like you’re punching on the grapes they like I’m going to take these five minutes to just do this so you have to be creative too with your time and and how you are balancing everything right

HE: yes and it’s hard and it’s I remember last winter cuz winter is slow and especially last winter like we you know no one really knew about us we did go ahead and starting in December cuz we had we had one wine and then I just did two like guest wines from other Colorado wineries which I I would like to always have a guest wine because there’s so many other great wineries and I’ve received so much support support from the industry over the years it’s like I want to give back

so we did we opened up on Saturdays last year because we’re like we’re here anyways cuz we live here and so we might as well like try to be open and make some money but then it’s like this year we’re like we don’t know what to do and then figuring out that balance you know we go through harvest and harvest is this like super intense time of work for us and it’s super hard on our kids you know we we try really hard to involve them as much as possible but I mean last week was kind of like they they we all hit a wall let’s just be honest we all hit a wall last week by the end of it

and so then in the winter months though it’s like all right things have slowed down especially for a Casey since the the deal is is like I do the wine making and run the tasting room and he does the vineyard work which is great cuz like I said I’m a wuss when it comes to weather so he’s perfectly happy going out when it’s like freezing and doing whatever he wants to do like that’s good but the winter we try to like spend more time as a family and go do stuff and and even like my son had a really hard day the other day with how busy we were and I was like remember though like winter is coming you know things will slow down it’ll be okay

and I remember last winter like having all this time and I was like I feel like I should be doing something like we just started this business but we’re only open one day a week and we have a good friend who owns a construction company like a very successful one in town and he’s I don’t even know how long he’s had it like a long time and so I told him I was like you know all these people say when you start a business you’re working like 15 hours a day 7 days days a week for the first like five years and just like all this stuff and he’s like those people are just full of BS he’s like it might feel like that sometimes but it’s not you’ll just burn out if you do that he’s like there’s seasonality to your industry enjoy the downtime and then when harvest comes around again remind your kids that downtime is coming and take the time to spend with your family and enjoy it and he’s like don’t worry like the busyness is coming I was like okay

LM: that’s really good advice

HE: it was really good I was feeling anxious it’s like everyone is telling you like it’s so much work and it is but it is seasonal and when you can take the breaks you got to take the breaks

LM: yeah recharge definitely prioritizing yourself too because like you said you’ll just burn out because there’s so much to do sometimes that yeah yeah that’s really good advice awesome well I’m glad winter’s coming

HE: yeah I know so as much like harvesting is a lot of fun even though it’s a lot of work it’s also really exciting exciting and of course it’s you know it’s seeing the fruit of your labor labor like really

LM: literally

HE: literally and you know like getting I was even joking with my husband I was like oh yeah we we turn water into wine just like Jesus we just have a lot more steps than he had like um but it is it’s like super fulfilling so as hard as it is like physically it’s like all right go to bed at the end of the day try not to think about all the things I didn’t get done

LM: yeah

HE: and just be like all right just chill and it all it all gets done somehow

LM: yeah

HE: like it always does

LM: if is important

HE: yeah

LM: it does so technically we’re outside Palisade here and this is you know Palisade podcast but I feel like if anybody who’s on you know the fruit and wine byway or part of the wine country it’s it’s all part of Palisade really it’s part of the Palisade vibe so one of the questions that I ask everybody on the podcast is what’s your favorite thing about Palisade or what’s your favorite part of Palisade so I have to ask you that too because uh I really like to see everybody’s responses and how they’re similar or different so what’s your favorite thing about Palisade

HE: so you know cuz I worked at Meadery of the Rockies for six years and one of the things that I loved about working there is we didn’t grow any of our own grapes we worked with several farmers like Talbott’s and bookCliff and Plum Creek sometimes too and so I I loved I love the community and I still do like the people the farmers they’re there’s just this whole like culture around agriculture that I just think is amazing and it’s so fascinating to me having grown up in Texas and in Amarillo where it’s a lot of agriculture and then we actually lived in Dalhart for a little bit which is this tiny town just Northwest of Amarillo where like there’s three industries it’s farming the hospital and the school like everyone works at those three places and agricultural people no matter what they’re growing the culture is still the same and so coming here and like being you know part of this like farming community just like it was like instantly like home you know and um and I love that and I love like the cooperation between you know the majority of wineries want to help each other and are you know into that that whole idea of like the ship rises with the tide you know all ships rise with the tide and like helping out everyone and you know there’s there’s some outliers but of course that’s in any industry you know

but it’s like I bought some fruit this year from Whitewater Hill we got some muscat um because our Muscat like we already sold out of it because it was so popular and we don’t grow very much of it so they had some extra I was like yeah I’ll take it and then Chloe their wine maker a day after we got the fruit she called or texted and she was like oh she called and she’s like hey like just want to make sure everything like went well you know the Talbott’s got you the fruit okay cuz they were the ones delivering it um and processing and everything went good I was like well actually like we blew the bladder in our press while we were processing

and she was like oh she’s like well just bring the fruit over here we’re going to finish up pressing our Moscato um in you know a couple hours just bring the fruit over here and we’ll help you press it and I was like oh my gosh yes please like thank you you know and went over she I mean it was her equipment so she had to but she helped press it helped clean everything you know it was just like stayed late I’m sure to help me out and then even the next week she like checked in and she was like hey were you able to get a replacement for your bladder for your press you know it’s just just like that that community

and even like we we still needed to bottle the last of our red and again like having issues getting glass and so I was like hey you guys have some extra bottles and they’re like oh yeah just like when you get your glass in replace it and picked up 60 cases of glass so I could bottle glass you know it’s it’s that kind of like like neighbor teamwork you know thing it’s like yeah and in one sense we’re competition um but I always view it as like a friendly competition you know it’s like they send people my way all the time I tell people to go over there all the time

LM: absolutely

HE: you know and especially for the the wineries that are on this side of the valley like we kind of got to help each other out you know cuz we’re kind of isolated from relative I mean I always think it’s silly when we live in Grand Junction and I’m like hey like talking to some friends like hey we want to go to Peach Street Distillery and they’re like oh it’s all the way in Palisade it’s so far away

LM: oh my God I do that I do that though already with like Grand Junction and Fruita so I know it’s really silly but yeah I was like

HE: it’s like 10 minutes like you can drive that far it’s okay

LM: I was thinking oh this is going to be a half an hour away it took me 10 minutes to get here it’s just like mentally far but it’s not far

HE: no

LM: at all

HE: no it’s not and then um and I guess some of it’s just perspective like growing up in Amarillo we lived outside of town and so it was like 20 minutes to town and when you’re used to that like driving from Fruita to Palisade it’s like eh no big deal like right I’ll do it I’ll go bike in Fruita and then have a drink in Palisade totally fine

LM: so is there anything else that you want people to know about you or your family or the winery that we didn’t already touch on

HE: I think I guess the other thing that we’re doing that I’m really excited about is having our chickens and our sheep and adding some like biodiversity to the land I was actually I was listening to your podcast with Scott over at field of fork and explaining like the whole biodiversity and um biodynamic farming and and I love Scott like listening to him is great he’s such a great guy I was like huh I learned a lot listening to it too

it’s like but for us so we started we wanted to get the chickens just cuz my husband I don’t know he’s got a thing for birds like I’m not a bird fan but he likes birds um and the sheep I really wanted and because I think it’s just cool that you can run sheep in your vineyard and they help with weeds so you don’t have to spray for weeds

LM: that’s awesome

HE: and they even help if you train your vines at the right height they’ll like trim off the leaves but they don’t eat the grapes at least so far I mean we pulled them we pulled them out before the grapes were ripe

LM: like just in case

HE: yeah just to make sure and so they they actually save us a lot of work and I just I think that’s really cool and so like when we had um bees back in Texas we learned a lot about about bees and my husband’s the type when he gets into something like he like researches and does all the studying which is great then I don’t have to so when we got bees like he was like learning about like how terrible monocrop is for bees and how bees really reflect the health of the land and how biodiversity for a land is really important and so when we started the vineyard we’re like okay how can we add biodiversity we can’t rotate crops so having animals helps and then doing cover crops so we planted clover in the vineyard and we’re trying to get that to take off and you know things like that it’s like I don’t know that we’ll ever like actually go for a biodynamic certification like right now we just need to learn how to grow things

I just think that the whole concept behind it makes a lot of sense just like on a I don’t know intuition level you know like I don’t know all the ins and outs like Scott does it’s like that’s why listening to that was like fascinating

LM: yeah

HE: and there’s so much to learn about it but it’s like well if it makes sense then we should just do it and then we’ll figure out the details later so

LM: totally and something like having sheep like prevent you from having to spray pesticides and things like that like that is amazing that’s a no-brainer

HE: yeah

LM: good all around saves money like saves time saves spraying pesticides everywhere um that’s really cool yeah he was fascinating to talk to you he just like you know he’s like and another principle rule blah blah blah

HE: yeah

LM: founded by blah blah blah I’m like okay I don’t know how you remember all this stuff right okay

HE: yes no and I think especially like you know my my husband was was researching about spraying and like all that kind of stuff and about how Roundup is used everywhere and it is very bad for

LM: I’ll move over so he doesn’t to get in here he’s a very sweet dog he is a very sweet dog he came out to me when oh my gosh look at those eyeballs

HE: yes if you look at our reviews they talk more about him than our wine

LM: I noticed that they’re like whiskey the dog is amazing and the stories are amazing and the wine’s amazing and it’s like great family friendly or family atmosphere

HE: yeah but

LM: but anyways sorry

HE: so um so he was he was researching about Roundup and how they’ve like they’ve already outlawed it in Europe and he’s like you know it’s just a matter of time before they do that here like we already didn’t want to spray it it’s very like vines are very sensitive to it anyways

LM: yeah

HE: and we also have kids and we have animals and so it’s like it’s eventually probably going to be outlawed here you know banned here we might as well start practicing

LM: yeah

HE: and making like just good good practices start out that way right

LM: so you’re not dependent on it yeah

HE: you can find find us on Instagram and Facebook Mafia princess wines and our website is Mafia princess wines.com so it’s consistent across the board that name was not taken by anything and so it worked out well and um and yeah and like I said the tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday that may change with winter we still have not figured out what we’re doing this winter um we are kicking around the idea of doing like a cigar and wine night

LM: awesome

HE: I don’t maybe like Thursday or Friday evenings like sit out on the patio have a cigar with your wine

LM: I’m looking forward to hearing about the events and just seeing how you guys grow and I’m really excited to taste the new wine that you the new red you have coming out so yeah um we’ll definitely come back and check that out cool thank you so much for your time yeah thank you too this was awesome it’s really cool hearing your story and just everything you’re doing it’s exciting

HE: thanks I appreciate it yes it’s been it’s been quite the journey

LM: Check out Mafia Princess Wines at 221 31 3/10 RD, GRAND JUNCTION, CO

And before we go, how about a little more from those adorable sound checkers?


Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

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