As you walk into the warm and welcoming space that is Purgatory Cellars in Parker, Colorado, you immediately know you’re entering a new kind of winery experience.
Owners Gary Tassler and Marko Copic met in Croatia in 2010 through Marko’s brother at their father’s estate, where his love of winemaking (and a shed housing a 2000-liter stainless steel barrel that he used to make wines to share with his friends) began a journey. Six years later, the pair own and manage the Parker-based winery. Marko’s heritage of and passion for winemaking paired well with Gary’s background in finance and business economics. At the time of Marko’s return to the U.S., Gary was semi-retired, living in Europe. Gary returned to the States to join Marko on December 23, 2014.
Construction began at their location at 18921 Plaza Drive, #100, in Parker, Colorado on December 26, 2014. The custom wood furniture throughout the tasting room was all handmade by Marko, also a talented woodworker, and all of the interior brickwork, bar areas, and railings were painstakingly built by the two of them, working day and night—using reclaimed materials, hard work, and creativity. The tasting room opened four short months later on April 24, 2015, and the result is nothing short of wondrous.
Purgatory Cellars produced approximately 8,000-9,000 bottles of 14 wines in their first year in 2015. In 2016, they more than tripled that production, resulting in approximately 30,000 bottles of their different varieties. The bottling is done by Gary, Marko, and a small staff during the days (and often in the wee hours of the night as well), before the tasting room opens. The tasting room shares its space with two levels of stainless steel and oak barrels, and also a few other unusual and rare items.
An ancient winepress sits in the corner of the tasting room, adding history and character to the ambiance, along with a beautiful and uniquely functional large clay pot called an amphora, one of several they use in their winemaking process—another of Purgatory Cellar’s hallmark differences from other wineries.
Used in ancient Greek and Roman winemaking practices, the amphora style of wine production is unique to Purgatory . . . and, in fact, Purgatory Cellars is one of only few wineries in the US using this process of fermentation.
Purgatory Cellars has already received awards in the Governor’s Cup for the Best in Colorado Wine in 2015 and 2016. Among the winners are the American Zinfandel and American Zinfandel Reserve and the Grand Valley Colorado Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Limited Edition Dessert Wine, taking bronze, and the Grand Valley Colorado Chardonnay Amphora Reserve 2015, awarded the silver medal. The Grand Valley Colorado Cabernet Franc 2015 Limited Edition Dessert Wine was awarded the gold medal, and for good reason. Once you taste it, you immediately know why it is an award-winning wine.
The wines you will experience at Purgatory Cellars are exceptionally different from offerings you will find at other wineries. Some are unfiltered, giving the wine a unique flavor not often found in tasting rooms or bottles anywhere else. The amphora style as well as a temperature-controlled glycol chiller system of fermentation makes these wines unique. Their maceration processes differ from others as well, due to Marko’s dedication to and knowledge of the craft.
Plans for the future of Purgatory Cellars include an expansion of production and event space, and the addition of machinery that will allow for a significant increase in production of (up to a quarter of a million bottles per year in coming years, with a capacity of up to 200,000 liters of wine) and more space for seating and larger groups and events.
A gigantic 4,300-liter barrel was just received from Croatia, along with four 2,000 liter amphoras, and more handmade wood furniture from Marko is awaiting the move into the new space.
Purgatory Cellars also offers a Wine Club with two levels of membership—Saints and Sinners. Which one are you? Come visit their beautiful tasting room and find out! Or visit them online at http://www.purgatorycellarscolorado.com.