Jay Christianson ’05 Cultivates Award Winning Wines
o an easterner, thoughts of Colorado evoke images of snow-capped mountains.
But Jay Christianson’s Colorado also contains acres of grape vines. He is co-owner
and winemaker at Canyon Wind Cellars, a 50-acre estate winery that produces award-
winning Bordeaux-style wines in the high, dry country near the Utah border. The 2005 fine arts grad has been a teacher and a ski racing coach, but in wine making he finds ultimate job satisfaction: “Making something people enjoy—and that you enjoy yourself—is possibly the most gratifying and fulfilling thing to do,” he says. He comes by the trade and talent naturally. The Palisade, Colorado, location was chosen by Christianson’s parents because the climate and growing conditions are identical to that of the Bordeaux region of France and similar to that of northern Spain. They set out vines in 1991 in the gravelly soil along the Colorado River and sold their first crush of Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1996. It was their son who named the estate for the breezes that cool Debeque Canyon at night and provide the perfect ripening conditions. Helping out in the family business, Christianson cleaned and sanitized equipment and received an ongoing education from his parents and the winery’s consulting winemaker, Napa Valley vintner Robert Pepi. By the time he went east for high school, he likely knew more about wine than many sommeliers. While living in one of the townhouses at Saint Anselm in his junior and senior year, he struck up a friendship with the folks at the local wine shop, which (not coincidentally) sold his family’s products. Ski team dinners were known to feature very, very good cabernet. By Laurie D. Morrissey Photos by Nancy Cole 21
The Magazine of Saint Anselm College