Paonia is a town in the Northwestern part of the Rocky Mountains state of Colorado. It is the nearest town to the West Elks American Viticultural Area (AVA), part of Colorado’s Wine Country and home to the highest wine vineyards in North America.

Grand Avenue in Paonia, Colorado.

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Home to environmentalists, new age-ers, artists, activists, as well as coal miners, organic farmers and ranchers, Paonia prides itself on its off-beat culture.

For a small town, Paonia is a bastion of progressive media, community activism and liberal thinking. Downtown Paonia boasts The High Country News, an environmental newspaper renown for its investigative journalism. KVNF (90.9 FM) is a left-leaning Paonia-based public radio station that broadcasts from Grand Junction to Lake City.

Grand Avenue in Paonia is an eclectic mix of art galleries and boutique shops, and makes for a diverting couple of hours of browsing.

It’s somehow fitting that a town filled with so many aging Flower Children from the 1960s is also named after a flower. Incorporated in 1881, Paonia was named by its founder, Samuel Wade, for the peony rootstock which he brought with him by covered wagon. Wade submitted the Latin name for the flower, “Paeonia” as the official town name to the US Postal Service. The Post Office wouldn’t allow the extra vowel, so the name was shortened to “Paonia.”

Paonia is a rich agricultural region with many orchards, organic farms and vineyards. In 2001, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms designated the mesas around Paonia as the “West Elks American Viticultural Area.” At 6,417 ft (1956 m) above sea level, this wine region is amongst the highest in the world. Grapes grown in the area include Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir.

  • 39.223056-106.8688891 Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (Sardy Field, ASE IATA). Major carriers to Aspen include United, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Frontier Airlines. ASE is a small airport for small planes only, and traffic tends to stop in any inclement weather. Flying into Denver Airport and driving up to Aspen is more reliable and often cheaper.  
  • 38.509794-107.8942421 Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ IATA), 2100 Airport Rd, +1 970-249-3203, fax: +1 970-249-2808. Regional service from Denver. Used most heavily during ski season. Cafe, vending, restrooms, car rentals.  

There are also airports in Denver and Grand Junction.

  • 39.861667-104.6730561 Denver International Airport (DIA, DEN IATA). About 20 mi (32 km) to the east of downtown. Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines all maintain hubs at the airport in Concourses A, B, and C respectively. Most other major domestic carriers also have service here.  
  • 39.1225-108.5266671 Grand Junction Regional Airport (Walker Field, GJT IATA). Served by six airlines with nonstop service from Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Some service is seasonal.  

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