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Popping the cork

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When it became clear four years ago that the Holy Cross Abbey was in danger of being shuttered, the monks sought out creative means of keeping it open. Salvation came in the form of winemaking couple Sally and Matt Cookson.

Matt Cookson, who'd made a name for himself consulting with vintners on Colorado's Western Slope, was recommended by alumni of the Cañon City monastery as someone who could be trusted to start a successful winery for them.

The Cooksons left their home in wine-rich Sonoma, Calif., for Cañon City in 2002 to open The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.

Soon after, "the number of monks living at the Abbey went from 20 to seven," says Sally Cookson. "[Consequently] it wasn't feasible to keep the monastery open, because it was such a big burden on the Catholic Church."

The Winery, however, was spared. The church recently sold it to Larry Oddo, a New Jersey businessman who had been looking to move from the big city to Colorado with his wife and daughter. With Oddo's financial acumen -- 22 years in business and a degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania -- and the Cooksons' winemaking experience, the group is betting on a successful future.

The Winery currently is producing a Merlot and Riesling, and assistant winemaker Jeff Stultz (pictured above) has been on hand more often to gear up for the recent release of the Wild Canyon Harvest Wine. The 2005 vintage is "a celebration of a bountiful grape crop for over 100 of our growers and contributors," says Matt Cookson, and averages about $11 a bottle.

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, with a tasting room open to the public, is at 3011 E. U.S. Highway 50 in Cañon City. Check out its Web site at abbeywinery.com.

-- Vanessa Martinez

Photo by Steve Bigley

  • Popping the cork

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