We had the good fortune of connecting with Brent Helleckson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brent, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am originally from a small farm in west central Minnesota. Working the farm with my grandfather and working construction with my father instilled a respect for the value of hard work. It also taught me to take smart risks and work to make them successful opportunities. I also grew up seeing the importance of living within a community, working with that community to accomplish shared goals, and giving back to that community.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My wife, Karen, and I own and operate Stone Cottage Cellars, a small vineyard, winery and guest cottage in western Colorado. We left the Front Range of Colorado in the mid-90’s to try to return to the land and become more centered in an agricultural community. Our goal was to actually make our living off of a small piece of land and leave it better than we found it. Since the early 2000’s we have been successful at that goal. By creating a series of wines, creating a pastoral experience, and creating a wine destination community, we have made our living from the property we live on. In the interim, we have converted our vineyard from conventional synthetic chemical farming with tillage, to organic farming with continuous cover crop in place. We have learned that operating a successful business while adhering to principles that may have nothing to do with profit is difficult and requires an extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First, we are not in the city. The area we live in is a pastoral, agricultural valley bounded by public lands on almost every side. If folks were traveling here from the Front Range, I would recommend spending the afternoon soaking at Avalanche Ranch hot springs, grabbing a quick bite at the historic Redstone Inn and heading over McClure Pass to Paonia. If you are able to find an opening, our Stone Cottage guest house is a beautiful, relaxing place to call home for the week. Alternatively there are several other lodging options in the valley, including The Bross Hotel , a restored turn-of-the-century bed and breakfast. Of course visit the wineries of the West Elks American Viticultural Area and sample world class wine in a beautiful setting. There are several stunning hikes (especially Green Mountain) in the nearby Black Canyon National Park that I would recommend. For the quintessential alpine lake hiking experience, I would recommend the Three Lakes trail at the Lost Lake campground in the Gunnison National Forest. The Dark Canyon trail is also one of our favorites. Some of the best fly fishing in the world is just 20 minutes away in the Gunnison Gorge, which also has spectacular Class III/IV whitewater rafting and more mellow Class I/II kayak float trips. There are several organic farms that open for tours and for purchasing the makings of a spectacular home cooked meal. We always recommend Orchard Valley Farms and, especially, Western Culture Goat Dairy. If cooking is not on the itinerary I would recommend a beer at one of the two local micro breweries in town followed by dinner with cider under the trees at Delicious Orchards. Root and Vine Market is a great place to have lunch or enjoy a Buddha Bowl for breakfast. It is reminiscent of outdoor venues in the Dundee Hills wine region. Paonia Bread Works offers fresh baked morsels for breakfast as well. If you are able to time your lunch well, there are 4 food trucks operating in Paonia. Depending on the day, you can savor Thai food prepared by a native of Thailand, Mexican fare prepared by a native of Mexico, Paella prepared by a Spaniard, or Southern biscuits prepared by a native of “The South.” For a spectacular fine dining experience, spend the evening in the orchard at The Flying Fork or overlooking the vineyard at Mesa Winds Winery. There are also many opportunities throughout the season to join one of the local wineries for a winemaker’s dinner.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would offer a shout out to my parents for allowing me to risk, and occasionally fail, when the consequences were not severe. I would also give a shout out to the teachers who patiently helped me train my mind, form my ethos, and who exposed me to portions of the world I would not have found on my own.
Jacob Helleckson, Stone Cottage Cellars Jacob Helleckson, Stone Cottage Cellars