We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Black and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I would say that most people that know me well would say that I am not afraid to take risks when it comes to business or my career. I would most definitely not be running a winery in Palisade, CO if I was a risk averse person. My husband Brandon and I bought Mesa Park Vineyards 3.5 years ago with zero experience in farming grapes, making wine and operating a winery – sounds crazy right? I’d like to think that most of the time, in my mind and thought process anyway, the risks I choose to take are somewhat calculated and are taking me towards my goal of not just being successful but also feeling fulfilled. I have always been an opportunist and have made it a priority to not just move through life but to actually take advantage of adventure and opportunity and sometimes that means people think I am crazy! But if there is anything I have learned, especially jumping from one industry (real estate) for which I had a very successful career to now (winery life), is that if you are willing to put in the work, you WILL be okay…maybe not right away, but you will figure out a way to make it work! And so, in knowing that, it makes jumping in and going after your crazy dreams, not seem so scary after all. What is much scarier in my mind is waking up in 20 years and wondering what if…
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My career has been one of quite a few twists and turns! I got my real estate license after traveling for a bit after college. I had a finance degree but took a real estate finance class my last semester and decided that was the direction I’d head….but first, I had to travel! I took off to Antigua in the Caribbean for a bit and bartended on the beach – I quickly burned through my savings and decided after 4 or so months, I better go start real life. So, I came home, and got a job at a commercial real estate company. From there I bounced around a bit and settled at a private lending company underwriting hard money loans and helping the same owners invest in distressed projects across the country – we were buying beautiful old bungalows in Detroit for $5000! It was a ton of fun, I got to travel and learned a lot too. After a few years of that I decided it was time for my quarter life crisis and quit my job, leased my condo and moved to Alaska for a season! What an adventure! I worked at a lodge and spent my days off exploring! After returning from Alaska broke (again) and clueless as to what was next – I went back to real estate, but this time fixing and flipping for an investor and eventually myself! This was 2011 and the housing market was still pretty well in the dumps from the Great Recession. As the market recovered, my real estate career took off. I got busier and busier with each year and eventually found myself in the top 100 of Denver Real Estate agents – those years were crazy but also my life was consumed with work…it seemed endless, but as they say – Make hay while the sun shines! Fast forward to 2017, I had met my now husband on a job-site and we were now fixing and flipping together. I was selling like crazy and life was good, but we weren’t fulfilled. Enter Mesa Park Vineyards! After a trip to Palisade, CO together and too much wine :), we found this little winery that was for sale and went for it! We picked up our lives in Denver and moved to Palisade! It’s been a wild and overwhelming ride, but we’ve grown this little winery three fold in the three years we’ve been here and we’re not planning on slowing down!
Has it been easy – NO. None of it has. But every twist and turn above was an experience and helped me get to where I am now…both times I took off to travel and explore, I grew as a person more-so than I ever realized and although it wasn’t fun or easy starting over when I got home, it just took some hard work and grinding through some long days to get back to financially stable. I would not trade those times for anything…and in the end it all goes back to hard work. If you’re willing to put in the long hours – I truly believe things seem to have a way of working themselves out!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Palisade is truly a little slice of heaven on the Western Slope of Colorado. About 4 hours west of Denver and just 15 minutes east of Grand Junction, it is a peach and wine mecca! First of all – I would say book a room at the Spoke and Vine Motel – located in Downtown Palisade, this trendy little motel was redone a couple of years ago and is Instagram worthy in every direction you look and the little touches are over the top! Think local coffee and organic yogurt and granola for breakfast, a mimosa made with local sparkling wine to accompany it, if you so choose! Once you are settled at the motel – grab a cruiser bike (they rent them) and cruise around town stopping at several of the areas 30+ wineries. Maison La Belle Vie is the spot for lunch on the patio, Red Fox Cellars for a bourbon barrel aged wine, Sauvage Spectrum for some bubbly and Bookcliff Vineyards for some spectacular views! Dinner at Pêche restaurant is an absolute MUST! The seasonal menu is ever changing, but you cannot go wrong! If the borst, ribeye or homemade smores happen to be listed, do yourself a favor and order them!
For a more active day – Mt. Garfield, the iconic peak is a bucket list hike if you’re up for the steep but short climb! And if you want something a little more leisurely, the Palisade Rim Trail will treat you to some spectacular views as well! For the avid mountain biker, the Palisade Plunge is due to open later this Summer – it’s a 32 mile downhill singletrack trail – say what!!!
Another day or two of wine tasting is in order on East Orchard Mesa – a meandering drive along the fruit and wine byway with stops at Talbott’s Cider Tap Room, Restoration Vineyards, Carlson Vineyards, Mesa Park (of course), Peachfork and Hermosa will just about do you in for the day! Water and food are important! So grab sandwiches at Palisade Pies and a delicious fruit pie made with local produce as a treat for later!
If you’re wine-d out – Peach Street Distillery for a cocktail and some guac should do the trick! The Palisade Cafe and Wine Bar is another spot not to miss! Great vibe and food, they also have over 120 Colorado Wines by the glass on their menu! The brewery across the street will likely have some live music on the patio, so a night cap there is never a bad idea either!
For some fun without wine, a trip over to the Colorado National Monument for a spectacular drive and some hiking is in order! When you exit the Monument near Fruita, head over to Hot Tomato for a delicious pizza pie to enjoy on the patio with a beer at the Copper Club Brewery! If you’re a mountain biker, you’ll be in good company in Fruita! Plenty of trails to explore!
If you’ve got the time and energy – a quick hour long drive will take you to the Hotchkiss and Paonia area – or the West Elks – Colorado’s other wine region! They grow grapes at close to 6,000 feet in elevation, so the scenery and the wines are something to experience if you’ve not before! I recommend Stone Cottage, Qutori, The Storm Cellar and check out Big B’s for a casual atmosphere and some awesome cider!
The Colorado river is what feeds our irrigation water in Palisade, without it, there wouldn’t be much fruit growing in the region, but it also provides a wonderful playground for kayaking, tubing and rafting! Rapid Creek Cycles rents all the gear you’ll need for a day on the river!
All in all – there is something here for everyone and the activities are endless!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The list is long but I always start with my parents and most specifically my mom. She is strong willed and raised my sisters and I to rely on ourselves, which has proven to be invaluable! I know there have been many times in my adult life that I have made decisions that maybe she didn’t particularly agree with (our risk tolerance varies greatly), but she ALWAYS, ALWAYS supported me and for that I am forever grateful!