“We like drinking wine!” was the simple and honest reason that Ulla Merz and her husband John Garlich decided to open a winery and vineyard. “We started collecting wine in the 1970’s and grew grapes in our backyard. In 1994 we took grape growing and wine making classes and bought a vineyard in an area of Palisade called the Vinelands. That’s where we planted our first grapes in 1996. Bookcliff Vineyards was launched in 1999 in Boulder.
For almost ten years, Ulla and John built the business in four separate locations – the vineyard in Palisade, and in Boulder — the actual wine making process, a separate taste testing space for customers as well as a storage room. They have since consolidated the latter three into one area on the north edge of Boulder. In 2011, Ulla knew it was time to quit her full time job and give the winery her full attention.
In the beginning stages Ulla, sought the help of the SBDC where she took the Leading Edge Entrepreneurship Series, along with various financial and marketing workshops. Coming from the mindset of an engineer the wine making was the easy part, according to Ulla. It was the marketing the she couldn’t wrap her brain around. Ulla says the best part about working with the Boulder SBDC is that “Boulder business owners are very open and supportive and the Boulder SBDC really fosters that. I will use their resources again and again. They are either free or inexpensive; the classes are a good use of time and money.”
What’s success? “We get pride from the quality of our wine. We received a gold medal in the Los Angeles International wine competition with a score of 92/100 on the $30 and under wines (the $30 and over wine gold medalist scored 90/100.) This is what motivates us. We do large dinners here at the winery where a Boulder restaurant chef comes in and cooks a beautiful meal and it’s served with our wine. I know I’ve made a small difference in each person’s life who has attended.”
According to Ulla, “We are a good example that anyone can do it. If an engineer can create wine, you can do anything. Follow your dreams.”