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The Denver Wine Scene
by Dave Moore
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 5.5

At DiVino, customers aren’t as interested in particular varietals, regions or labels as they are in trying new things and experimenting.

They crave discovering and learning more about wines from around the world. The trend at DiVino is to break away from the conventional commandments of food and wine pairing. Sure, the standards work. But why not break the mold? Find a German riesling for that grilled buffalo steak. Sure, you could always drink pinot noir with salmon, but something else has gotta work too. It’s about exploration with the senses. Our own senses.

Which leads me to the fact that DiVino doesn’t have shelf talkers. We don’t post or yap about points, scores, ratings, accolades, ribbons, medals, trophies or divine blessings. We all know of the wine “institutions” that enslave the minds of the wine-drinking masses, herding them like cattle, roping their decisions and pocketbooks to the bottles deemed worthy of their holy digits. By putting all our trust in a few critics, we lose our own sense of decision-making; we give up a bit of personal choice and forgo experimentation. Some stores look like the Vegas strip, with massive blinking lights and arrows, and Robert Parker banners waving from the racks. We think DiVino’s lack of this “Check your brain at the door and pick up your crayons” mentality encourages a sense of freedom from the stranglehold of certain press and critics.

What it all really comes down to is this: Denver is eager to push the boundaries and explore new flavors. It’s ready for change. And DiVino is there to spur things on.

As far as what’s happening ‘round town, Forest Room 5 is worth checkin’ out. Winebuyer/bar manager Alex Stuempfig builds his by-the-glass list to encourage people to branch out from oaky chards and brawny CA cabs. Hochar Père Rouge from Lebanon, an Aghiorgitiko from Greece or a chenin blanc from India are some examples of the adventurous wines that Alex pours. Flights are a great way to sample wines that you might otherwise pass over. Pair a flight with Tapas, and you haven’t dedicated your evening to one main course and one bottle of wine. Maybe a little pear gorgonzola ravioli with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and then onto gulf shrimp and linguiza with an Australian grenache, etc. The world has so much variety and quality to offer, so take a chance. Let go of “safe” wines. Change is good. There is life outside Napa.

With 1100 different wines — 30 by the glass — Adega Restaurant & Wine Bar is the place to go if you want to really immerse yourself in the vast universe of wine. Aaron Foster, guide extraordinaire behind the bar, says folks have been getting into upper-end South American wines. For a few bucks more than your average bottle expenditure you can get a wine from Chile or Argentina that’s better quality than a $75 French or Napa bottle. Aaron also says New Zealand pinots are becoming increasingly popular and finally getting the recognition they deserve.

When it comes down to it, what’s wine all about? It’s not about residual sugar levels or barrel size, or for which corporation the winery owner used to be CEO. Bottom line, it’s about enjoying yourself and enjoying the drink. The Village Cork is a neighborhood wine bar that promotes just that. It’s a refuge from the hyperactive atmosphere of the restaurant industry. No rush, no pushy waiters wondering when you’re going to leave. Just a place to relax, have a few glasses of wine, maybe a cheese plate, some pâté and indulge yourself in the lost art of conversation. Owner Lisa Miller says patrons are really open to pairing suggestions. Wines from organic farms are a hit at the Cork too. Some people are surprised to learn a wine they love is 100 percent organic. Hard to believe goodness can be had without preservatives or pesticides.

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