Beer fans already know that Denver is one of the nation’s microbrew capitals, but really savvy fans of fine beverages also know about its burgeoning wine industry. In fact, you can visit more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms to sample unique award-winning vintages right in the Denver metro area. Although most of the state’s vineyards are on the Western Slope, many wineries operate in the Denver area to better accommodate their customers. So take your own wine tour in the Denver area on your next free weekend.
Mile High Winery
2811 Walnut St.
Mile High Winery is located in Downtown Denver and features hand-crafted red and white wines made on site. The tasting room reflects the art influence of the RiNo district and is a perfect space for private events. Bring family, friends, business associates, co-workers for a tastings of wine, a glass of wine or a bottle of wine.Balistreri Vineyards
1946 E. 66th Ave., Denver
A vineyard in the middle of Denver? Yes. It started as a flower farm in 1969, but in 1998, the Balistreri family decided to plant some grapes. Since then, the Balistreris have been making wines in the Italian tradition. The site includes a tasting room and gift shop and a number of events are hosted on the property.
The award-winning wines at Balistreri include Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Port and Colorado cherry wines. Whites include Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat. Their wines are made from 98 percent Colorado grapes, including some grown on site. Balistreri does not add sulfites to its wines, and does not filter them, making them a little hazy sometimes, and vulnerable during shipping. But their numerous awards show taste more than makes up for clarity.
Head winemaker John Balistreri has been making wine for more than three decades, though they just began selling it commercially in 2000. All Balistreri wines are hand-crafted a barrel at a time. The grapes are fermented in their own yeast and aged in American oak.The Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery
3200 Larimer St., Denver
A "counter culture urban winery" located in the very hip River North District in Denver, Infinite Monkey did the unthinkable a few years back -- it canned its wines. But even the snobbiest oenophile had to bow to the powerful flavors that the winery was creating. Sourcing fruit from the Western slope, the wine is made here in Denver. Take some time to visit the winery's open-to-the-public tasting room, the Wine Lab. Bonacquisti Wine Company
4640 Pecos St., Unit 1, Denver
Situated in northwest Denver, Bonacquisti is a relative newcomer to the Colorado wine scene. The two-story space, about two miles from downtown, has a tasting room downstairs and a party room upstairs that can handle small group functions. The works of local artists line the walls, with different artists featured each month. The winery also has special events, such as its annual barbecue. To find out about those, go to the Web site and check out the schedule.
Owner Paul Bonacquisti, formerly a Denver deejay, lives in the neighborhood, and likes having what he calls “an urban winery.” His wines, which include Cabernet, Zinfandel, Moscato, Chardonnay and a Rose – a family blend – are made from 75 percent Colorado-grown grapes. Equipment de Vin
1412 Larimer St., Denver
A small tasting room of selected Colorado vintages in the back ($1 a pour) isn’t the main attraction here. It’s the vast array of wine-related accessories and accoutrements, from leather-bound tasting journals to fine crystal to unique imported gift items. Located in downtown Denver’s Larimer Square, it’s a great place to shop for the serious oenophile on your gift list any time of year. Small events also can be booked in the shop, which has access to an outdoors space. Redstone Meadery
4799 Pearl St., suite 2A, Boulder
Tucked into a strip mall on the edge of Boulder, the meadery offers a taste of something different. Take a tour and find out how mead – wine made from honey – is produced. Taste some and decide for yourself if mead is for you.
If you’ve only tasted the very sweet meads, your palate is in for a surprise. There are sparkling meads, fruity meads and even some fairly dry ones. The sparkling nectars are made with Colorado honey and summer fruits (think black raspberries). The meadery’s Sunshine Nectar makes a killer mimosa for Sunday brunch, they claim.
Redstone Meadery is the second largest meadery in the United States and the largest craft meadery (akin to a micro brewery) in the nation. Meads make good dessert wines and some of them come in flavors that taste like, say, Mom’s apple pie.Avanti Winery
9046 W. Bowles Ave, Littleton
The big sign says “Cigars” but take our word for it – this is a winery. Besides selling wines from more than 30 Colorado wineries (the largest collection of Colorado wines in Denver) Avanti Winery makes a few of its own. We’re talking Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, port and a red table wine – a blend that changes.
If it’s available, try the Mystique wine – a wine that began as a happy mistake and ended up being a best-seller. The pleasant atmosphere, with a gift shop and wine bar, invites guests to linger to taste the wares. And though they also do sell fine cigars, there’s no smoking in the winery.Augustina’s Winery
4715 N. Broadway, Unit B3, Boulder
Hidden away in an industrial park on the edge of Boulder, Augustina’s produces the most whimsical of Colorado wines. There’s a WineChick Red (Shiraz blend), a WineChick White (a blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer), and others as the spirit moves the winemaker. Augustina’s wines are intended to be paired with activities more than food – thus, Backpacker red or a Front Porch white. Nothing pretentious, but very drinkable. Labels, set on the bottles in a diamond-shape, feature original art.
The entire operation is the brainchild of owner, winemaker, bottler and labeler, Marianne “Gussie” Walter. She even drives over to the Western Slope to fetch the grapes herself.
Though it’s small and doesn’t have public hours, guests can book tastings by appointment. You’re also likely to find Gussie, who formerly was a geologist and chemist, vending her wines at Denver-area farmers markets and art galleries. Bookcliff Vineyards
1501 Lee Hill Road, Unit #17, Boulder
BookCliff Vineyards winery and tasting room are located in North Boulder. BookCliff offers tastings Friday through Sunday year round from 1:00pm - 5:00pm. Visitors can choose from 18 different wines including whites, reds and dessert wines. It is the place to come to learn about wine and find the wine you like. During the year BookCliff has a lot of fun events to offer, chef dinners, barrel tasting, release parties, farmers markets and chocolate and wine pairing flights on Valentine's day. Check the website for upcoming events. Boulder Creek Winery
6440 Odell Place, Boulder
If you want to learn all about wine-making, from growing the grapes to manufacturing the corks, stop by Boulder Creek Winery. You can take a self-guided tour, complete with signs and photos, and learn everything you ever wanted to know about the process. Any questions? Ask owners Jackie or Mike Thompson, who have one of the classiest operations around.
Situated on the edge of Boulder, the winery is known for its white Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. Of the 2,000 or so cases of wine they produce each year, about 60 percent is white wine – regaining its former popularity, says Jackie Thompson. They pride themselves on “feminine whites and masculine reds.” They also have a well-stocked gift shop full of goodies. Creekside Cellars
28036 Highway 74, Evergreen
Plan to hit this winery in downtown Evergreen at about lunch-time and sample the Italian deli specialties that include an antipasto platter, a cheese board, or panini sandwiches made on their own fresh focaccia bread. If the weather is nice, enjoy your repast on the deck overlooking Bear Creek, which goes rushing right by.
Then taste an award-winning Chardonnay, or a Viognier, Riesling, Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. Also check out the Vintage Port and the Black Muscat Port. Small private tours can be arranged. Iron Mountain Winery
1 W. Flatiron Circle, Suite 336, Broomfield
This franchise micro-winery produces 40 different wines from grapes imported from around the world. One of the few Colorado wineries that does not use Colorado grapes, it nevertheless has a few of its own concoctions, including a Coup d’ Trois (blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel) and a Bella Bianco (an oak-y California Chardonnay). House specialties include ice wine or perhaps an orange-chocolate port.
Iron Mountain is a wine bar, not a tasting room. The Flatirons mall location in Broomfield has a light menu – perfect for lunch. You also can order their wines at their new Cherry Creek restaurant by the same name. Turquoise Mesa Winery
11705 Teller St., Unit C, Broomfield
This winery prides itself on wines made only from Colorado grapes. A Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier and both white and red blends are offered in the tasting room located in a Broomfield office park.
Owners Tom and Mary Joan Bueb specialize in a Bordeaux-style blend, a hand-crafted boutique wine. They also have a Riesling and a Pinot Noir that have received some praise. They pride themselves on smooth, velvety wines low in tannin. They don’t produce dessert, fruit or port wines.
Tastings often are offered on Saturday afternoons or can be arranged by appointment. They also will do barrel tastings for small groups of up to 25 or 30 people. You also can sample their wines from the menu at Woody’s, a popular pizza place in Golden.