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 Front Range to better accommodate their customers. Go on your own wine tour in and around Denver or let the professionals at Mile High Wine Tours take you on a wine tasting adventure!
THE INFINITE MONKEY THEOREM URBAN WINERY
A "counterculture in winemaking" located in the very hip River North Art District in Denver, Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery did the unthinkable a few years back — it canned its wines. But even the snobbiest oenophile has to bow to the powerful flavors that the winery creates. 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.
A vineyard in the middle of Denver? Yes. It started as a flower farm in 1964, 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 Vineyards include Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Port and Colorado cherry wines. Whites include Riesling, Viognier and Muscat. 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. 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 barrels.
MILE HIGH WINERY
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 River North Art District and is a perfect space for private events. Bring family, friends, business associates and co-workers for wine tastings, wines by the glass or a bottle of wine to take home (or on your next picnic). Stop by for $4.25 glasses of wine at happy hour and food trucks most Wednesdays through Sundays.
BONACQUISTI WINE COMPANY
Situated in northwest Denver, Bonacquisti, a 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 hosts its own special events, such as its annual barbecue.
Owner Paul Bonacquisti, formerly a Denver deejay, lives in the neighborhood and likes having what he calls "an urban winery." His wines, which include Pinot Grigio, Montepulciano, Moscato, Chardonnay and Sangiovese, are made from 75 percent Colorado-grown grapes.
EQUIPMENT DE VIN
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, Equipment de Vin is 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.
Tucked into a strip mall on the edge of Boulder, Redstone 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 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 fruits (think black raspberries, mango and passion fruit). And the meadery's Sunshine Nectar makes a killer mimosa for Sunday brunch.
Redstone Meadery is the second-largest meadery in the United States and the largest craft meadery (akin to a microbrewery) in the nation. Meads make great dessert wines and some of them come in flavors that taste like, say, Mom's apple pie.
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 in Littleton also 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 produces the most whimsical of Colorado wines. There's a WineChick Red (a Shiraz blend), a WineChick White (a Colorado-grown Riesling) and many others as the spirit moves the winemaker. Augustina's wines are intended to be paired with activities more than food — thus the Boulder Backpacking Wine (a dry red) and the Harvest Gold, "a wine for sitting on the porch with a friend." 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.
Once hidden away in an industrial park on the edge of Boulder, Augustina's just opened at its new location in Nederland with tasting hours Thurs.–Sun. You're also likely to find Gussie, a former geologist and chemist, vending her wines at Denver-area farmers' markets and art galleries.
BookCliff Vineyards winery and tasting room is located in North Boulder. BookCliff offers tastings Thursday through Sunday year round from 1 p.m.–6 p.m. Visitors can choose more than a dozen different wines, including whites, reds and dessert wines. It's the place to come to learn about wine and find the one you like. During the year, BookCliff offers a lot of fun events, incluing chef dinners, barrel tastings, release parties, farmers' markets and chocolate-and-wine pairing flights on Valentine's Day.
Plan to hit this winery in Downtown Evergreen around lunchtime and sample some superb Italian deli specialties that include an antipasto platter, a cheese board or panini sandwiches made with fresh focaccia bread. If the weather is nice, enjoy your repast on the deck overlooking Bear Creek, which goes rushing right by.
After lunch, taste an award-winning Creekside Cellars Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. Also check out the Vintage Port and the Moscato d'Amburgo, a Black Muscat. Small private tours can also be arranged.
TURQUOISE MESA WINERY
Turquoise Mesa 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 pride themselves on smooth, velvety wines low in tannins.
Tastings are availble Thurs.–Sat. afternoons or can be arranged by appointment. The winery also does barrel tastings for small groups of up to 25 or 30 people. Hungry? You also can sample their wines from the menu at Woody's, a popular pizza place in Golden.