Although Colorado wines are produced miles from Denver on the Western Slope, Denver-area residents and visitors can taste more than 35 of the increasingly popular wines at Colorado Winery Row in north Denver.
Calling itself “Denver’s Urban Wine Tasting Destination,” the new attraction showcases four artisan Colorado wineries known for their award-winning Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and other single-varietal and blended wines. Most of the grapes are even grown here in Colorado.
Cottonwood Cellars, Garfield Estates Vineyard and Winery and Verso Cellars opened tasting rooms in March 2010 next to the Bonacquisti Wine Company and tasting room on Pecos Street in north Denver.
Paul Bonacquisti opened his winery, Bonacquisti Wine Company, in the winery row building in 2006. Bonacquisti purchases most of his grapes from Palisade, Colorado, but the short and cool growing season here doesn’t suit the popular zinfandel grape, so he purchases those from California.
Bonacquisti’s grandfather, an Italian immigrant who worked as a miner and settled in Trinidad, Colorado, made homemade wine every season and taught Bonacquisti’s father to do the same. And so Paul Bonacquisti continued his family’s tradition, making wine in a basement bathtub every season.
A former radio disc jockey looking for a job, Bonacquisti was perusing the classifieds in 2006 and found a winery for sale. The light bulb went off in Bonacquisti’s head, and he started the wine company. There are no vineyards in the Bonacquisti business plan, just Colorado-grown grapes shipped to Denver where the wine is made close to the Bonacquisti home.
The tasting room and the winery share the front room of Bonacquisti’s shop, so call ahead if you want to be there at a time when you can see the wine-making process.
Don’t miss Bonacquisti’s most popular wines – Vinny No Neck, an Italian sangiovese blend named for Bonacquisiti’s son Vincent, Delagua Red and Colorado Riesling. The Semillon dessert wine with hints of apricot is also a hit.
Verso Cellars produces one style of wine, cabernet sauvignon from Palisade, Colorado. Verso offers vertical tastings – samples from each of several consecutive years of production. This treat, usually reserved for expensive wine dinners and exclusive wine tastings, is a great way to learn how different vintages of wine are affected by the climatic conditions of that year.
Cottonwood Cellars, in the farming town of Olathe, Colorado, grows seven grape varietals. Its award-winning lemberger, a light red from Austria with a lively balance of fresh fruit, earth and oak, is a treat worth the trip. Fans of fuller bodied, heavier reds will enjoy Cottonwood Cellars’ Classic Blend, a luscious mix of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot.
Garfield Estates produces a wide range of varietals including lots of whites and two sweet dessert wines. Garfield whites include viognier, a tropical white, a dry syrah rose, a light Bordeaux-style semillon-sauvignon blanc blend and fume blanc, a California-style sauvignon blanc with a touch of oak aging.
Garfield Estates recently began producing an ice wine, a light sweet dessert wine made with grapes left on the vine until after the first frost. The water freezes in these extra-ripe berries but the grape solids containing the sweet juices do not. Garfield Estate’s ice wine features crisp notes of honeydew melon, lemon and apple.
Each of the wineries charges $5 to taste their wines, but they will waive that fee if you buy a bottle. Bonacquisti has a nice room to relax upstairs with armchairs, sofas and high-top tables overlooking the winery.
Bottles of wine cost from around $15 to $30. Weekends are the best time to visit all four wineries, but call ahead on weekdays, too. As the wineries become more popular, hours of operation will be expanded throughout the row.
If You Go
Colorado Winery Row
4640 Pecos St. Denver,