Gone are the days when drinking wine at a restaurant meant getting a workout just paging through a hefty wine menu and proving your knowledge to a snobbish server. These days, great wine can be enjoyed in casual settings or in Denver-chic eateries that put together a good spread without the white -tablecloth fuss. And French is only one option: Denverites know that the juice of the grape also goes great with fried chicken, jazz, pizza and modernist small plates. If you want to indulge in a nice glass of vino, whether it's a light summer white to complement patio season, a robust red to cozy up to, or simply an all-day rosé, here are the best places to swirl and sip.
1. Clyde Restaurant
112 East 8th Avenue
Taking over Le Central’s space comes with lofty expectations, but Clyde seems up to the challenge when it comes to wine. Self-described as approachable and wine-focused, Clyde lets the drinks dictate the menu. Every Tuesday, all bottles are 50 percent off, while Sunday supper has a traditional three-course pairing meal ($25) available with bottles for $25. You can also sip wine by the glass at Clyde's twice-daily happy hour for $5.
2. Cru: A Wine Bar
1442 Larimer Street
A cornerstone of Larimer Square, Cru appeals equally to the after-work crowd and those in search of a late-night rendezvous. With 13 flights and 21 pages of bottles, finding a glass you like shouldn’t be that tough, but narrowing down the options might. Looking to save a few bucks? Come at happy hour, when glasses and flights are $3 off. Pizza Mondays are also a big draw: Simply purchase a bottle of wine, and the ’za is on the house. You can save even more by joining Cru's wine club, which promises incredible perks like 20 percent off winemaker dinners, two-for-one tasting events, Swirl Sundays (1/3 off bottles), and treats for your birthday and anniversary.
3. Infinite Monkey Theorem
3200 Larimer Street, 303-736-8376
2501 Dallas Street, inside the Stanley Marketplace
“No vineyard, no pretense” is the motto of Infinite Monkey Theorem, which sells single-serving canned wines to restaurants and bars all around town. For a peek behind the curtain, head to the RiNo urban winery for a $25 tasting tour — an interactive way to get to know the process of wine-making sans vineyard. For a more intimate experience, the $75 barrel tasting includes a private tour with the winemaker, where you’ll get to try different varieties in the aging process to really perfect your palate. If you're an east-side resident, check out IMT's new tasting room inside the Stanley Marketplace, where you can lounge in comfort while enjoying canned, bottled and draft wines — like an odd but surprisingly sippable dry-hopped sauvignon blanc.
4. Lala's Wine Bar + Pizzeria
410 East 7th Avenue
A time-tested neighborhood spot, Lala’s has more than wines by the glass than the bottle. Make your own flight, or come for the daily happy hours from 3 to 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. to close, when glasses are just $5. Looking for a place to celebrate? Wednesdays are Girls Night Out, when chardonnay, merlot, chocolate-covered strawberries, bubbles, sangria and specialty cocktails are just $4 to $5 each. Bring a crew of five or more ladies, and you’ll even get a free bottle of champagne (with a $25 purchase).
5. Max's Wine Dive
696 Sherman Street
If you’ve never thought to pair wine with Southern fried chicken, Max’s might change your mind. Between the shelves of bottles exclusive to the company (which has several other locations around the country) and the seven wines on tap, you'll find something to match perfectly with the kitchen's comfort-food menu. Max's website playfully boasts, “Chicks dig guys with purple teeth.” Who’s willing to test that theory?
6. Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club
1330 27th Street
While Nocturne is known primarily for its catchy beats and soul-baring jazz performances, the wine list deserves its own spotlight — and it earned one: our Best of Denver readers' choice for Best Restaurant Wine List. Proprietor Scott Mattson is a certified sommelier (and before opening Nocturne was the head wine buyer at Mondo Vino), so it should come as no surprise that he knows his pours and has plenty of options to wet your whistle, including bottles from small producers and esoteric varietals.
Keep reading for more great wine destinations...
7. The Populist
3163 Larimer Street
At nearly five years old, the Populist, like a fine wine, only gets better with age. We awarded the RiNo spot with Best Restaurant Wine List this year for its finely edited menu of glasses and bottles that highlight lesser-known vintners from around the world. We say come for the wine, stay for — well, how about one more glass of wine?
8. Postino LoHi
2715 17th Street
One of Arizona’s best exports, Postino is Phoenix's original wine cafe. The $5 ’til five deal is one of the best in town. It's available every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a is great way to try a diverse "by the glass" list. There are also specials Monday and Tuesday, which include a house bottle and a tasty bruschetta for $20 after 8 p.m., if you’re looking to start the week in relaxing Italian style.
1822 Blake Street
Our readers' choice for the Best Wine Bar in Denver, Vesta got a sexy new makeover this year. While the menu might have received a revamp, that certainly no drop-off from the two decades of accolades the team has racked up. The new dishes are complemented by a thoughtful, diverse wine list that regularly receives recognition from local and national media. The restaurant is named after Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, which promises an atmosphere that is dark, sultry, and perfect for date night.
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10. Vinue Wine Bar
2817 East Third Avenue
The First Draft of wine, Vinue has called Cherry Creek home since 2011, yet remains a bit of a hidden gem. This pour-your-own wine bar provides refillable swipe cards to try as many varieties as you’d like by various size pours equated with different dollar values. Stations are organized by red, white and top-shelf wines, with flavor notes presented above the dispensers. Learning about wine has never been this fun — or easy.
11. The Truffle Table
2556 15th Street
Denver’s favorite cheese counter is also our pick for this year's Best Wine Bar award. Community tables provide a jovial environment to taste your way through a seasonally rotating selection of Old World and modern varietals. Pick your wine and then build a cheeseboard to complement your selection, or start with the dairy and then request the perfect pairing from the knowledgeable and amiable staff.