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
Wine is one of Clyde's primary missions.
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
Cru's wine list is one of the biggest — and best — in town.
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
More fun than a barrel of monkeys.
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
We la-la-love Lala's wine list.
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
Some of these bottles can only be found at Max's.
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
Nocturne jazzes up Denver's wine scene.
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...