Last week we ruffled a few feathers (and piqued some serious ire for not naming names) with our post on a recent spate of rather unfortunate Denver restaurant-based wine service fails. And while that handful of experiences ran the gamut from mildly annoying to straight-up shitshow, we can confidently report that they truly are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to finding and enjoying wine in the Mile High. In fact, we've spotted an exciting trend in the opposite direction: restaurants working harder than ever to proffer well-curated lists that simultaneously intrigue and delight those of us who wake up in the morning wondering where to satisfy our near-constant wine jones.
As to the question of why we've got no issue shouting out the names of these spots when we chose not to elaborate last week? Simple. Everyone on this list deserves recognition. Those other guys? Well, let's just say that we'd prefer to keep it movin'. With that, four local restaurants that consistently pour out delicious wine service:
The Cool Kid: Health-conscious hipsters (and seemingly everyone else in town) hoof it to Root Down in search of a seasonally stunning array of vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan and raw culinary creations that taste like nothing of the sort. Playing a supporting role to all those innovative eats is a wine list that never fails to surprise us with its regular rotation of edgy-cool bottles -- 90 percent of which top out at price points well below $50. Even better, the lineup includes offerings as globally sourced as many of the inspirations behind Root Down's menu (we're talking regions from Sonoma to Slovenia) and regularly features small production, organic and biodynamic bottles, too. Our recent obsessions include the Meinklang "Prosa" NV ($40), a semi-sparkling rosé of pinot noir from Austria and the Dorigutti Bonarda 2009 ($27), a juicy, earthy red from Argentina that'll have you re-thinking that malbec fixation you've been nursing since the '90s.
The Purist: Italian wines can be tough to fall for American palates in love with. Hell, it's tough just ordering Italian wines -- particularly if you don't speak the language. So imagine the balls it takes to unapologetically execute a wine program that includes nothing but bottles from Italy -- in the middle of LoDo? That's exactly what Osteria Marco has done -- and quite brilliantly, we might add -- for nearly five years. The list is glorious; a veritable Italophile's fantasy, showcasing everything from little-known grapes like müller-thurgau (a white variety typically found in Germany but also planted in northern Italy's Alto Adige region) to the usual suspects (Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti). In truth, it actually takes a helluva lot more than chutzpah to pull off a list like this -- it takes an incredible amount of staff training -- since you can best believe the average guest isn't gonna have a ton of experience navigating selections from regions like Umbria and the Lombardy. So sit back, relax and let Bonanno's boys and girls do what they do best: recommend something fantastic to wash down some of the best pizza in town.
The Beer Enthusiast (Who Didn't Forget About Us): What with all the wine we usually manage to consume on a weekly basis, there's just not that much room (or, frankly, calories) left to burn on beer. So when the recommended dining destination (not long after its opening) was the ode-to-hops-and-barley spot that is Euclid Hall, we quivered just a wee bit. See, most restaurants that focus on brew tend to ignore (or, worse, offend outright) us wine lovers with a less-than-thrilling set of choices. Not this one. At Euclid, there are bubbles. There are ten white by-the-glass offerings, and nine red, all priced for sampling at wallet-friendly (read: south of $10) prices. And then there is an assortment of varieties from unexpected producers that make perfect sense with the hearty, meaty fare (Schloss Reinhartshausen Riesling 2008 ($35) and Cleebourg Gewürtraminer 2010 ($39) for the sausages and schnitzel; Masia de Bielsa Viñas Viejas Garnacha 2008 ($35) and Revelry Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($39) for the burger and steak. So the next time you're hankering for a beer and a brat, we'll bring our wine palates and meet you there.
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The Hidden Gem: We'll admit it: We struggled for months to get a grip on Fuel Cafe's slightly confusing service schedule (here's the scoop: lunch and/or brunch can be had seven days a week; dinner's only offered Thursday through Saturday) but, boy, are we ever glad that we did. Because lurking in Denver's booming RiNo disctrict is one of the tastiest wine lists in town. As ever-changing as the menu, the rotating selection of by-the-glass and bottle pours always reflects what's perfect to drink right this minute. In homage to the recent heat wave, we found ourselves staring at our own personal version of nirvana: a solid dozen pink wines. Faced with such a bounty, we did what any rosé-crazed drinker would do -- we sampled four in a single sitting. Not a fan? No worries. There are plenty of white and red offerings to choose from, as well. In fact, you can't make a bad decision no matter what you order -- which is the very best kind of wine experience any of us can hope for.