In celebration of Westword's annual tribute to all that rocks in Denver, here are a few shout-outs to my personal favorite wine-centric places around the city.
Best Wine List in a Restaurant: Table 6 609 Corona Street; 303-831-8800; www.table6denver.com
Foodies and wine lovers alike have fallen in love with the wine list from Table 6, which is thoughtfully pulled together by general manager/co-owner/sommelier/marathon runner Aaron Forman, who really loves wine. Perhaps more important, he loves interesting, unique, lesser-known and reasonably priced wines. This is what makes choosing a bottle at this restaurant so damn fun; you get to try all kinds of new stuff without shelling out an arm and a leg for it. If you need a little help with pairings, Forman and his team of nattily-attired servers provide ideal recommendations. And if you really want to see what Forman's got up his sleeve, ask to see "The Wine Book" (aka the reserve list), which is so big, it's even got its own freakin' stand.
Best Wine Shop: Sip Fine Wine & Spirits 1920 Market Street; 303-298-9463; www.sipwinedenver.com
Sip has quietly gained a following among LoDo's wine aficionados as well as those who are just falling in love with the grapes. The store, which originally opened three years ago, was brought under new management in 2009 by Nathan Lowe, who's been on a mission to bring the best in wine, unique beers and spirits to downtown dwellers ever since. The shop's generous layout -- the racks are filled with both familiar and boutique selections -- is perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon of browsing. The staff, headed up by sommelier Chan Park, is fun, knowledgeable and just plain fired up about wine. Head to Sip on Thursdays and Saturdays for their weekly free wine tastings, often featuring guest winemakers. Bonus tip: Stock up on a six-pack of wine and score a free, recyclable wine carrier bag.
Best Wine Bar for Champagne Lovers: Corridor 44 1433 Larimer Street; 303-893-0044; www.corridor44.com
Corridor 44, a narrow strip named for its interior dimensions, is everything a Champagne lover's destination should be: sexy, sleek, and sophisticated with cozy booths up front and a luxe private room in the back in which to fete any special occasion with your fellow bubbly lovers. Corridor 44 offers a full bar and boasts a generous wine list, but who are you kidding? You're there for the bubbles, and that's what the bar does best, with over 100 bottles on the roster and 16 pours by the glass. Sample a Champagne flight and taste why Mark Twain famously opined "Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right."
Best Family-Run Wine Tasting Room: Balistreri Vineyards 1946 East 66th Avenue; 303-287-5156; www.balistrerivineyards.com
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Just when you thought there was no sane reason to ever voluntarily visit Commerce City, think again. The Balistreri family has been making award-winning wines for years, fueled by grapes from the Western Slope. Literally a family affair (winemaker John's daughter Julie is like a hostess welcoming you into her living room, and a passel of kids and grand-kids can be seen clearing wine glasses), their tasting room is full of warmth and charm. Balistreri's 20+ bottlings range from dry muscat to petite syrah, all of which are produced in a fruit-forward, high-alcohol style that's garnered a devoted following of Front Range fans. Weekend tastings (which include sample-sized tastes of wine along with bountiful snacks) are often sold out weeks in advance; still, the fun to be had at one of these events makes the drive and the effort to score a ticket worth the effort.
Best Wine Bar For Francophiles: A' Côté Bar à Absinthe 2245 West 30th Avenue; 303-477-1111; www.zcuisineonline.com
From the built-in, antique wine cabinet to the ever-rotating array of French art-house films projected onto the bar's brick wall, À Côté is a delectable slice of pure Parisian wine bar heaven. Moments after walking in, you're liable to be sucked into a scintillating conversation with people you don't know. Naturally, they'll be seated next to you at the gorgeous bar drinking a glass of Burgundy and scarfing up the glorious housemade pork rillettes. While the wine list isn't long, the by-the-glass selections (featuring lots of small producers) span the globe and are wallet-friendly.The always-convivial bartenders seem to know your name, and stand ready to assist with questions and offer insightful commentary on both wine and food. Settle in with the glass -- or bottle -- of your choosing, along with a charcuterie plate, and you'll feel like you're in an episode of Cheers, albeit one set on the 1st Arrondissement. Bonus tip: Check out their $25 wine tastings, held on the last Wednesday of each month.