BEST PURVEYOR OF BOOZE AND THE WISDOM OF HOMER SIMPSON 2006 | The Wine Seller and Spirits Too | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword


The Wine Seller and Spirits Too

The Wine Seller and Spirits Too is staffed with quirky, friendly, knowledgeable liberal-arts-major clerks who are intimately familiar with the store's impressive selection of wines (from swill to swank), respectable stock of beers (both micro and industrial), and expansive liquor cabinet. What draws people in, however, is the Wine Seller's outdoor sign, which it shares with the neighboring dry cleaner. Together they put up clever offerings that are sometimes sports-related, sometimes famous quotes from Homer Simpson and other respected luminaries, and sometimes just things that make ya go "Huh?"
At $24 a bottle, the intense, complex syrah made (in small quantities) by the family-owned Balistreri Vineyards is no everyday pour. But it might be Colorado's biggest, richest red wine. The grapes are grown in the Horse Mountain Vineyard on the Western Slope, and the final product is vinted right here in John Balistreri's boutique winery on 66th Avenue -- one of just two such facilities in the Mile High City. Redolent of mixed berries and black pepper, the 2004 Colorado Syrah is an extravagant red that will age well for years. Available at Applejack Liquors, Argonaut and a few other major liquor and wine stores (as well as the winery's tasting room), it is one of sixteen unfiltered, sulfite-free wines produced at Balistreri.
Not versed in the language of Sideways? Rest easy when shopping at Corks: Any decision by the knowledgeable staff will be a good one. The intimate shop doesn't overwhelm customers with selection, and the global offerings are labeled in categories that could describe what you'd like the evening to be: "sensuous," "sassy," "crisp" or "voluptuous." All bottles are priced at $15 or less, which beats a nasty sixer of Bud any day of the week.
We're a wine-crazy society, all sniffing and swirling and sipping our way through dinner. That's why Sheryl Czipott took a chance on Wine Complements, a wine-accoutrements store conveniently located next to Corks. Czipott carries everything from stylish wine racks to hors d'oeuvre accompaniments such as dipping oils and tapenades. There's also the de rigueur Riedel glassware and selection of imported cheeses. All you need to supply are the wines.
Brian Carter and Richard Berkey stock just about every kind of press and grape-crusher in the vineyard. When people come into Stomp Them Grapes, they don't actually make them take off their shoes and socks and squish, but short of that, they do everything in their power to grow winemaking enthusiasts. To help reel shoppers in, they've got books, bottles, buckets, corks and, of course, wine kits with everything needed to produce a unique vintage. Bottoms up!
In 1913, a composer named J.R. Shannon published a song titled "Good Old Denver Town," just one in a rash of Colorado-centric ditties that popped up on pianos in the early 1900s. Thanks to the CU-Boulder Music Library, 21st-century players can tune into the 150,000-plus treasure trove of titles written about D-town and beyond, plus a vast, timeless array of ragtime, Western and Ingram scores. Songs are accessible through the Digital Sheet Music Collection, an Internet database that's searchable by genre and title. Though the collection's primary mission is to preserve old-fashioned music from the player-piano days, the Digital Sheet Music Collection makes a great case for the beauty of life in the modern age.
A veritable museum of acoustic instruments, the Denver Folklore Center is stocked with used and vintage banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, autoharps and guitars from floor to ceiling; it's a sight to make the city's string players sing. A new generation of players can also find inspiration among the itty-bitty things for every skill level and hand size: whistles, tambourines, flutes, recorders and authentic Hawaiian ukuleles. There's also sheet music from around the world, instructional videos and CDs, stands and strings -- even those fancy harmonica neck-wrap thingies that really boost the average Dylan impression. Staffed by players, teachers and die-hard folk loyalists, the Folklore Center strikes the perfect chord.
Ken Hamblin III
Twist & Shout is planning to relocate from its current home as part of the ambitious Lowenstein Redevelopment Project -- but this news shouldn't concern longtime supporters of the store. Indeed, the expansive new space should help the Twist & Shout team provide even more of what's always made the store an oasis in a retail desert: great selection, the city's largest supply of CDs by local artists, staffers who are wired-in and totally approachable, and an atmosphere that's so comfortable you may want to move in permanently.
With the music industry's transition from platters to downloading proceeding at a frantic pace, shops specializing in used CDs are an endangered species. But is still here, and how. The firm's Denver branch is 12,000 square feet and offers a killer selection of more than 70,000 discs and 30,000 used movies. Moreover, the store is outfitted with the listening stations and other accoutrements that are common at places that sell new merchandise, but rare at businesses that peddle previously owned items. For folks who have not joined the MP3 generation and don't want to pay new-disc prices, offers a last chance.
Once upon a time, the competition for Denver's best vinyl haven was fierce -- yet Wax Trax usually came out on top. Today, most of the also-rans are history, while Wax Trax's vinyl branch remains. The reasons are simple: Wax Trax Vinyl inspires intense loyalty among knowledgeable collectors of LPs and 45s because of its great prices, cool selection, and staffers who know more about music than just about anyone in these parts. Simply put, it's a Denver treasure.

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