A former pawn shop at 22nd and Larimer streets seems an unlikely location for sampling Italian wines from the country's famed Piemonte region. But then again, fifteen years ago it seemed equally unlikely that Denver's most successful breakfast restaurant chain would be born on the same corner.
But two doors down from where Jon Schlegel founded Snooze with his brother, Adam, back in the mid-aughts, the restaurateur is at it again with Attimo, a winery and tasting room sourcing grapes from some of northern Italy's best vineyards.
After Schlegel stepped away from the day-to-day operations at Snooze (he's still on the board of directors), he moved with his wife and three-year-old son to Piemonte to learn the winemaking trade. In a small town in the hilly region famed for its Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo grape varietals, he purchased an agriturismo (a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast) and a small vineyard. After studying under some of the region's wine producers, Schlegel produced about 300 bottles from his first harvest in 2013, and since then he's been steadily increasing production while continuing to improve his winemaking skills.
Just over a year ago, he secured the building at 2246 Larimer Street, which was one of several pawn shops on the block, and began building Attimo, tearing out part of the second floor to make room for tall stainless-steel fermenters. At the same time, he began making friends with other Piemontese growers, since his own vineyard proved too small to provide all the grapes for the new winery. "How do you make great wine?" Schlegel asks. "You become partners with the best grape growers in the world."
Attimo's primary method of creating wine is to harvest and crush grapes in the Piemonte and Langhe regions of Italy and then ship the juice, which first undergoes primary fermentation, to Denver. At the Larimer Street facility, the product is finished through various methods of aging, blending and secondary fermenting. Oak barrels of various sizes hold wines that will soon be served in the tasting room or sold in bottles, or they could be held for the next year to add depth and complexity. Surprisingly, Schlegel was able to obtain a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation for his Barolo, which demonstrates just how Italian the wine is considered by the country's own government.
Schlegel explains that "Attimo" is Italian for "a moment," and it's at the urban winery's tasting room that you can relax and enjoy a moment with wine flights, Italian-style cocktails and food meant to pair nicely with both. Menu items, developed by chefs Marc Lanteri and Amy Bellotti of Lanteri Restaurant (near the vineyards where Attimo's grapes are grown), range from lecca-lecca (crunchy grisini breadsticks wrapped in prosciutto) to agnolotti del plin (plump pasta pockets filled with braised short rib) to polpette piccole (miniature meatballs in tomato sauce). Many of the menu items are shareable, including salumi and cheese boards or burrata with giardiniera and focaccia. Or you can let the kitchen prepare your group a Tutto Posto, a selection of the day's meats, cheeses and vegetables, for $8 per person. The tasting room is intimate and casual, with table seating, a long bar where wines on tap are poured by the glass, and lounge seating with comfortable couches. A semi-enclosed patio will soon be added, and there are also private dining options for large groups.
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The house wines are surprisingly affordable, considering the arduous journey they undergo from vine to glass. Five whites (sparkling, bianco, Chardonnay, Arneis and rosato) come in at $6 or $7 for a six-ounce pour, while reds (rosso, Dolcetto, Barbera d'Alba, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Barbaresco and Barolo) range from $7 to a pricier $18. Wines can also be purchased by the bottle, and there's an Attimo wine club you can join for $25 or $50 a month.
Schlegel says he was inspired to open his first restaurant by the time he was thirty, and then to make a life-changing move to Italy by the time he was forty. "Piemonte is going to be in our life forever," he explains. Even though he no longer lives in Italy full-time (choosing to visit several times a year, especially during harvest and crush season), he's brought a piece of Piemonte with him to Denver to share with wine lovers looking for a little attimo of their own.
Attimo opens to the public at 2 p.m. today (Friday, January 10), and the first fifty people through the doors will receive a bottle of wine. After today, the winery will be open from 2 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 2 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Call 720-287-4988 or visit the Attimo website for more details.