License to Swill

Some neighbors were confused last year when Café Caliente, a Highland Square coffee shop, began serving wine: The business, they knew, didn’t have a liquor license.

But the issue was sorted out when Paul Bonacquisti, owner of Denver vintner Bonacquisti Wine Company, 4640 Pecos Street, told them he’d pulled a winery license for the café that allows the shop to sell Bonacquisti wines on his behalf. “Colorado wineries can have up to five additional tasting rooms, either temporary or permanent,” he said. For instance, when he sells at festivals or farmer’s markets, he pulls a tasting-room permit.

Although a handful of restaurants sell his wine, along with more than a dozen liquor stores, Café Caliente is the only one with this kind of arrangement. It means customers have to pay separately for their wine if they order something else there, but the people sitting on the outdoor patio last Saturday enjoying the sun and a glass didn’t seem to mind. And Paul Bonacquisti hopes that will continue to be the case since he plans to bottle 1,600 cases of wine in 2008 – starting later this month – up from 1,200 cases last year. “A lot of people are interested in local,” he says. “So I need to get to the point where I can distribute without running out of wine here at the winery.” -- Jonathan Shikes