Pour a glass and listen to the story of Paul Bonacquisti’s inspiring midlife career change from longtime Denver radio DJ to certified sommelier and winemaker. Winemaking had been a hobby passed down from his grandfather, an Italian immigrant and coal miner, to his father, who made wine in the family’s garage, and now to Paul. Convincing his wife, Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, to take the plunge into a winemaking business took some convincing. In the end, says Bonacquisti, “she really believed in it.”
And she still does, adding that it’s a beautiful partnership. “Paul makes the wine and I drink the wine. That’s research,” she says.
The winery opened in 2006 and has flourished over the past decade. Bonacquisti buys grapes from Colorado, New Mexico, California and Spain, which are then crushed, fermented and finished at the 2,200-square-foot facility.
A couple of wine highlights: The vino tinto made with Spanish grapes has a deep red color and a bold fruit character reminiscent of blueberries. And the Vinny No Neck, named after Bonacquisti’s son, is made with sangiovese grapes and pairs perfectly with the winery’s sausage. Vinny earned the moniker from having a short neck as a baby. “When you’re an Italian in North Denver, it’s not a bad nickname,” says John Vertovec, who works for Bonacquisti. (For the record, Vinny is no longer no-necked.)
Also good with the sausage is the 2016 Colorado-grown cabernet franc. It’s peppery and earthy, but not too heavy on the tannins. I also recommend the whiskey-barrel-aged Colorado Syrah dessert wine. It’s sweet but not overpowering, and perfect with dark chocolate.
And one surprise: the unoaked chardonnay. I confess that I hate chardonnay – that heavy, cloying, yellow wine should be used to strip paint rather than accompany appetizers. By contrast, Bonacquisti’s 2016 Colorado-grown unoaked chardonnay is light and refreshing with a nice citrus balance, the perfect accompaniment for chicken or a pleasant afternoon. The Sunnyside rosé, another kind of wine I usually shun, has a lovely floral bouquet and a delicate taste.
Paul says he wants to make wine accessible and to take the mystique out of it — hence the winery’s down-to-earth atmosphere. Customers want to have a unique experience with food and wine, notes Judi. Millennials, especially, are turning away from chain restaurants in favor of interesting, local venues.
Their other goal is to support arts and education in the north Denver community. To that end, the Bonacquisti Wine Company will host the second annual Northside Wine and Music Festival in partnership with North High School on September 30. A portion of proceeds will support student scholarships.
Bonacquisti Wine Company is at 4640 Pecos Street and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (with live music beginning at 6:30 p.m.), and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 303-477-9463 or visit the Bonacquisti website.