Beer gets the majority of boozy attention over wine here in Denver, possibly because there's very little wine made in Colorado — and Coloradans love their locally made products. But some local business owners have wine on their minds and are trying to showcase boutique wines from around the world made with natural, old-world methods, something that also appeals to the DIY, independent spirit in our state. One of those business owners is Nate Klatt, owner of the Harvest Wine Company and president of the National Wine Week Consortium.
Klatt searches the world looking for wines made with organic, biodynamic and what he calls "non-manipulative" methods, both in the growing of grapes and the fermenting of wine. Harvest Wine Company is a small distributorship that introduces wines from makers and importers into shops and restaurants in Colorado. And the Wine Week Consortium is responsible for gathering Klatt's discoveries — as well as those of several other distributors with similar missions — together for a week of wine tasting and education. Colorado Natural Wine Week runs April 17 to 22, with a series of tastings, dinners, bar takeovers and other events. The Grand Showcase on April 19 is the main attraction for the general public.
The Grand Showcase will pour more than 200 different wines, with a specific focus on ten winemakers from around the world who will be there in person to discuss wine as an agricultural product. And representing Colorado will be Jackrabbit Hill, a biodynamic winery in Hotchkiss on the Western Slope. "We thought it was important to showcase a Colorado producer," says Klatt.
One of Klatt's goals with his distributorship and with Colorado Natural Wine Week is to demystify wine for consumers. "The challenge with Denver is that it has always been a significant beer town and has become a significant distillery and cocktail town," he notes.
But the reasons that Denverites are attracted to small-batch, artisan producers of beer and liquor can also be applied to the wine world, something he sees younger drinkers responding to. "Nationwide, Millenials drink more wine than any other generation before them," he points out. "They're embracing small-estate, agriculture-driven producers."
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Klatt explains that Natural Wine Week was founded by Troy Bowen and three other wine distributors: Natural Wine Company, Volio Vino and Local Merchants of Colorado, and also includes Craft Wines. "We're promoting and educating Colorado about what natural wine is," he says. "The general public may not give as much thought to selecting wine as they do to shopping for organic produce every week."
Most important, he continues, is the finished wine in the bottle, which is why the Grand Showcase and other tasting events are so important. Not every winery Klatt likes carries organic or biodynamic certification, but those that follow traditional practices by growing grapes without modern pesticides and insecticides and by using time-honored methods to produce the finished product stand out. "We look for wines that have a purity of fruit and a transparency of production methods," he says. And he thinks wine drinkers will notice the difference, too.
Colorado Natural Wine Week kicks off with a wine-and-movie night on Monday, April 17, at Proof Wine & Spirits (3360 Larimer Street), with Italian wines and the documentary Senza Trucco – Le Donne del Vino Naturale, which tells the stories of four women making natural wines in Italy. Throughout the week, multiple wine-pairing dinners, bar takeovers and tasting sessions are planned at Denver and Boulder restaurants, bars and liquor stores. The Grand Showcase — in partnership with Slow Food Denver — takes place on Wednesday, April 19, at Space Gallery (400 Santa Fe Drive), from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $39 each or $75 per couple. For a complete list of events with reservation and ticket information, see the Colorado Natural Wine Week website.