Noble Riot, at 1336 27th Street, aims to be a wine bar without pretense. Owners Troy Bowen and Scott Mattson run the business as an accessible, fun place to enjoy a glass on its own or to delve into the intricacies of the wine-making world. “Our goal is to make everyone feel comfortable first and then let the geek flag fly,” Bowman says.
These days, the wine bar is open for outdoor lunches on its heated patios; you can also pick up six-packs of wine to go. But, as always, Bowen and Mattson are ready for a deeper conversation about wine. During the pandemic, they've been hosting virtual wine classes to be enjoyed at home.
Bowen developed his philosophy in a roundabout manner. In 2005, he was a freelance stage manager in New York City, and he ended up working at a small wine shop called Vine Wine when he wasn't on tour. At the time, he felt he knew only a little bit more about wine than most of his friends, but his interest only grew.
At Vine Wine, Bowen sold predominantly organic and biodynamic wines, and they inspired him to think of the entire production process. “I always felt like I worked for the winemakers,” he says, noting the greater risk small producers face while trying to practice sustainable, small-scale farming techniques instead of chemically aided mass production. Ultimately, sustainable practices nurture the health of the soil, the vines and the grapes, he says.
Noble Riot focuses on selling wine made “honestly,” Bowen says, explaining that producers do everything they can to avoid using chemicals. This year, between the fires in California and COVID-19, many small winemakers are struggling, which makes “our job even more important — to make sure they’re being seen and represented," he adds.
Part of appreciating wine and the people who make it is understanding the context in which the wine is made. And this is where “Scott is the master of education and teaching,” Bowen says.
The two met after Bowen moved back home to Denver and started working at Mondo Vino, a boutique liquor store at 3601 West 32nd Avenue. Bowen and Mattson shared a dream of opening a wine bar where education and accessibility were at the forefront, and they opened Noble Riot in 2019. Mattson, along with his wife, Nicole, had already opened neighboring Nocturne in 2015 with a similar approach to jazz, cocktails and dining. (They’re currently offering Saturday Supper and Stream: a combination of a three-course meal available for pick-up and a live-streaming performance by jazz artists.)
“People feel very fearful about wine,” Bowen says. "People have this idea...they’re scared to say something wrong." But he assures us that there's no wrong question or answer at Noble Riot. In addition to being ready and eager to talk about wine with customers, the wine bar offers classes that discuss wine from all angles, including grape varieties, regions and their histories, concepts such as biodynamic horticulture and even feature presentations by winemakers.
The topics for Noble Riot's upcoming online classes are the dry wines of Portugal (Wednesday, December 16); the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France (Saturday, December 26); and Wine 101 (Wednesday, December 30). Portions of wine are included in the price of all classes and are available for pick-up beforehand.
Additionally, Noble Riot will host a virtual sabering class on New Year's Eve, when customers will get a bottle of Champagne and learn how to uncork it with an axe (also provided).
Here are some picks, along with his notes, for wines that Bowen says are currently making his mouth happy:
Ruth Lewandowski 'L. Stone' Sangiovese
The winemaker Evan is such a good human, and that isn't exactly necessary to making a good wine, but boy it helps. He specializes in making wines in California but with Italian varieties, and this Sangiovese is unapologetic in each of its regional markers. Beautifully earthy but deliciously giving at the same time.
Louis-Antoine Luyt 'Pipeño Portezuelo'
This is part of a line of bottles that are made to quaff... I mean what says 'Drink Me' more than a liter bottle? Tons of ripe cherry and cranberry notes make this perfect for holiday meals or as a breakfast wine. (You don't have to drink the whole bottle at breakfast, but you'll have more left over since it's a liter.)
Matic 'Get the Party Started' Rizling
This is a Slovenian orange wine that is just so approachable. Orange wines are white wines made like red wines, with some skin contact while they're being aged. That skin contact often adds textural elements you don't always find in whites. Instead of this wine being a crisp, clean, refreshing white, it has a bit of weight, which is perfect for cooler days. Plus it smells like honeysuckle and orange blossom...so entrancing.
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