Step into RiNo's swingin' jazz supper club Nocturne for a sophisticated night of music, cocktails and "Renditions" tasting menus or just a smattering of "Sound Bites" from the appetizer menu. For a similar experience minus the jazz, step around the corner to the alley entrance of Noble Riot, which opens Thursday, April 4.
Nocturne owners Nicole and Scott Mattson, along with wine veterans Joel Kampfe and Troy Bowen, have assembled a lineup of intriguing natural wines, along with a supporting cast of small plates and cocktails, in the intimate bar space that was previously Greenlight Lab. Brighter paint, white tile behind the bar and raucous music welcome wine lovers or the wine-curious, who are immediately set at ease with a menu that boldly proclaims the best thing about drinking wine is that "It's fucking fun."
While traditionalists will find plenty to love here, service spills outside the usual limits of red, white and rosé into harder-to-categorize territory. You may find yourself sipping something orange or cloudy or bursting with equal parts fruit and funk; this is the world of natural wine, encompassing traditional, low-tech grape growing, hands-off fermentation and chemical-free production. While debates rage in the sommelier community about the usefulness of the phrase "natural wine" and its tendency toward the quirky and obscure, there's also an element of approachability: The Mattsons take wine selection seriously, but the presentation is far from stuffy.
To go with the "juice" (as the bottle list is titled), nibbles of cheese, meats and other shareables can make up a dinnertime meal or a late-night snack. Gougères, smoked baba ganoush and farro salad make up the lighter side, while meaty offerings include elk tartare, duck rillettes and venison meatballs.
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Wines are priced by the glass and bottle, with a few cheeky options thrown in, such as a blind tasting that admonishes you to "drink it, don't think it," and an 3.2 percent discount if you decline glassware (although we didn't witness any takers chugging from the bottle during a soft-opening visit).
Wine doesn't have to be an uptight swirl-and-sniff affair; Nicole Mattson prefers that visitors just experience "a party in your mouth."
The Noble Riot space, at 1336 27th Street, is cozy at the moment, but an expansion into the front of the building is in the works, and there's also a mezzanine level that will be used for special wine dinners and private events. A patio is also in the works for the summer months. For now, stop in from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, and 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, beginning April 4. Visit nobleriot.com or call 303-993-5330 for more details.