For 25 years, Jorge Alonso was a partner in Grupo Anderson's, the Mexican restaurant conglomerate that owns Señor Frog's, which, if you didn't know already, is where tourists who trot off to the resort towns in Mexico go to get drunk, hook up and pass out -- usually in that order.
Alonso retired from the restaurant group -- Mexico's largest -- two years ago, and moved to Denver in 2009 to uncork a new wine bar that is nothing, thank god, like Señor Frog's. "My best friend lives in Denver, so I visited here often, and I wanted to open some concepts of my own," and Denver, says Alonso, was the ideal city in which to launch that concept: Vinue Food and Wine Bar, which opened in Cherry Creek North on Friday.
"Denver has really grown up with regard to high-end restaurants, and the timing was perfect for what we wanted to do, especially since Cherry Creek didn't have a wine bar," explains Alonso, who runs Vinue with his business partner and Denver native, Rebecca Austin.
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The lounge, which resides above Machete, a rollicking Mexican joint with a rocking patio scene, is the exact opposite of its downstairs neighbor: Flamboyantly elegant with its cream-hued leather chairs and sofas, crystal light fixtures, magenta velvet and backdrop of vintage black wallpaper, the surroundings are distinctly extravagant. And there's wine, port and champagne at ever turn, the bottles propped behind glass facades, all of which are dispensed in portion-controlled pours using the Enomatic wine system. "Guests can charge however much they'd like, we give them a card, and they can walk around, taste wines and just have fun," says Alonso, adding that the "beauty of it all is that you can taste a $300 wine without having to buy the whole bottle" -- although there's nothing stopping you from doing just that. And the wines, of which there are 58, plus dessert wines and ports, sparklings and Champagne, span the globe. "You name it -- we have wines from all over the world, and they range from $2.75 to $19 for one-and-a-half ounces, depending upon the wine, "he notes. But since man (or woman) can't live by wine alone, Vinue also serves small plates, charcuterie, flatbreads and desserts. Alonso hired Kevin King, who cooked at a Denver Marriott, to spearhead the kitchen. "He's a Johnson & Wales graduate, and he comes to us with a lot of really good experience," says Alonso, who describes the food as "grown up world cuisine."
Alonso says the wine and food bar will switch out the wine selections once a month, "depending upon what's in season and what's moving," and he's also planning to host thematic wine-and-food dinners in the future. "We'll have an Italian night, for example, with all Italian wines and food, so people can get a taste of what it feels like to actually take a trip there," he explains.
Vinue is open Sunday through Wednesday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight. Call 720-287-1156 for info.