Mazel tov!

One of my little sisters got married tonight. (I thoroughly approve of the guy, as does our dad, or else he’d have ended up in a dark alley, etc., as all inappropriate suitors should. Right? Right.) The limo had Cooks on ice (shudder) and the hapless groom tried to class things up with Korbel Extra Dry. Well, OK, it’s not that hard to outclass Cooks, but still.

I’d been consulting with the restaurant about wine options, and finally I said, “You know what? I’ll buy the two bottles of Prosecco for the toast, and let’s have everybody order by the glass from the wine or cocktail menus.”

This turned out to be a stroke of genius. The bartender/cocktalian at Strings (the Denver restaurant where we had the reception) has been there for 22 years and she kn0ws her shit. (I originally mistyped “shit” as “shot” and well, dammit, she knows her shot too.) There are about 15 wines by the glass, and Strings does not relegate the cheap shit to the by-the-glass menu. There’s some seriously good stuff on there (Pouilly-Fuisse, top-end Napa Cab, etc). And do not neglect the cocktail menu, which has been crafted with care by the aforementioned 22-year bartender. I can’t remember the name (a good sign?), but ask her for the one that involves pear vodka and St. Germain. Trust me.

I have to say that these waiters at Strings went above and beyond to make sure I didn’t get glutened. Every single app they brought out, one of them would whisper to me in an aside, “Don’t eat this one,” or “This one’s cool.” They also brought food out to the limo driver. Props!

The grand finale: I feel kind of like a bitch about this, because I didn’t bring the good shit out until the bride and groom had fled to their kid-free night at the Doubletree. But I went to the good liquor store and demanded that they give me the awesome wine guy (Scott at Arrow Liquors in Littleton, if you’re interested). I gave him a price range ($25-$40 per bottle) and some flavor cues (I know Jenny likes fruity stuff, but I was all, Give me yeast and brioche and all that, and since I was paying, it was my call, hahahahaha). We ended up with two bottles of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut 2000 (I have never seen these guys do a vintage, so this was special). Jenny, I should note, was 14 when this Champagne was bottled.

And ha ha, she didn’t get any of it. She and Josh fled to the child-free confines of the hotel the moment they could get away. Can’t blame ‘em, but ha! We got the good stuff. The really, really, really good stuff. My God. Such yeasty aromas, with a whiff of French bread, sourdough and crusty baguette (all things I can’t have anymore because of the stupid celiac thing — mon Dieu, perhaps this is God telling me to drink Champagne every day instead). We inhaled the aromas and we, well, inhaled the Champagne. And it was good, good stuff.

The end. Well, not really.

I know I’ve been absent for an unforgivably long time, but I hope to make it up to you all will posts about exciting Colorado winemakers (yes, they exist!) like Infinite Monkey Theorem and Bookcliff. I am not exaggerating when I tell you these winemakers will be vying for shelf space in New York, California and Illinois within the next five years, and I’d love to help them get there.

Hope you’ve all had a good summer so far. Let’s raise a glass to air conditioning!

Disneyland for wine geeks

The Wine Bloggers Conference was filled with highlights, but one experience stood out in my mind as the best of the best: Conn Creek’s AVA Room. Let me tell you why.

I’d heard about the AVA Room a month or two before the conference and had really wanted to check it out on my next trip up to Napa, but work got crazy and I never had a chance — so I was ecstatic when our bus pulled up at Conn Creek. We didn’t have time for the full experience, but it was a hell of a taste.

Conn Creek’s AVA Room

The room has nineteen barrels of wine. Fifteen are single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from all over Napa Valley; each of the other four barrels contains one of the classic Bordeaux blending varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot). Each of the Cabs is accompanied by a photo and description of its vineyard of origin along with (this is so cool — yes, I am a nerd) a soil sample. Basically, you taste them all.

Normally, visitors take part in a guided barrel tasting, then create their own Bordeaux blend, bottle it and take it home. Our experience was more casual: We were there for dinner and were sort of left to our own devices, so we concocted our blends in wine glasses (meaning that, sadly, Cuvée Liz lives on only in my memory). Still, although it was just a taste of the full experience, it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was especially fascinating to compare the Cabs to one another and to see how each addition changes the character of your custom blend. I could have spent all day there and never gotten bored. (I think I mentioned that I am a nerd?)

This is the kind of experience I’d like to see more wineries offer: hands-on education, the chance to put yourself in the winemaker’s shoes for a few hours. Perhaps it won’t appeal to the average tasting room visitor, but if you’re fascinated by the process of winemaking and you find yourself in Napa Valley, you may find the AVA Room worth a visit.

Details: Reservations required. $95 per person (wine club members save $30). Offered Thursday through Tuesday at 10:30 and 2. Photos courtesy of Conn Creek.