Cherry Creek’s chic new VINUE Food and Wine Bar brings a unique wine-tasting experience to Denver. The soaring, gallery-like space houses a set of Enomatic® machines that offer a do-it-yourself way to taste wine. Patrons add money to a VINUE card they insert into the Enomatic® wine preservation and serving machines to activate them. The cards are like a proprietary debit card. The machines are organized by type of wine: white, red, champagne and sparkling, and high-end wines rarely available by the taste or glass in traditional wine bars and restaurants. Most wines are available in three price points: taste, half-glass, and glass. The wines are also available by the bottle from your server. The champagne machine is the second of its kind in the United States. The first to enter operation is in the Dallas Mavericks’ stadium.
Proprietors Rebecca Austin and Jorge Alonso want to offer people the chance to taste wine in an environment where they are not intimidated by a sommelier or extensive wine list with pages of unpronounceable names. Many people choose wine by the label – something that appeals to VINUE customers who can window-shop the Enomatic® machines to decide which wines they would like to try. Each wine comes with a placard written by the VINUE staff that describes two things: (1) “What you might taste…” and “(2) “In case you didn’t know…”. The tasting notes and fun facts about the wine invite people to sample multiple wines. For people who are not inclined to pour their own wines, the staff can serve wines by the glass in the traditional fashion.
VINUE has an extensive menu of small plates and a full bar with 17 handcrafted bottled beers. Visitors are invited to choose a perch in one of a number of cozy seating areas. With its black walls and atmospheric lighting, VINUE becomes club-like after dark. The menu of small plates is back-lit for easy review in dim light. Seared diver scallops with chipotle crème fraiche and bacon crumbles are especially tasty and pair well with the Sancerre wine selection and Veuve Clicquot rosé champagne.
Austin and Alonso envision the VINUE experience as savoring 4-5 small plates and 9-10 tastes of wine, all without breaking the bank. Newcomers tend to request a brief orientation, then begin the fun and interactive experience of tasting wines on their own. Some people focus on a single machine for the evening, doing side-by-side tastings. This allows them to taste a number of wines – for example, Pinot Noirs from different regions – to compare terroir and vintage.
The machines are stocked with wines that Austin and Alonso enjoy drinking, so every wine is worth the risk of a taste if not a half-glass or glass. Since opening, Austin and Alonso have learned that Malbecs are the most popular wine they offer – 10% of the wine they sell. They started with two Malbecs and now offer five. Carmenère is gaining in popularity. The most-requested wines are French.
Alonso came to VINUE with 25 years’ experience with Mexico’s Grupo Anderson’s restaurant company. He and partner Austin, a Denver native whose background is in catering, considered a number of restaurant concepts to bring to Denver and settled on three: a wine bar, high-end restaurant, and casual restaurant. VINUE is the realization of the first of their projects. They spent several months walking through Cherry Creek, studying the neighborhood and its demographics, before choosing a space for their food and wine bar.
VINUE has become a neighborhood wine bar, frequented by people who live within walking distance. Some people drive from Cherry Hills and other suburbs to enjoy the VINUE experience. The proprietors note that as the hour increases, the patrons’ age decreases. Approximately 80% of their patrons are women who meet their friends after work. VINUE has already become a popular birthday place, and looks as if it will be equally popular for holiday parties.
Austin and Alonso have a number of plans for VINUE. Later this fall they will launch a weekly wine class with food pairings. On “Movie Night” they plan to start showing classic films, pairing black-and-white cinema with a great meal and excellent wine. They will soon launch their “Around the World” promotion made of international wine flights, where patrons will use a map to “visit” offerings from different countries. They hope to open a second location of VINUE in another area of metro-Denver.
VINUE opened in August 2011. Since that time, Austin and Alonso have welcomed suggestions on how to improve the food and wine bar. They have done some tinkering with the mix of wines since the opening, based in large part on feedback from patrons.
VINUE is located at 2817 East Third Avenue, on the corner of Detroit Street. Stop by to experience Denver’s newest wine bar concept. VINUE is open daily at 4pm. They close at 10pm Sunday through Wednesday, and at midnight Tuesday through Saturday.