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denver restaurants, Wine Blog

denver, autumn…and a hankering for barolo (grill).

Finally, that time of year when Barolo Grill starts to sounds like the perfect place to eat once again.  They actually do a fantastic job all year round, but man do they make the foods I crave most when the weather gets ever so crisp and cool.

I have been mesmerized by Barolo Grill since I first moved to Denver over 6 years ago, before I really understood just how much I would grow to love its namesake.  Back then, just getting into wine, I knew Barolo was ‘the good stuff’, but this was before my career in wine, and the opportunity still hadn’t come for me to really get to know this phenomenal wine region in any great length.

I was a vegetarian back then, and their menu was (and still to some extent can be) a little on the carnivore friendly side.

But still…

I always found myself detouring on my runs to check out their latest entrees, driving past on weekends and noticing its ever-packed tables, full of those who were chattering lively and throwing back bottles of red.  I couldn’t help but imagine what went on inside…

And then I went.  Several times now in fact.

So many noteworthy restaurants have sprung up since my initial move to Denver—Table 6, Olivea, twelverestaurant, Squeaky Bean, Root Down, Colt & Gray—but none wear the time and wisdom of the nearly 20 year old Barolo Grill on 6th Avenue.  I may put it on a high pedestal, but I feel it is with good reason.  Where else in the city will you find such a thoughtful, extensive Italian wine list (much to the expertise of Sommelier/Wine Director Ryan Fletter), along with such solid regional cuisine that manages to wear gourmet comfortably?  In other words, you can take your grandparents and your hip foodie friend, and I’m certain both will take away an incredible experience.

As for my incredible experience last Thursday, it began with a blind tasting.  Whenever I go to a place where I’m familiar with the waitstaff, whether from seeing them at industry tastings or functions, I love to see what they would choose.  The selection Fletter delivered was sensational!  Slight oxidized apple on the nose (you know, like when you leave a slice on the counter for about twenty minutes), a hint of lemon curd, dried flowers and roasted hazelnuts and spice.  The minerality quiet, but it was present—like catching rain drops on your tongue.  The acid absolutely rocking, and the length was persistent…generously persistent.

I was delighted to learn that it was a wine I had just ordered into my store with no prior knowledge of it other than its reputation and ageworthy capacity.  I had never actually tasted this 2007 Colli di Lapio Romana Clelia Fiano di Avellino from Campania ever before that evening.  At $26/btl it is well worth it based on complexity and a good 10 years cellar potential alone.   [i]

Following this pretty prelude to dinner, I found myself meeting Cigliuti for the first time, as in the 2001 Cigliuti “Serraboella” Barbaresco.  I didn’t need to taste it to know I was going to be in love.  That nose—God, Nebbiolo—I just love it!  It somehow brings a wide grin to my face in a way no other grape can do.  I am honestly caught in a moment without words for reference.  Yes, it’s the usual roses and tar, musty, dirty, spice box thing.  But it’s something…else.  Coming up for air, I took a sip.

My friends, find a way to get some of this.  This vintage may be difficult to find outside of winesearcher.com, but I can easily hook you up with a current vintage from this phenomenal producer.  This is possibly the most complex Barbaresco I have had in a long time.  Bomb proof it is, and bold enough to stand up to many Barolos out there in the highest of tiers.  This is a traditional style.  It speaks more of the land—of Barbaresco—and pure Nebbiolo than it does of oak, fierce tannin or weight.

This wine paired perfectly with their autumn squash soup with pumpkin seeds and homemade parmesan croutons as well as the red wine bathed risotto.  My fellow foodies had lovely meals of ravioli with a poached egg, pork shank, a seafood sampler and traditional Bolognese.

If you ever get the chance, don’t pass it up.  People get the impression that it’s pricey, but it’s no moreso than any other fine restaurant in town.  The service is fantastic, the ambience classic, the food and wine… memorable.  I recommend pulling up to the bar for a casual night.  That’s usually my favorite seat anyhow!

Bon appetite!

[i] I was able to score some on deal for under $20 a btl on the shelf (sorry—already spoken for).  But there was a lot circulating in Denver on that deal.  If you need help locating some, just let me know!  Otherwise, the new vintage should be released soon!


About mistralwine1982

Originally from Wisconsin, I moved to Colorado in 2005 in order to get closer to the mountains and rock climb. When it occurred to me that I would never make money with that hobby, I went to grad school. I received a masters in English and American Literature from New York University in May of 2009. I have since then opted not to pursue a PhD, for studying and writing about wine is far more fascinating (well, perhaps not moreso than Virginia Woolf, but still… for the long haul?). My favorite wines come from the old world, especially the Rhone, Burgundy, Rioja, Piedmont, and Tuscany. I am also smitten with roses, Italian hard-to-pronounce white varietals, and dessert wines from around the world. By day I run a wine shop. By nite, I sip and tell. It’s rough… but someone must do this.


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