By Melanie Wong
In a resort town dotted with world-class hotels, acclaimed restaurants and clients with a taste for the gourmet, it isn’t hard to find a good glass of wine.
What might be a bit more difficult to find is a truly unique wine experience – something different and interesting you won’t find in every restaurant.
SneakPEAK rounded up a few of our top picks for the next time you’re looking for a special wine and dine adventure.
The Metropolitan – Beaver Creek
The Metropolitan, a wine and tapas bar located in Beaver Creek Village, is perfect for anyone who likes to window shop.
The restaurant boasts the valley’s only Enomatic wine machine – 16 wines are displayed and kept fresh in a glass case, and customers can purchase a wine card, allowing them to buy 1.5-, 3- and 6-ounce glasses. The concept not only is a fun way to sip, but works well for larger groups and gives diners flexibility in their choices.
“It’s the whole concept of it being interactive. It’s been hugely popular and accounts for 40 percent of our wine sales right now,” owner John Shipp says. “It puts you in charge of your own wine program.”
Shipp first heard about a similar machine in a Denver restaurant and balked at the idea of a “wine vending machine.” However, when he saw the machine in action, and found out about a new model that allowed people to select different quantities, he was sold.
Wine and operations manager Darryl Slate rotates the selections constantly and says he tries to keep a wide variety. You might even find $300 to $400 bottles in there at times, giving customers a chance to try a wine that they might not normally purchase as an entire bottle.
You can order off a more extensive list as well. Slate keeps around 85 selections available from all over the world, with an emphasis on Spanish wines to compliment the tapas menu.
The Met holds several Wine and Tapas Socials throughout the summer, with the first on July 12. For $45, diners sample a selection of wines and tapas for the evening.
What’s special: An Enomatic wine machine, which allows you to choose from 16 different wines. You can choose pours from 1.5 ounce, 3 ounce and 6 ounce increments.
Top pick: Slate says his current favorite is the 2009 Vall Ilach “Embruix” Priorat. “It’s a big, meaty wine, from Spain,” he says.
Juniper – Riverwalk, Edwards
Juniper owner Doug Abel’s love affair with wine began in 1997 when the restaurant he worked for sent him to Napa Valley on a wine trip.
“I had never been before and was a neophyte as far as wine was concerned. I got hooked,” he says.
It naturally follows that when Abel opened his own restaurant, it would have an impressive wine list. He puts a particular emphasis on making a large number of wines by the glass available – 34 to be exact – and also offering half bottles. The idea is to give diners flexibility: If you want to just come in and enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, you have a big selection. If a table wants to get a couple different kinds of wine, they can order from a wide selection of half bottles without compromise.
Juniper keeps a large selection by anyone’s standards, with wines from the United States, France, Italy, Spain and Australia, to name a few. Abel holds onto some bottles for a few years, a treat for customers who want older wines.
Through different wine events and meeting with wine representatives, Juniper tries to keep its list fresh and also introduce less conventional selections. Right now, Abel says he’s smitten with rieslings.
“I like to add a couple of wines that are more misunderstood,” Abel says. “There’s this notion that rieslings are sweet, but that’s not really the case. There can be some phenomenal dry Rieslings out there.”
What’s special: An extensive wine-by-the-glass selection and wines you can enjoy without a meal.
Top pick: Abel’s picks are the white 2010 Chateau Montelena Riesling and red 2008 Van Duzer Estate Pinot Noir.
“Both are drinking wonderfully, and both represent the grape and the area’s terroir so well. The riesling is dry and crisp and perfect for our hot days. The pinot is classic Burgundian style with great fruit and an earthy nose. Really can’t go wrong!”
Blu’s – Vail Village
Owner TJ Armstrong says that Blu’s has a “unique” wine list, meaning you might find selections that you probably won’t find elsewhere in the valley, such as rarer vintages. However, he is quick to point out that Vail is chock-full of great wine lists.
“Things are available to us that normally wouldn’t be in a town of this size,” Armstrong says. “We have a marvelous selection of wine in this valley.”
Armstrong has a unique approach to pairing – if a customer asks for suggestions, he’ll point them to what might go well with the meal, but he’s always looking for the opportunity to challenge palates if they’re willing. But bottom line: A good pick is what tastes good to the customer.
“There’s a lot of hoopla about wine that is complete BS. The ‘best’ wine is in the eye of the beholder,” Armstrong says. “It doesn’t matter what a master sommelier, critic or I think – it’s the customer’s bottle of wine. That’s straightforward, but gets lost in the shuffle.”
He sees wine as the “ultimate condiment” meant to compliment the flavor of the meal, and sees his role as presenting customers with choices – showing them to a door and allowing them to walk through, if you will.
Armstrong, along with help from his staff, hand-select the wines served at the restaurant. He wants customers to have choices and value, too – the 150 to 170 wines on the list range from $20 to $400 bottles.
When Armstrong first started choosing wines, he stuck with domestics, but soon branched out and now picks pours from all over the world.
“I was provincial. But as time went by, I’d go other places and get better values,” Armstrong says. “To be diverse, you need representations from all over the world.”
What’s special: Rare vintages, wines you won’t find elsewhere and an unconventional approach to pairings.
Top pick: Armstrong says one of his best Pinot Noirs is a 1995 Mongeard-Mugneret, from Vosne Romanee, France.