March 26, 2012
[caption id="attachment_28" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="The 2011 vintage is tasting good."][/caption]
Part of the fun of being a winemaker is checking in on the wines as they progress from crush to bottling. There’s plenty of science behind how to shape wine, but none of that can supercede tasting and experience to get a feel for what a vintage is looking like.
Well, after countless barrel samplings over the course of the last four months, it’s safe to say 2011 is shaping up.
“It’s great,” winemaker Paul Bonacquisti says. “Everything is great. I like it so far — I’m not really complaining.”
Wines in Oak
2011 Zinfandel (Lodi)
Paul’s words are a little explicit (in a great way) when describing the flavors that are exploding out of the oak barrels of this wine. It’s his favorite in barrel right now, with smokey and jammy flavors popping through. “It’s everything you look for in a Zin.” The wine is being aged in a mix of American and French oak. Expected release of summer 2012.
2011 Cabernet Franc (Palisade)
Cabernet Franc is the darling of the Colorado wine world, an interesting red that can break the monotony of California Cabernet Sauvignon. “Patience pays off,” Paul says. That means Cab Franc is usually a late bloomer. In it’s infancy, right now, it’s showing off strong green pepper notes that will die down over time as the fruits come through. This will likely be a single-grape bottling although there could be a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in for balance. Expected release of late 2012.
2011 Pinot Noir (West Elks)
We received a teeny, tiny bit of West Elks Pinot Noir this year. It’s a bit green right now with some earthy flavors coming through. We’re guessing this will be a blending candidate because of the small amount (1/2 barrel) of this wine. We’ll keep you posted as it matures.
Wines in Stainless Steel
2011 Riesling (West Elks)
Oh, it’s fun to geek out with Riesling. Even early on, this wine showcases all the interesting flavors that make it one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet. The current vintage exploeds with lavender armomas. Minerals and apples hit the palate, alongside a peachey thing. There’s a good amout of acid in it right now, and it will likely be blended to level that off and finish with about 1 percent residual sugar. Release date: March 31st at the Spring Release Party.
Rosé of Cabernet Franc (Colorado)
The coloring is a perfect salmon from a few hours of skin contact on this dry-style rose. Grapefruits, strawberries and sunshine are popping through. It’ll be reminscent of Taval roses. There will be only 50 cases of this wine and it will be released to wine club members first. Release date: March 31st at the Spring Release Party.
2011 Chardonnay (Colorado)
We haven’t introduced oak or malo latic fermentaion to this Chardonnnay so it’s very crisp and full of tropical fruit. There are no buttery or meaty flavors that come with oaking. It’ll be a great summertime wine, but will likely be blended.
March 01, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1284" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="The final design. Fill up! "]
By now you've heard about the coolest thing to happen to Colorado wine since ... ever. Yup, we've launched a jug wine program, and are excited to see 5280 magazine write all about it. This new offering is geared at doing two things: Making jug wine cool again and giving those in the area an easy way to fill up a liter of wine for next to nothing.
To achieve this, we figured the look would have to be almost as important as the actual juice in the bottle. Almost.
So we worked with Local Winos Media and talented graphic designer Stephanie Mott of Dragon Belly Creative to devise a jug label that both caught customers' eyes and explained just exactly what we are up to. See, this is more than just a jug of wine. It's an invitation to return to the winery over and over again to refill it. For just $20, you can walk out the door with a full liter jug of the day's offering. Come back, and it's just $12.99.
"The label helps define the wine jug as a cool, urban commodity while retaining Bonacquisti's overall upscale brand," says Stephanie Mott, the label designer and Dragon Belly Creative owner. "The concept of a refillable jug is rather new, so we added instructions as a playful, yet practical, way to explain what this is all about. The jug is very much targeted to the Sunnyside neighborhood, so the addition of the Jug No. will be something of a 'badge of honor' for locals."
It works just like the beer growler programs at any of the city's great beer breweries. We just figured it was time for wine lovers to have the same opportunity.
Throughout the course of a few weeks, we worked on several ideas for the label. Atop this page is the one we picked. Below are several options we considered too. Did we get it right? Please be honest and tell us in the comment forum below. Cheers!
[caption id="attachment_1283" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="A start to a very simple concept."][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1282" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="Going with a text heavy, and simple look."][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1280" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="Yeah, it's Made in Sunnyside"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1281" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="This was thisclose to being our top option. "][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1279" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="So was this."][/caption]
Did we pick right?
Visit the tasting room at 4640 Pecos St. between 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Thursdays–Saturdays to get your jug or refill it.
December 05, 2011
[caption id="attachment_1137" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Crushing it at our Denver winery on 46th and Pecos."][/caption]
Crush is one of the busiest times of the winemaking calendar, starting with the early ripening grapes of September and lasting, at times, until November. While the harvest is usually synonymous with the actual vineyards, we get just as busy in downtown Denver. Here’s how it all shakes out.
Step 1: The Order
Perhaps the trickiest part of operating an urban winery in Denver is finding grapes. If you’ve been to the winery, it’s obvious the fruit doesn’t come from around the corner, rather from more than 200 miles away in either the Grand Valley or Paonia in most cases. The trick is tracking down the key grapes of Bonacquisti (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Pinot Grigio) from the local purveyors, which is a process that starts in spring as winemaker and owner Paul Bonacquisti begins negotiating with the growers. Then it is a simple game of wait and see. As in wait for the grapes to ripen and see if there’s some fluke weather storm or act of nature that hurts the crop. See, the urban winery gets his or her share cut long before the winery that owns the vineyard. There’s of course a backup plan: Lodi or some other high end West Coast AVA. Paul sources certain grapes from there every year that don’t grow in Colorado, such as Zinfandel, and has a few phone numbers on speed dial if there’s trouble with the local grapes if there’s an early frost or a mishap with bird netting.
Step 2: The Harvest
While Paul never has to pick the grapes himself, he is an important part of the actual harvest process. Once grapes are secured, he is in constant communication with the grower as harvest nears, learning of the ripening process on a near daily basis. Depending on the wine style, there will be a certain target brix reading (a measure of the grape’s sugar) that will signal him to tell the grower to pick!
Step 3: The Delivery
Once the call to pick is given, it sets in motion a process that doesn’t end until a truck has arrived filled with grapes to 46th and Pecos. As delicately as possible, harvested grapes are placed in bins and packed into a refrigerated truck, which leaves once it’s loaded and heads straight for the Front Range. Paul has a few day’s heads up to when the grapes will arrive and is hopefully able to spread out delivery of the harvest of over the course of a few weeks. That’s not always the case; in 2008, he received a record 11 tons from various growers in one day. Luckily there was plenty of wine to consume once the stress of the day was behind.
Step 4: The Crush!
With bins full of white and red grapes, it’s time to start making wine. The crush part of the process varies by grape style. In the case of whites, the juice is pressed and the skins, seeds and stems are removed shortly after to leave a clean, crisp must to ferment in stainess steel. In the case of red wine grapes, Paul presses the juice out but leaves the pieces in the wine after the crush. This allows the color, tannins and body to extract from the skins, seeds and stems. During this process, the byprodcuts are mashed down every few hours to integrate the additives into the wine as much as possible.
Step 5: The Fermentation and Storage
Once the labor intensive part of crush is over, the waiting beings. Paul triggers the fermentation process, which turns sugar into alcohol. He can control when to stop this, meaning he dictates the final alcohol and sugar levels. Once the desired balance is reached (for most of his wines, Paul ferments until all the sugar is gone leaving wines dry), it’s time for storage and aging. Depending on the wine, this can mean time in stainless steel or oak or both, and the time that it sits there varies from a few months for some to a year or more in oak for others. This step includes, of course, lots of tank and barrel sampling, and when Paul determines the wine is ready, it's off to bottling. Then it's not too much longer before you can enjoy it.
Learn more about the winery:
October 24, 2011
[caption id="attachment_1262" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="Making jug wine cool again: Our new growler-esque program launched at Club Wino in January."][/caption]
There are two schools of thought when it comes to jug wine. One side simply thinks it's garbage, which comes from five decades of U.S. wineries putting the cheap stuff in jugs. The other, however, understands its rustic roots tableside in Italy and potential for value and quality. So it’s time to forget about the wine synonymous with jugs, Carlo Rossi, and get some good wine in a large format.
We’re getting ready to unveil our new jug wine program. It’s our way of becoming an even bigger part of the North Denver scene. Our jugs will work in a similar manner to the way Denverites have been filling growlers of beer at local breweries for years.
Why should beer geeks get all the fun?
It’s just another thing we’re doing at the winery to decrease our environmental impact. In this case, we’re going green by reducing the number of bottles needed to get our delicious wine out to consumers.
Plus we’re making it even more convenient to drink our wine. All you need to do is bring back the jug (or purchase your first one at the winery), and we’ll clean it and pour wine straight from a stainless steel container or keg system.
It’ll cost just $20 to get either Vinny No Neck (a rustic, Italian-style Sangiovese blend) or [d] Red (an everyday drinker) filled to the brim in a 1-liter bottle. After that, it's just $12.99 to get a refill (which is 25 percent more wine than what comes in our bottles that cost $16 or more). For those who really want to party, we'll also fill a five-liter jug for just $55 (about $8 a bottle for nearly 7 bottles worth), plus a $10 deposit for the jug. You'll need some great friends over to help out.
[caption id="attachment_1324" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo by Jess Hunter/Denver Off the Wagon"][/caption]
That’s not to say we’re pricing out our bottles. Each vino vessel has a distinct purpose. The jug wine is for immediate consumption — as in the first 30 days it’s sealed at the winery. It’s perfect for when you have a few friends coming over and you don’t want to empty a bottle too quickly. Plus, putting a quality jug on the table is a perfect conversation piece for your party — your friends will think you are such the trendsetter.
Jug wines are cool again!
Buying a bottle (or a case) is ideal for the times you don’t know when you’ll be popping the cork or if you want to lay down a bottle to age it for a few years.
So it’s better to buy a jug for tonight and stock up on a few bottles for next week or month.
Buy a filled 1-liter jug for $20 (wine club members get first dibs) and fill it with either Vinny No Neck or [d] Red; refills are just $12.99. Jugs are available from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Thursdays–Saturdays at the winery, 4640 Pecos Ave., Unit I. Call 303-477-WINE for information.
October 11, 2011
It all started so simply in 2006 when Paul Bonacquisti lost his job as a radio DJ due to his station flipping formats. The logical step, of course, was to open a winery smack dab in the middle of Denver in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
Well, it wasn’t that logical in most people’s minds. See, at the time, urban wineries weren’t trendy nor popular, and consumers still thought a trip to a picturesque vineyard was in order for the full wine-drinking experience.
If five years in business tells you anything, Bonacquisti Wine Co. has changed that perception and hordes of consumers from downtown to the far reaches of Colorado continue to find out that good local wine can be made right here in the city.
As it celebrates its fifth anniversary on Oct. 13, it’s time to take a look back at Denver’s Urban Winery throughout the years.
2006: Falling Right In
[caption id="attachment_916" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Paul and Judi get ready to cut the ribbon to make it official!"][/caption]
The tasting room doors opened on Friday, Oct. 13, 2006. Yes, Friday the 13th. The public enjoyed six wines, most of which are still in the tasting lineup today — including Bella Risa white, Vinny No Neck red, Delagua Red (now [d] Red), Colorado Syrah and a Colorado Cabernet.
While the winery opened in the fall, Paul was busy throughout the summer preparing the wines, setting up the business, and seeking out label art in the most random of places, the Highlands Street Fair. Fans of local artist Daniel Luna for years, he and wife Judi found themselves right next to Luna's booth where he had a painting that featured, of course, wine grapes. Serendipitously the relationship was made and the label series was created.
The year also included several other highlights, not the least of which was winemaker Paul falling into a stainless steel fermentation tank. While mashing down the cap of grape skins into the rest of the juice from a plank, he lost his balance and was dunked to his waist. That wine, an old vine Zin, later won a gold medal at the 2007 Colorado Mountain WineFest, the winery’s first ever gold.
In its first year, Bonacquisti produced about 1,000 cases of wine. Paul also begin a relentless effort to work with community nonprofits — with educational causes front and center — by hosting the winery’s first event, a fundraiser for Edison Elementary in November.
2007: World Expansion
[caption id="attachment_912" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Paul getting to cleaning."][/caption]
Beyond coming home with a gold at the year’s annual WineFest for the Zin that Paul fell in, Denver’s wine brand was introduced to the world, literally. With inclusion on the wine list at Timberline Steaks & Grill in the Denver International Airport, thousands of passengers from all over the world were exposed to Bonacquisti while waiting for their next flight.
The year also saw the first bins of Colorado Cabernet Franc delivered; the winery won its first medal (a bronze for the 2005 Syrah) at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in the spring; and it grew exponentially, leading to the hiring of two staff members to help with everything from winemaking to garbage duties and working the tasting rooms. "We hired some warm bodies," Paul recalls fondly. Jokes aside, Alex Perry and Deanna Tillion were two sommeliers who did way more than ever asked to help usher the winery's growth.
Lest we forget, the relationship with Daniel Luna, the label artist, paid off with the Bonacquisti Wine Co. taking a silver medal for its label series at the Denver International Wine Competition.
2008: The Great Zin Splatter
[caption id="attachment_913" align="alignleft" width="145" caption="The gold medal 2008 Cabernet Franc in its infant stage."][/caption]
While the big news at the winery was the overall production level — it topped 2,000 cases for the first time — one particular moment stands out. In fact, its date is emblazoned on the wall behind the tasting bar. “Zinfandel 10-9-08” is marked high on the wall, noting the day the Zinfandel splattered. The wine was in a bladder as part of the pressing process and a mistake by the assistant winemaker Alex (he left a mesh screen out) turned into an epic explosion that sent wine all over the place. To compound matters, the annual Grape Jam anniversary party was just two days away.
“(Alex) was covered; he took it point blank,” Paul says. “There was so much on the counter and the floor; I didn’t think we were going to be able to clean in up in time.”
It was a hectic week all around, aided in large part by the single biggest day of grape deliveries in the winery’s history. Eleven tons of fruit from California came on Oct. 7 from several different growers (the winery augments its production with grapes from out of state when Colorado growers can’t meet demands).
[caption id="attachment_932" align="alignright" width="210" caption="Grape stomp at the 2009 Sunnyside Musicfest"][/caption]
2009: The Stomp That Wasn’t
When the annual Sunnyside Music Festival rolled into the neighborhood in September, Paul had the grand plan to hold a community grape stomp. The idea being the neighborhood could help with the winemaking process for a Sunnyside wine blend. Well, the weather didn’t cooperate, and buckets of rain washed out the attempt — after Paul had dragged everything to the park and set up. “It’s never been attempted again,” Paul says.
Bonacquisti also brought home another gold medal at Colorado Mountain WineFest, for its 2007 Cabernet Franc, the first release of that variatel.
2010: Drinking with Friends
[caption id="attachment_915" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="The Fridays Uncorked series kicked off."][/caption]
If there was ever a reason to raise a glass, it came when Judi was named to the Denver Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list of power players in the community. It was a nod to her career in education and community involvement. Half owner of the winery (“She’s the not-so-silent partner,” Paul says.), Judi has been an integral part in every success the winery has achieved over the years.
Plus, 2010 brought Paul some friends when he convinced three other Colorado wineries — Garfield Estates Vineyard, Verso Cellars and Cottonwood Cellars — to open up satellite tasting rooms, forming Colorado Winery Row, officially anointed in March. This meant tons of parties hosted by all four brands, and the kick-off to the Uncorked series (a party the third Friday of every month). Hosea Rosenburg, the Top Chef season 5 winner, even brought his food truck by.
2011: Off the Tap
[caption id="attachment_817" align="alignright" width="199" caption="d Red on tap!"][/caption]
With an effort to be more green, Paul had been researching keg systems throughout 2010, learning that restaurants setups used to pour fresh beer for decades also worked well for wine. Smaller, 11-liter tanks could keep 15 bottles of wine fresh for up to 60 days. So with tap in hand, Paul began selling his wine out of a keg in early 2011 at several leading Denver restaurants, including Linger and The Garlic Knot.
The winery also opened a satellite tasting room in the Highlands at, of all places, a restaurant. Spuntino, a hot Italian eatery at the corner of 32nd and Clay, uses a Bonacquisti tasting room permit to serve [d] Red, Bella Risa and several other wines alongside the tasty creations of chef Raul Salazar. Spuntino is also home to the monthly Colorado wine and food tasting club, Club Wino, co-founded by the Bonacquisti Wine Co. and Colorado Wino.
In terms of kudos, the accolades rolled in — two more golds at WineFest for the 2008 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Riesling, plus said Franc was named one of five wines to drink right now by the Denver Post.
2012 and Beyond
Bonacquisti plans to keep growing in the foodie haven of northwest Denver, making award-winning wines and keeping the Sunnyside neighborhood properly libated. He’s also trying to make jug wine cool again.
Celebrate 5 Years with Bonacquisti
Open House to celebrate five years in business, 1–5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15 at the winery, 4640 Pecos St., Denver. Live music, free snacks and tasting room specials.
September 28, 2011
[caption id="attachment_897" align="alignright" width="180" caption="We bottled some Rowdy Red with the 2008 vintage, with proceeds going to Metro State University scholarship funds."][/caption]
Some might think building a winery is about one simple thing: making wine. While that is certainly the task that takes up most of winemaker Paul Bonacquisti’s day — as does paper work and other business unpleasantries — there’s another equally important task for the winery:
Paul’s goal has always been to become intertwined with the Sunnyside and Denver community, which is why he puts forth several efforts a year to work with neighborhood and citywide nonprofits and causes.
In the past, Bonacquisti i has helped raise money for a variety of causes including Metro State College of Denver, Escuela de Guadalupe, Academia Ana Marie Sandoval, Holy Family High School due in no small part to his wife, Judi's line of work.
As a professional in higher education, Judi tries to align her personal and professional mission of securing quality educational opportunities for all, especially for those who traditionally may have been marginalized.
“Education is a great equalizer, especially for students from a diverse, urban environment," Judi says. "When our communities come together for the benefit of our students, I believe we are securing a better future for society. We all benefit by investing."
Giving back is a family affair, that also benefits the family. If you've ever met Koda, the winery dog, you might know that the Bonacquistis adopted him after learning about the Mile High Weimaraner Rescue from supporting their annual fundraising event. Over the course of the last five years, the winery has directly and indirectly helped raise thousands of dollars to area nonprofits.
Beyond that, if it’s a Sunnyside or Northwest Denver-based organization, Paul loves to get involved. Giving back to the neighborhood is almost as important as making enough wine for the neighbors to enjoy.
"It's a no-brainer. Sunnyside is our home. Northwest Denver is our home," Paul says. "These communities support us, and we want to return the favor."
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