By Kimberly Dean
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
We recently heard through the grapevine that state Senator Greg Brophy, R-Wray, is not just a farmer, but also an avid wine enthusiast. Lucky us! Statesman publisher Jody and I had the chance to sit and have a glass of wine with the Senator one very warm Tuesday evening at Lala’s Wine Bar & Pizzeria in Denver to learn more about his silent obsession.
Jody and I arrived at Lala’s before Sen. Brophy made it into town from far away Wray. He was a tad late, but had a worthy excuse. As he emailed from the road, he was running late because his Dad had surgery earlier that day, and it started late because the surgeon’s cows were out.
We weren’t sure whether to order a glass of wine or wait for our esteemed guest to arrive. Though it may not have been politically correct, we decided to go ahead and order a glass. After all, it was very hot outside, and water just wasn’t going to cut it.
Lala’s, located at 7th and Logan just across from the Governor’s Mansion in Denver, has a unique happy hour that is, according to our server, basically half off wine, depending on the listed price. And, a unique aspect: You can also order one-third and two-thirds bottles, as well as half glasses of wine.
They had such an extensive wine list that I had a difficult time making a selection. Asking our well-informed server, she suggested the Oveja Negra Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere, Chile, normally $9 a glass. Jody settled on the St. Hallett “Faith” Shiraz, Australia, listed for $10 a glass. Pleased with our selections, we took our first sips just as Sen. Brophy arrived and promptly ordered the d’Arenberg “Hermit Crab” Viognier, Australia, another $10 glass.
As we all sat at one of Brophy’s favorite political haunts, “his place,” he informed us that he is a grower of corn and watermelons, primarily, which he sells to local markets. Brophy told us that he has had fundraisers at his farm that included all of his favorite pastimes: farming, wine, bicycle riding, and guns. Guests would come to his events and ride bicycles, drink wine, sit around the campfire, and shoot watermelons. (Hopefully, not at the same time.) The senator also said he normally served red wine, and if you liked anything else, you were welcome to bring your own.
Brophy’s interest in wine grew when he and his wife of 20 years, Angela, were on a wine tour one summer. Between July and October of 2007, the pair took five or six wine classes at the International Wine Guild in Denver, where they learned to pick out every aroma: spices, pepper, green apples, and even leather, among others. They learned about food pairings and desserts. “Like any other topic, the more you learn, the more you want to know,” he acknowledged.
Brophy considers himself a wine snob as much as he is a novice. When the legislature is in session, Brophy and some wine-loving legislators and friends have been known to congregate at their own informal wine caucus near the Capitol. They would have “themed” wine nights, such as Italian wines, or specific varietals. Regulars have included such legislators as House Speaker Terrance Carroll, lobbyist Mary Woodard, and attorney Chris Castilian, whose wife, we are told, is a Sommelier.
The Senator is very adept at social media interactions. He has a Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/SenatorGregBrophy, and his bio reads, “I’m a State Senator in Colorado, I farm for a living, I ride a Trek Madone road bike for fun and I’m married to the coolest girl in the world. We have three kids.” He was once described by a blogger as a “bicycle-riding, Prius-driving eco-freak.” He has a Twitter feed as well. Many things about Senator Brophy may be surprising, including his love for wine.
Sen. Brophy says he doesn’t usually like Colorado wines, but admits that we do a nice Riesling here. He also concedes that Two Rivers Winery, located in Grand Junction, does make good wine. He just doesn’t believe that Colorado has been doing it long enough to perfect anything. “It takes an artist to take a wine from the grape to the bottle,” he pointed out. He believes good American wines typically come out of Washington state, California and Oregon. Seven Deadly Zins from the Lodi region in California and HaLo from western Napa Valley are among his favorites.
Should the current legislature change the laws to allow for wine to be sold in grocery stores, Brophy believes it could have some very real consequences. He views it as a personal issue, not a political one. “If you allow grocery stores to sell everything, a lot of ‘Mom and Pop’ liquor stores will go out of business. They invested a lot of money, assuming a certain set of rules.”
Brophy would rather chat about the actual wine. “You can tell a rich person from a poor person like me. I can tell you where to get a really good wine for under $10,” the Senator jokes.
Sen. Brophy recommends Evolution, a white wine blend of nine varieties from Sokol Blosser, an Oregon winery, for a cost of about $15. He says it tastes good, it’s sassy (has a bite), and it is on the sweet side. He also likes McManis Cabernet Sauvignon from California for about $8 or $9. “Really good wine,” he said.
Some spots around town where you might find Senator Brophy imbibing during one of his rare off-duty moments include : Caveau Wine Bar on 17th Avenue in Denver and Trios Enoteca (apparently they have a great Cabernet and live music) on Wynkoop in LoDo. On the off chance, you might find me there, too!