So Many Great Restaurants, So Little Wine Time!

The Colorado Statesman

Colorado sparkles in the summer. There’s so much to do! Balmy temperature, mostly clear skies, and terrific hospitality lead to a plethora of options during the lazy days of July and August. Hiking, biking, fishing, eating, drinking.

Did I say eating and drinking?


With the advent of patio season, some of our best restaurants come alive with hot weather menus and interesting beverage programs that are sure to tempt even the most jaded wino and foodie. The hospitality industry is extremely important to our state, and a lot of business is done at this time of year. So here are a few of my favorites; not an exclusive list for sure, but visit one of these gems and see if you agree that they’re primed for summer. If you’re lucky you’ll also run into one of our state’s political insiders ensconced at a prime table. I mean, it’s their summer too, right?

The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille of Denver — centrally located in Larimer Square — is a gathering place for many of our state’s politicos. We always see some of our favorites during the popular lunch hour and for dinner. And the happy hour after work! But even regular citizens can enjoy the Grille’s summer-focused “Generous Pour” program (subtitled “90 In The Shade”), which allows customers to try any or all of seven wines with dinner for only $25 per person from July 8 – September 1. All wines are rated 90 points or higher by major wine press, and each is produced from a different grape variety by a premier California winery.

Diners can enjoy the Grille’s summer-focused “Generous Pour” program (subtitled ‘90 In The Shade’) which allows customers to try any or all of seven wines with dinner for only $25 per person from July 8 – September 1.

“This is the fourth summer we’ve done this promotion,” says assistant managing partner Rob Miller, “and the reception is always fantastic. The whole point is to not have to commit to a single bottle of wine.” Miller, along with managing partner Charlie Stauter, executive chef partner Lawrence Bergstein, manager Don Goodwin, and sales manager Rebecca Chapla, controls the Grille’s customer experience. He is particularly enamored of the Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc with the Lobster and Crab Cakes ($19), but any of the restaurant’s servers can guide diners through as many of these wines as desired, a perfect pairing of knowledge and convenience.

There are also more than 350 world-class wines on the regular and Captain’s lists that hail from all over the world. So go crazy. Try the pear- and butter-tinged Hess Collection Chardonnay out of California’s Napa Valley ($13/glass, $52/bottle) with your Seared Tenderloin with Butter Poached Lobster Tails ($49), or savor Muga’s earthy, blackberry loaded Rioja Reserva from Rioja, Spain ($15/glass, $60/bottle), with a plate of Double Cut Lamb Rib Chops ($43). For dessert grab La Spinetta’s Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglio from Piedmont, Italy ($45/bottle). It’s all good.

The Capital Grille
1450 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80202
Tel: (303) 539-2500
Web: www.thecapitalgrille.com

La Merise Restaurant

Specializing in French cuisine, La Merise in Cherry Creek seats 90 indoors and another 50 on their cozy, flower-strewn patio, a semi-subterranean refuge that is perfect for casual dining. A good move would be to request Chris Hyder, who has been with La Merise since its opening in October of 2011, as your server. But the entire staff is friendly and knowledgeable.


La Merise offers a seasonally adjusted wine and food pairing program that is perfect for any appetite.

“We’ve always wanted to work for ourselves,” says Elena, one of La Merise’s co-owners. Her partner Baiba chimes in that it’s a tough time to find a job, “so why not do it together?” The pair met almost a decade ago in Colorado Springs while working in the hospitality industry. Three years ago they moved to Denver and, along with Chef Scott Burnham, have successfully implemented simple, authentic, country-style French fare in a neighborhood-driven restaurant. They also offer a seasonally adjusted wine and food pairing program that is perfect for any appetite. It features such winners as Beef Bourgignon ($22.95) with Chateau Haut-Monplaisir Cahors ($12/glass, $48/bottle) and a particularly summer-friendly Salmon Cote d’Azur ($23.95) with Chateau Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Entre-Deux-Mers ($11, $44).

La Merise Restaurant
2700 E 3rd Ave
Denver, CO 80206
Tel: (720) 596-4360
Web: www.frenchrestaurantdenver.com

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

As part of its new WinePAD system, consisting of iPads preloaded with an app that helps guests navigate an extensive list, Fleming’s offers the wine-conscious consumer other electronic perks such as label-specific tasting notes, PerfectPairings, Spin the Bottle, and a mood-matching function. “The Fleming’s WiNEPAD™ takes the guessing out of ordering wine,” says National Director of Wine Maeve Pesquera. From my perspective, the WinePAD takes intimidation out of the equation, a huge plus. Perhaps even more importantly in summer, it makes wine pairing a breeze, even while lazing on the patio.

Fleming’s offers the wine-conscious consumer other electronic perks such as label-specific tasting notes, PerfectPairings, Spin the Bottle, and a mood-matching function.

But Fleming’s Englewood, Colorado, Operating Partner Audrey Quistorff and Chef Partner Tony Schioppa do even more with the wine list by keeping their staff up-to-date on pairing possibilities and providing regular tastings, an absolute must when developing a staff that’s attuned to seasonal tastes. While Fleming’s does focus on steak, there are plenty of other options including a “5 For $6 ’Til 7” bar menu, featuring five tempting appetizers, five premium cocktails and five distinctive wines by the glass — each priced at six dollars and served nightly until 7:00 p.m.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
191 Inverness Dr W
Englewood, CO 80112
Tel: (303) 768-0827
Web: www.flemingssteakhouse.com/locations/co/englewood

Hot Time In The City

As previously mentioned, this is not intended as an exhaustive list of Colorado’s excellent seasonal wine and food programs. For one thing, here I’ve focused on the Denver area. I look forward to expanding my reach to the rest of the state, so if you feel I’ve missed a particularly deserving example please email me at the address below and include contact information for the restaurant and a description of what you like most about it.

Now go out and enjoy summer in our wonderful state, and be sure to drop some serious coin at any of our excellent restaurants!

Certified sommelier and unfiltered unfined.com editor-in-chief Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, pens Weinberg’s Wine Tech in Sommelier Journal and has written for the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and The Tasting Panel Magazine, where he is the Rocky Mountain Editor. He also leads luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world’s most famous wine regions via WineOnTheRoad.com. Ben can be reached at BentheWineBerg@coloradostatesman.com