Sketch Wine Bar is a cozy nook of nibbles that specializes in small plates, piping-hot espresso, and a stunning selection of vino. The café breakfast, served until 11 a.m. daily, includes multiple tastes for morning mouths. Herbivores and herbivoyeurs might enjoy the savory flavor of a sourdough or wheat panini ($6.50) with roasted red pepper, dry jack, and caramelized onions, while protein-powered smoothies ($3.95–$4.95) provide meals on the go for busy bees, swamped swans, and overwhelmed warlocks. Scarf down a bagel with cream cheese ($3.50), or graze lazily across a cheese plate with three ($12) or five ($16) selections, like a Where’s Waldo?–seeker enjoying a room full of nothing but Waldo.
The Denver Auto Show acquaints auto buffs and prospective buyers with a vast array of vehicles in a no-pressure environment. This automotive petting zoo lets curious car hunters kick tires, look under hoods, and sit in drivers' seats, getting to know cars, trucks, and SUVs from more than 30 automotive lines. In addition to hopping in many 2011 models, auto aficionados can get a sneak peak at some 2012 vehicles, concept cars, and exotics from Maserati, Lotus, and Lamborghini. Plus, factory and dealer representatives from Chevrolet, Toyota, BMW, and more will be on hand to answer questions and completely disassemble and reassemble cars upon request.
On an otherwise quiet corner of Chicago's Ukranian Village neighborhood, a crowd of 20-somethings spills out onto the sidewalk to smoke and mingle. Like its hipster devotees, The Empty Bottle seems to never sleep. The club keeps late hours and hosts bands or DJs nearly every night, from local showcases to celebrated dance parties such as the Windy City Soul Club. Even in the coldest months, the overfill spills out onto the sidewalk, where crowds huddle together for warmth beneath a black awning that reads “MUSIC/FRIENDLY/DANCING.” Inside, past the pool table and pinball machine, is a doublewide space and a small stage lit by multi-colored lights. Decorated with years of musical and barfly ephemera, the bar sits beneath a tilted chalkboard that displays the daily drink specials and beer offerings. The club prides itself on cheap drinks and cheap admission prices—all the better for checking out local acts you may never have heard before. Don’t try to take advantage of the staff’s friendliness, however, lest they decide to show you how the severed door of a CPD car came to hang above the exit.
A wine tasting should take place without frills. At least, that’s what Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar’s owner David Schneider thinks. “The wine experience that a guest will have at Row 14 is all about trying and enjoying wine without the pretense that can be associated with it,” he explains on the restaurant’s site, adding, “Wine should be casual and conversational.” He opened his eatery in March of 2011 to bring his envisioned atmosphere—one that’s “sophisticated yet approachable”—to Denver. He partners an understandably extensive wine list with a menu that changes seasonally. All of the ingredients used are thoughtfully sourced from local farmers who adhere to sustainable practices. Items ranging from cheese plates and PEI mussels to lamb bolognese and roasted duck breast join glasses and bottles or reds, whites, and sparkling wines. The décor is minimal and modern, with sheer golden curtains matching honey-colored booths. Gray walls hoist abstract work above a deep brown, tree-like divider that runs through the center of the eatery. Overhead, gray lanterns cast soft light over the wooden tables, and an outdoor patio allows for al fresco dining.
Owner and senior wine instructor Dani Cross created VinBoutique with a mission to introduce palates to the best French wines. A certified level-III sommelier, Cross personally travels to France to hand-pick vintages from small production companies and develop relationships with local vintners, ensuring her customers enjoy a collection of reds, whites, and bubbly that is exceptional not just in craftsmanship and taste, but also in value. "By tasting my wines, you can actually hone your palate way quicker because [the wines are] technically correct" in the way they are selected, shipped, and stored, she says. "If you're not tasting something that's proper, you won't know what chardonnay is supposed to taste like."
A strong belief that wine should be enjoyed and shared with others inspires VinBoutique's tasting classes, where Cross and other wine experts share insights into different varietals, food pairings, and wine-making techniques. Using an approach designed to be both fun and unintimidating, Cross also includes a question-and-answer section, as well as easy-to-follow tasting notes, making her classes accessible to everyone from the casual wine fan to the connoisseur who can uncork a bottle using only their mind. As Dani continued to try new wines and savor her favorite French vintages, she became dismayed. Often, the wines she bought had been stored improperly or for too long, destroying the bouquets and noses that she loved. "Born of frustration, I decided to start my own [wine boutique]." And thus she curated a selection of French wines for VinBoutique. "By tasting my wines, you can actually hone your palate way quicker because [the wines are] technically correct" in the way they are selected, shipped, and stored, she says. "If you're not tasting something that's proper, you won't know what chardonnay is supposed to taste like."
In addition to bottles of red, white, and bubbly, Dani and a team of instructors offer wine classes suitable for everyone from the casual wine fan to the connoisseur who can uncork a bottle using only their mind. Each class comes with notes and take-home materials, and is taught by a teacher who can both go into great technical detail or give thorough overviews so that student's don?t "get cross-eyed."
The vintners at Wild Women Wine make it their mission to throw back the curtain on the mysteries of the winemaking process. The team invites visitors to concoct a personal wine batch of their own, modifying favorite house varietals with touches of oak, tannin, spice and other flavors. Each custom wine culminates in a bottling party, where the wine auteur, along with family and friends, can bottle, cork and label their bottles instead of just drinking it out of a communal bucket like usual.
For less hands-on pours, the boutique winery's wine list hosts a vast array of already-bottled varietals. Wines range from dry reds and whites, sweet wines, and a fortified dessert port.