On Sunday I set out to visit 2 wine stores in the Central Platte Valley: Little Raven Vineyards, on the river side of the Millennium Bridge, and Corks, on Platte at 16th Street.

One thing they had in common: I didn’t recognize most of the wines at either store. It’s amazing how many wineries there are. Learning wine is like exploring the universe—it’s always expanding around you.

The main difference: Just about everything else.

Little Raven Vineyards (LRV), which is, according to Glenn Ehrlich of Corks, the second wine store in that location, is an elegant place. The wines are arranged by country (except for the North American and Colorado wines), and when you walk in this display of discounted bottles greets you.

LRV’s motto is “A Collection of Undiscovered Wines,” which the owner collects from vineyards around the world. I wrote down quite the list, which I’ve shortened here for you: Double Dog Dare, Mirth, Cupcake (I liked the citrusy chardonnay), Queen of Hearts, Fire Station Red, Sultry, Sinister Hand, Spellbound, Patriarca Chianti Classico, Out Riesling, and the one that appealed most to me because of the label and the blend: the Offering, with 49% grenache, 37% syrah, 13% mourvedre, and 1% viognier.

And those were mostly North American wines plus one Italian. Little Raven has more North American, French, and Italian wines than anything else. I found one Torrontés, Elsa Bianchi from Argentina, which I bought; the store was mostly out of Chilean wines.

Skyler Weekes presided over the store while I was there; as I walked around, I could hear the fan as well as jazz playing softly. The owner is Peter K (What is this, a nineteenth-century novel?).

The atmosphere at Corks, which opened 10 years ago before Platte Street was a destination, was altogether different. I crossed the threshold and nearly ran into a display of sparkling wines, including a Prosecco, Toad Hollow Risqué, and Barefoot Bubbly. I noticed Patron coffee liqueur, which I never knew existed, Cachaça 51, and Foxglove wines. The store carries several of the latter, although its policy is to sell only 1 or 2 wines from smaller vineyards, priced at $15 or under.

(Corks resembles Little Raven in its focus on less well known vineyards. Glenn also pointed out that larger liquor stores can buy the better known brands in quantity and sell them for less than what Corks would pay its distributor.)

Wines aren’t arranged on racks; instead, they’re clustered in crates under signs such as “Crisp—light-bodied” and “Voluptuous—full-bodied.” Unlike Little Raven, where you could walk quickly to a particular wine if you wanted, Corks arranges its wines so that you have to step carefully and, in the process, stop to read the tasting notes provided for every wine.

As I was taking notes on the wineries (Corks carries the Mirth label, as well as Crios wines, a South American vineyard owned by Susan Balbo), I noted Snoqualmie and Geode chardonnays, a No Time Viura-Chardonnay blend, and Bitch wines with a pink label.

Glenn asked me what I was doing, and when I told him about this blog, he mentioned that once a man from a competing store had visited Corks to write down wines his store should be carrying. Glenn thought that was a bit cheeky. We had a long discussion about Colorado liquor laws; I looked them up online and found this under Definitions in the Liquor Code:

(31) “Retail liquor store” means an establishment engaged only in the sale of malt, vinous, and spirituous liquors and soft drinks and mixers, all in sealed containers for consumption off the premises; tobaccos, tobacco products, smokers’ supplies, and nonfood items related to the consumption of such beverages; and liquor-filled candy and food items approved by the state licensing authority, which are prepackaged, labeled, and directly related to the consumption of such beverages and are sold solely for the purpose of cocktail garnish in containers up to sixteen ounces. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the sale of food items that could constitute a snack, a meal, or portion of a meal.

Note that restriction at the end? Liquor stores are not allowed to sell food unless it can be used as part of a drink.

Why is that important? Because grocery stores want to sell regular beer and wine. Ever since the Colorado blue laws were repealed, they claim they’ve been losing money on alcohol sales.

Not so, counters Glenn. It’s true that grocery store liquor sales are down, but all sales are down in this economy. And he said most liquor store owners didn’t want to open on Sunday in the first place.

If McFayden and Veiga of the Colorado state legislature manage to get their bill passed in the current session, grocery stores will be allowed to sell liquor, but liquor stores will not be able to sell food. Glenn says if that law passes, Colorado liquor stores won’t be able to compete.

When I was in Louisiana for Todd’s surgery to correct superior canal dehiscence syndrome, I bought wine at Rouse’s grocery store. I don’t recall seeing a lot of liquor stores on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain (except for daiquiri drive-throughs), but I didn’t really pay attention. It was convenient to buy a bottle of wine with groceries, I have to admit, but there wasn’t anyone there to discuss wines with me. That is more important to me than convenience.

Colorado, unlike Louisiana, has set up its liquor laws in a way that favors smaller stores, and in this economy, I would like to see those stores stay in business. They return a larger percentage of their revenues to the community than do grocery store chains, which would be the main beneficiary of the proposed changes in liquor laws.

Leave A Comment

  1. Catherine January 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    I’ve been to LRV and left empty handed which is rare for me and a wine store. I guess you could say I wasn’t that impressed. As for Louisiana I think they’re called package stores. They are in AL & MS. Riddle me this: the bible belt sells liquor in their grocery stores and their package stores are open on Sunday. Yet here in the moderate Midwest we still have blue laws.

    Even if I could pick up a bottle of wine along with the twinkies I would still go to a store for the variety.

  2. Beth Partin January 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    That’s interesting. There were so many wines I didn’t know there that I’m sure I could find a few to try. But I think Corks might be more my speed, since it has the tasting notes.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..Denver Shops: Savory Spice Shop in South Platte =-.

  3. Mary January 27, 2010 at 8:39 am - Reply

    This was quite the informative post. I didn’t know most of that about the liquor laws.
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..A final Mile High moment =-.

  4. Beth Partin January 27, 2010 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Thanks. I wish I had the time to read more of that stuff.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..Denver Liquor Stores: Little Raven and Corks =-.

  5. […] yesterday’s post about Little Raven Vineyards, I mentioned Skyler Weekes was staffing the store last Sunday. In addition to working as a […]

  6. Chris January 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    Heading to denver next week, and am quite the wine lover. I am gonna check one of the stores out you mentioned! Thanks. :)Cheers!
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Bridgestone Motorcycle Tires =-.

  7. Beth Partin January 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Glad to be of help, Chris.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..Denver Photos: Commons Park Bridge =-.

  8. […] yesterday’s post about Little Raven Vineyards, I mentioned Skyler Weekes was staffing the store last Sunday. In addition to working as a […]

  9. Kate@Maternity Clothes September 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Sounds very interesting! I’m not familiar the wines in the pictures well because it is undiscovered (laughing).. I love to get and drink it soon.. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  10. Beth Partin September 4, 2011 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Very funny, Kate! And I’m glad you liked the post.