équipement de vin
1412 Larimer Square, downtown Denver
It was embarrassing, I confess.
The proprietor of équipement de vin, Cheryl Webster, caught me in the wine cellar photographing a champagne cooler with my cell phone. I had forgotten to bring my camera to my second visit to her store and was making do with my phone.
Even if I wasn’t professional enough to ask whether I could take pictures, Cheryl was both professional and warm, handling all the customers with ease, and letting them feed carrots to her dog.
In honor of the holidays, Larimer Square was holding a “tailgate” party, with some stores offering food or drink to their customers (see the website for information about the party on December 17). Cheryl had set up some hors d’oeuvres in the wine cellar and was directing customers to go next door for beer.
Equipement de vin is an attractive, Tuscan-style store, long and narrow with echoing wood floors. When you enter, you can see all the way to the back, but displays are arranged to slow you down and entice you to consider the wares. Everywhere you turn you find wine racks or glassware or bottle cozies or just about anything else you can imagine having to do with wine or entertaining.
On the tall black shelves across from the register, which display color-coordinated sets of candles and tableware, I discovered the perfect coasters, made of black slate, to complement my blue slate tables with wrought-iron frames.
Cheryl was dealing with several sets of customers while I was in the store, but she took the time to answer this rather pointed question: “How do stores make money when most of their stock is fairly inexpensive? Is it just volume?”
Well, yes, she said, but her store also sells furniture, wine-themed art (a popular item), and glassware, including exquisite decanters that cost as much as $300.
My next question was about “nosing” wines, a subject that has vexed me for years. She suggested a way to develop my nose using the store’s wine-tasting guide:
1. Throw a wine-tasting party focusing on one varietal.
2. Find a small amount of every item listed under that varietal on her store’s guide (blackberries or spices for merlot, for example) and put each item in a separate glass.
3. Smell the item, and then smell the wine and see if there’s a match.
She solved my problem, and I bought the wine-tasting guide, a wine and food matching wheel, and the coasters.
Equipement de vin offers tastings of Colorado wines Thursday through Saturday. Cheryl’s cellar was full of Colorado wines that were new to me. I’m looking forward to doing a wine tasting this weekend.
After a long day of visiting stores in Denver on Saturday, it was a relief to return to équipement de vin and hang out at the bar in the back with Matthew, who knows a lot about wine and is a writer to boot. We tasted the Whitewater Hill Riesling (a wine made in Grand Junction, Colorado) and four red wines from Bonacquisti, a winery at 46th and Pecos (the grapes are grown on the Western Slope). Our favorite was the Riesling; I didn’t love any of the reds, but the Delagua Red (mostly merlot) and the cabernet franc were my favorites.
Among the things I learned from him:
1. Merlots are fermented with the grape skins for only a short time in order to preserve the silky texture of the wine.
2. Merlots don’t spend much time in oak.
3. When I perceive a “burnt” smell in a wine, it has to do with how deeply the oak barrels in which it was aged are toasted.
4. To properly smell a wine, tilt the glass and smell from the “bottom” of the glass to the “top.”
5. He also explained the difference between aroma and bouquet, which I can’t remember. Another tip he gave me (so I can remember more of this stuff): take wine classes at International Wine Guild in Denver.