Salt this away: Boulder bistro big on Colorado wines
The wrap-up of an intense three-day workshop in Boulder found several of us searching for a dinner place open on Sunday night, a task that can be fearsome in early closing Grand Junction but one that offered many entertaining options in Boulder. We ended at Salt the Bistro on the east end of the famed Pearl Street Mall. One of our small group recommended Salt, in the former Tom’s Tavern building, and we weren’t disappointed in the reasonable prices, wonderful food and a well-rounded and well-priced wine list.
Our wine preferences were eclectic but on this sultry night after a day of thunderstorms we decided on a medium-bodied red. We were pleasantly surprised to find on the wine list the heading “Local Reds,” featuring a delightful selection of Colorado wines including the Reeder Mesa 2009 Petite Verdot. Reeder Mesa Winery is a few miles outside of Grand Junction and it turns out Salt is one of the few restaurants in Colorado featuring a Colorado-only section on the wine list.
“We sell a lot of Colorado wine,” acknowledged our server, Joey Burton, who doubled as our wine steward. “I think they’ve come a long way in the last five or six years and I don’t know if it’s the vines finally are getting some age on them or the winemakers are learning which blends and varietals work best for them.”
It was refreshing that Burton showed a strong interest in and knowledge of Colorado wines and we talked a little about the continuing progress of Colorado winemakers but cut it short because even Sunday can be a busy night for Salt.
When we finally ordered the Petite Verdot, Burton smiled and nodded in appreciation.
“That’s a great wine but it’s pretty much a hand-sell since not many people understand Petite Verdot,” he said. “Once I get people to try it, they really like it.”
As did our table. Dense, rich and dark but not overly so, with a great nose of blackberries and dark fruit, the wine paired well with our entrees of roast beet salad, wild sea bass and sweet pea ravioli. Reeder Mesa Winery owner and winemaker Doug Vogel said the wine has won three gold medals in various competitions as well as Best of Show at the Mesa County Fair.
Vogel (pictured) said he crushes the grapes and then removes the seeds after three days to avoid the heavy tannins common to many Petite Verdots.
“That makes it drinkable much earlier,” he said. The wine spends 18 months in French oak barrels prior to release. He said 2009 was his first attempt at Petite Verdot and we’re all hoping for similar results from the seven barrels of the 2010 vintage sitting in his aging room.
The biggest surprise was to find the wine priced at $34, only a few dollars above the $28 price at the winery, something you rarely see with any wine, anywhere. Most restaurants mark up wines anywhere from 150 to 300 percent, a move that discourages many wine drinkers from tackling anything that’s different from the usual. When I spoke a few days later with Salt beverage director Evan Faber, I made sure to ask if the restaurant’s wine pricing was aimed at getting more people to have wine with a meal or to spark an interest different wines.
“It’s a little of both,” Faber said. “Not many people know about Colorado wines and we’re trying to educate them as much as possible. By keeping our margins low, we can introduce them to some wonderful wines they might not otherwise try.”
Those are words, I’m sure you’ll agree, every Colorado winemaker will love to hear. It’s unfortunate more restaurants don’t follow the lead of Salt.
According the Salt PR person Kuvy Ax, the Boulder restaurant has more Colorado wines on its list than any other place in the state.
“Which means any other restaurant in the world,” she said, laughing. “They are really passionate about Colorado wines. Everything on their list from out of state is on the ‘imported wine’ list.”
I had forgotten this when we were eating at Salt but Faber reminded me that he and Salt executive chef Kevin Kidd will be the headliners at the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade Sept. 15-18.
They both are justifiably proud about serving Colorado wines and being a Farm to Table restaurant emphasizing local food sources.