Bigsby’s Folly — the newest urban winery to hit Denver — will open in RiNo on Friday, June 16. The roaring 1920s inspired tasting room found its home in a 130-year-old warehouse on 3563 Wazee Street. It will offer several housemade wine varietals, a full-service bar and food menu — plus, the space is available to rent for private events up to 300 people.
“Our vision is to do for the wine industry what craft breweries did for beer by bringing education, adventure and quality wines to people in urban neighborhoods like RiNo,” said Chad Yetka, Bigsby’s Folly’s Co-Founder and CEO.
It all started with a couple and their golden retriever, Bigsby. Marla and Chad Yetka have always loved wine, and their plan was to retire on a small plot of land in Napa Valley. But, after Chad lost his job in the oil industry a year and a half ago, plans changed. They sold the dream house that they had built together and pursued an entirely different dream — one where they could stay in Colorado but still create the winery of their dreams.
“Those were dark and desperate days,” Marla explained as we walked through the space, then still under construction. “But not anymore. This feels right.”
Bigsby — the couple’s first golden retriever — died about 10 years ago, but they knew that they wanted to honor his adventurous spirit in the winery’s name.
“We combined it with Folly because while we’re committed to the highest standards in winemaking, this is a passion project for us — because life is too short to always play it safe,” Marla said.
The couple is now all-in on the project. Motivated by the idea that people don’t have to travel to the grapes to get great wine — they wanted to bring those grapes to the people.
“This was born from the realization that unlike craft beer and spirits, the wine industry is often too segregated from the wine drinker,” Chad said. “So we’re bringing expertly-crafted, high-quality wines to you, from the best-known regions in the world, without all the attitude.”
The couple honors their two biggest passions — wine and dogs — throughout the space. They even sell dog biscuits in the winery that their now golden retriever Snickers loves. Marla works closely with the Morris Animal Foundation, and Bigsby’s Folly will team up quarterly with a different non-profit to donate all of the proceeds from the sales of “Bigsby’s Biscuits” to that organization.
This full-production winery is inside a 7,000 square foot space, originally built in 1886 for Leyner Engineering which manufactured the rock drill for the mining industry. The bones of the building remain, with exposed timber ceilings and original brick walls. There’s a patio and courtyard with lawn games, a fire pit and places to relax and watch the trains go by. Inside, there’s a touch of elegance with a giant chandelier, beautiful wooden bar and a full view of the barrel aging area. The building sits at the foot of the 36th Street pedestrian bridge, and once that walkway is complete, it’ll be an easy trip to the other side of the tracks for some wine and a trip back into the past.
The Food & Drinks
Marla and Chris had a clear vision of what they wanted Bigsby’s Folly to be — they wanted to create the kinds of wine they’re used to traveling to Napa Valley for, but they wanted to serve them in a space that’s casual enough to encourage exploration without intimidation. To do so, they’ve hired Brian Graham and Chris Nelson to lead the wine production. Graham will serve as head winemaker from Napa Valley — a decision they’ve made to keep the Napa name on their wines — and Nelson will be onsite in Denver as Denver Winemaker and General Manager.
“In my time in San Francisco — a city with a well-established wine scene — I helped open two urban wineries, but Bigsby’s Folly is by far the coolest one I’ve ever been a part of,” Nelson said. “The owners, Chad and Marla, have true vision and their dedication to the project is what drew me to it. I saw an opportunity to take my experience in urban wineries to Denver, and it’s exciting to be at the forefront of the city’s growing wine scene. It’s a new frontier and people are hungry for it.”
Bigsby’s Folly is the first place in Denver to receive a Vintner’s Restaurant License, allowing them to sell food and booze on site while also producing wine — as long as it’s less than 250,000 gallons per year. The beverage menu has more than 25 wines, seven cocktails and 11 beers — with eight of the wines being under their own label. Our favorites were the Bigsby’s Folly 2014 Malbec from Sonoma Valley and the Bigby’s Folly 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley “Reserve.” For a lighter glass, head to the bar and order the Bigsby’s Folly Rosé of Grenache — it’s refreshing and perfect for summer.
The menu — built by culinary director and chef Rebecca Austin — is all made with wine in mind. From lighter fare like the Ahi Tuna Tartar with soy ponzu, avocado, baked wontons and wasabi aioli to more indulgent options like The Braised Short Rib French Dip with melted swiss, au jus, horseradish cream and a potato roll. Each dish pairs well with several wines on the list, and the staff is happy to help walk guests through the pairings. And, obviously, there will be charcuterie.
To add an extra layer of approachability, the Bigsby’s Folly team will offer tasting flights and private group experiences like the “Winemaker for a Day” program where up to 12 guests can work with Nelson to custom-blend, bottle, cork and label their own red wine blend.
“We want to empower wine drinkers by making amazing wines approachable in a place where our guests can witness and interact with the winemaking process,” Marla said. “Our goal is to deliver happiness and inspiration with every glass, bottle, case or barrel.”
Bigsby’s Folly is located at 3563 Wazee St., Denver. After June 16, it will be open Monday through Thursday 4 to 10 p.m., Friday 2 to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 to 11 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 8 p.m.
Unless noted, all photography by Alexandra Palmerton.