Small-batch, boutique wine production has become increasingly popular. The heightened attention to detail, intimate service and thoughtful presentation lend the product an additional credibility and life. This week Blanchard Family Wines will open its Colorado outpost in the alley of the wildly popular downtown mixed marketplace — Dairy Block. Hailing from Healdsburg in Sonoma County, California the 10-year-old winery is the brainchild of brothers Mark and James Blanchard.
The stylish tasting room will open as a place to enjoy their California wines and nibble on Colorado eats courtesy of a variety of local spots James has developed relationships with over his years spent in the state. The place will sell wines by the bottle, glass and in customizable flights. The compact menu will start with eight selections — four reds, three whites and a rosé — charcuterie, cheese and desserts.
Wine-maker Jene Chapanar has been producing wine professionally since 2002, with an additional decade of home production prior. His sensibility for producing delicious, balanced wines reflects his close to 30 years spent honing his craft. He enjoys the freedom found with working for a small winery, relishing in the lack of strict consistency. “I’m going to let it be what it wants to be. My customers are looking for something different every year,” he said discussing the noticeable differences that come with each succeeding batch.
The wine is produced in California then shipped to Denver where it is bottled on-site at the tasting room. Barrels line one of the walls and chalk is available to decorate. Bottles are available, as are refillable growlers that entitle customers to 20 percent off the contents.
The decision to open a location in Colorado comes from James’ desire to retire here after a 20-year career in the Air Force which included a stint at the Academy both as a student and a teacher. He has since developed relationships with a variety of local businesses — including Haystack Mountain Cheese, Il Porcellino, The Chocolate Therapist and Ruby Jean Patisserie — all of which populate the food menu.
Both brothers discovered wine independently after diverging on drastically different paths after leaving home. While James was serving, Mark studied poetry at North Central Illinois College where he developed his taste working at a local wine shop. Both credit wine for rekindling their relationship. “We went from barely talking to going on vacation together as soon as wine made that bond,” mused Mark.
The menu was designed to pair with the wine. James’ fiancé Shanna Schertz is deeply involved, solidifying the familial nature of the place. The compact list of food and drink has been carefully curated to maximize the impact of the wine’s intricate flavor. While Infinite Monkey Theorem has been the primary go-to for local wineries, Blanchard Family Wines will be a welcome addition for anyone keen on enjoying the grape in a more intimate way.
Blanchard Family Wines is located in the alley at Dairy Block at 1800 Wazee St., Denver. It is open Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. – 12 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.