By Shari Valenta
Looking for a great wine to save for a wedding anniversary, retirement party or the day when the children finally find an apartment of their own? What brand or vintage will stand the test of time?
“There are wines that have a reputation for being around for centuries; they tend to be collectibles,” said Bryan Criswell, general manager of Highlands Wineseller. “People know they can buy that particular kind and it’s going to do well. However, you can find inexpensive wines that also age well. One example of an inexpensive wine that’s worthy of storage is Emilio Bulfon’s Piculit-Neri,” said Criswell.
Priced for less than $20, and one of the store’s bestsellers, it’s a Roman varietal that was thought to be lost or extinct but was rediscovered about 20 years ago.
“It’s rare because there’s only one producer in the world right now making it,” Criswell said. “I did a little experiment with it here in the store. I left the bottle out for a week and had a glass. Then I left it out for two weeks and had another glass. I was surprised after a month or more that not only did the Emilio not go bad, but tasted amazing. Each week I had a glass, it tasted entirely different than before. With its complex taste, I think it will be a great wine now, later and for years to come.”
Criswell, a certified sommelier for 23 years, knows his wines and even blended his own varieties. He’s able to pick out the best stock and can share advise with customers. The wine expert explains that the Court of Master Sommeliers was established in 1969 in the United Kingdom to advocate higher standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants.
While Criswell received his training through the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers, he’s a down-to-earth person and easy to approach for beginner pallets. But wine connoisseurs may wish to forego his sage advice and choose their own vintages from the roomy, well-stocked bodega in the store.
“Bodega is a Portuguese word for above-ground wine seller,” explained Criswell. “Our bodega is temperature controlled at 55 degrees and seven percent relative humidity. Inside the bodega, we store anything that’s a collectible wine or age-worthy wine.”
Wine collectors will also be happy to know that at Highlands Wineseller every wine is set on its side as opposed to upright like many other liquor stores. This is done to keep the cork moist; dry corks can shrivel and allow oxygen in with disastrous affects.
Highlands Wineseller, which has a selection of over 2,000 specialty and discount wines, as well as 250 beers, guarantees competitive prices and a large selection because of their 13,000-square-foot basement. This allows the store to take advantage of large volume purchasing and keep more brands in stock.
Robert Quinette is the brainchild behind this discount liquor superstore and co-owns the single location with Criswell. The two met through a mutual friend. They make a fine blend as Quinette knows as much about business as Criswell knows about fine wines.
Quinette previously owned a Denver-based company called Staff Administrators. In 1997, he sold it and began to invest in real estate. He eventually started his own real estate development company called Biltmore Realty, Ltd., which he currently owns, as well as a few smaller companies.
Quinette was instrumental in making sure the store, located on the northeast corner of East Lincoln Avenue and South Quebec Street, was designed to look new and fresh, with ample aisle space to accommodate shoppers and their carts. He chose the location mostly because he saw a need for a large discount liquor store in his neighborhood. Highlands Wineseller opened one year ago and Criswell says the response has been fabulous.
“There was a 92 percent acceptance rate for the store,” remarked Criswell. “If you look at the history of people getting liquor store licenses throughout the state, this is unheard of. Usually neighborhood groups protest that they don’t want a liquor store. It was slam dunk; people wanted a store here and it’s doing fantastic!”
Just watching the two business partners eagerly wait on their customers, it’s obvious that Quinette and Criswell enjoy what they do. From 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays (except on holidays), Quinette and Criswell host complimentary wine-tasting sessions at the store. You can also request a seminar to be held at your private or corporate party. During these sessions, you’re free to merely taste or listen to fun tidbits like the proper method of opening a bottle of wine or what to do with the cork when the waiter hands it to you. Can the smell, taste and color of the wine give you a clue to its age and origin? Go to one of the seminars to find out.
Highlands Wineseller is located at 6668 Timberline Road. For more information, call 720-889-WINE or visit [http://www.highlandswineseller.com].