If you are looking for a glass of fine wine in the Denver area, skip the four or five choices at the downtown establishments and head out to the suburb of Littleton for some real variety. At Virgilio’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar, you can enjoy a fabulous glass of wine from their selection of 55 wines by the glass. How does he have 55 wines by the glass you ask? Even the casual wine drinker knows that most wines, especially reds, have a short shelf life. This is because wine reacts with oxygen changing it over time and not for the good. So when a restaurant opens a bottle of wine to serve by the glass, they need to empty it in a few days or throw it out. However, there is a wine preservation system that has been in use for many years in Italy and is just now making its way to the states, the Enomatic Wine Preservation System.
Virgilio Urbano started his Lakewood restaurant in 2005. Born outside of Naples, Italy, and taught by the best (his mother), the man knows how to make pizza and people have been taking notice. Named the Colorado entry of the 51 Great USA Pizza Parlors by USA Today and named Westword’s Best of Denver, Pizza, in 2010, Virgilio’s has made its mark on pizza. And just last weekend, the Food Network came calling when Tom Pizzica of Outrageous Food stopped by for a film shoot. Virgilio now has his eye on wine.
When he opened up his new 6,700 sq. ft. location in Littleton last August, he installed the preservation system in his bar, manufactured and run by Enumatic of Italy. At first glance it looks like a refrigeration system. Although that’s part of it, Virgilio says it is actually a preservation system. Since oxygen is an open bottle’s enemy, the wine system uses a small hose (or large straw) to pump argon gas into the bottle keeping the oxygen at bay. This keeps the wine from spoiling so they can serve more wines by the glass.
Educational side note – For those of you who don’t remember, or never did learn, high school chemistry, argon is an element in the Period Table and is one of the Noble Gases (helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon are the six naturally occurring Noble Gases), meaning it is one of the most stable elements. For wine purposes, argon is colorless and odorless and because it doesn’t react with other elements, is perfect for protecting wine from oxygen. Nitrogen can also be used in the system and is cheaper, but argon is preferred.
Virgilio showed me how the system works. Once a bottle of wine is uncorked, the straw is inserted into the bottle. The bottle is then placed on a small compressor. At the press of a button, the compressor lifts up and pushes the top of the bottle into the machine and seals it off with the straw going from the bottle into the machine. Then the argon gas flows. The wine is accessed by a “tap” that is computer programmed. There is a button for a taste (1 oz), another button for half glass (3 oz) and a third automatically pours a full glass (6 oz). No guessing by the bartender, no over pours and no waste. He said wines can last up to 25 days.
The best part for him is he can see what wines are moving and what wines aren’t and adjust his wine menu accordingly. If a wine isn’t moving very fast, he can still keep it fresh until it’s gone and then replace it with a better selling wine. This keeps his prices reasonable and his customer’s happy. It also helps him stock one of the largest wine bars in the state. He adds there are a few other places around Colorado that have wine preservation systems, such as downtown Denver and Aspen, but it’s still more popular in big cities like New York and LA. In these cities and over in Europe, he said there are systems that customers can access with a credit card, just like a vending machine. Imagine walking up to a wine vending machine and buying yourself a glass….
Sorry, I got distracted for a second.
Where was I? Oh, yes, another advantage to this system is the variety of wines Virgilio is able to offer. His wine list includes Merlots from Italy, Pinot Noirs from California, Shiraz from Australia, Melbecs from Argentina and dessert wines from Portugal. There are high end wines for those wanting to treat their palates or celebrate a special occasion and for those just enjoying an evening out, more moderate priced wines to keep your checkbook in balance. It’s also great for sampling several wines to see which one you like best. Check out his full wine list here. My favorites are the Big Ass Reds.
So if you find yourself in Denver make the drive to 10025 West San Juan Way in Littleton, near C-470 and Kipling in the southwest metro area. Have some great pizza and glass of wine with a side of garlic knots and marinara. If you can’t make it to Denver, find the nearest wine bar with the Enomatic wine preservation system and bottoms up!