Uncork and Relax
Colorado Springs has finally uncorked the wonders of the wine bar.
But it’s only in the past few months that wine bars have started to draw significant crowds, their popularity fueled, in part, by a cultural demystification that’s bringing wine down to earth. The wine bars also benefit from those who deconstruct date night into several chapters. Maybe they start out getting a quick bite, catch a band at a bar, then mellow out for some wine and quiet conversation in a wine bar.
Among the Springs area leaders in this trend are three upstarts: Swirl, Upstairs at La Baguette and 2 South.
Each presents a different strategy and vibe. What they have in common is interesting atmosphere and wine worth the heartiest of toasts.
On the second floor of this restored Old Colorado City Victorian, young ad rep Aidan Lux Ryan listens to folkie Joe Uveges sing about the perils of Hotel California.
“I go for the atmosphere. The sense of intimacy,” she says as she munches on kale chips, her grinning date sipping a generous pour of cabernet. “It’s not a bar, so you don’t have the bar riffraff. It’s more of a Spanish way of thinking about the social gathering with food and friends.”
That’s exactly what Rod and Amy Quass had in mind when they opened 2 South in October.
“We intentionally wanted to get away from the downtown bar scene,” Quass says. “We didn’t want that feel.”
The two floors of cozy rooms, with bars upstairs and down, tend to draw a mix of hipsters, 30-somethings and serious wine connoisseurs.
The Quasses, who previously ran adventure camps, wanted to build a wine bar that was a bit of an adventure, something that blended Victorian charm with a non-intimidating approach to wine. Rod and Amy, who’ve hand selected their wines, most of them from California’s boutique vineyards, can both talk about wine without ever using the term “mouth feel.” On the 100-item wine menu, most glasses are under $10, with the most expensive weighing in at $18.
The food menu, which features what the Quasses call “classics with a twist,” was just redone to include such standouts as grilled octopus and zucchini primavera. The wine bar is open for lunch, and features lovely front and side patios.
Swirl Wine Bar
Swirl is a classic tale of business evolution.
It started in 2010 as a retail wine shop with a wine bar tucked in back as an afterthought.
But the afterthought has grown to take over the entire operation, and owners Andrew Palmer and Sharon Erale-Palmer, recently closed the store portion to add another room for the burgeoning wine-bar crowd.
Tucked on the east end of Manitou Avenue, Swirl now boasts four rooms and a darling little back patio that looks like it was airlifted from an Italian hill town.
“Andrew and I created a place we would want to hang out at,” Erale-Palmer says.
The crowd is eclectic, to say the least.
“It runs the gamut of age, income, cultural background,” she says. “Any given night you’ll have a hippy at the bar, young college couple in the wingback chairs, a retired couple smack-dab in the middle of a rowdy fun group and tourists from wherever. It’s always interesting.”
Swirl’s food menu has grown from meat and cheese plates to tasty and trendy tapas, sensational soups and perfectly prepared paninis. It’s now open for lunch.
And the wine… About two-dozen domestic and imported vintages selected by Erale-Palmer, a second-level sommelier.
Upstairs at La Baguette
You almost feel like you should need some speakeasy password to get into this new hidden gem over La Baguette Bakery and Café in Old Colorado City.
There’s no sign.
“Some people like that, and some don’t,” server Hannah Gingrich says. “We had somebody who said they came because they saw people in the window
on the second floor, but they thought it might just be a private party in an apartment.”
Those who find themselves inside are greeted by a friendly staff, tiny bar, a couch beside a roaring fireplace, assorted tables and large windows overlooking the avenue. Brick walls. Wood floors. A French pop song from the ‘60s playing on the stereo.
Toni Rog, owner of La Baguette, opened Upstairs in August. He wanted to showcase some of his favorite New and Old World wines and whiskies as well as an unusual wine bar feature: choice absinthes.
But one of the best features of upstairs is something borrowed from downstairs: assorted fresh breads served free, with olive oil bean dip and tapenade. Escargot, fondue and other French morsels are featured on a short wine bar menu. The food, the atmosphere and the $9 glasses of Molly Dooker Left Foot make this hard-to-locate wine bar a real find.
25th Street Co Spgs, CO719-351-2806
Swirl Wine Bar
7171 Manitou Avenue Manitou Springs, CO
Upstairs at La Baguette
2117 West Colorado Avenue Co Spgs, CO