WineInk: Creativity is Key to Survival |

WineInk: Creativity is Key to Survival

Kelly J. Hayes


2014 Alto Moncayo, Campo de Borja

While I, unfortunately, did not get to partake, Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar offered up a tasty BBQ Pulled Pork special for their take-out this past weekend. I asked Steve Humble to recommend something off his list that would work with the southern style dish and he went to Spain: “I think my perfect pick would be Alto Moncayo old vine garnacha from Campo de Borja. From 40-80 year old vines, this is an intense, spicy, earthy, fruit-driven wine”

I can’t wait to get back to the real world.


Meat and Cheese- Aspen

Take Out and Delivery Daily 11:00am-7:30pm

319 E Hopkins Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

970 710-7120

Mawa’s Kitchen- Aspen

Delivery and Curbside Pick-up 8:00am-6:00pm

305 Suite F, AABC

Aspen Airport Business Center


Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar Basalt

To Go Dinner Service Tues-Sat 5:30pm-8:00pm

305 Gold Rivers Court- Basalt


Jimmy’s- Aspen

Take Out and Delivery Daily 4:30m-8:30pm

205 S Mill St, Aspen

970 925 6020

A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic may be that people have been forced to, in the words of Steve Jobs, “think different.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the hospitality industry and the world of food and wine.

“There has been an amazing amount of creativity, especially in the restaurant and wine space,” said John Salamanski of CS Wines, who represents a portfolio of small, bespoke wine producers selling to both “on-premise” establishments (those that serve food and liquor) and “off-premise” sales locations (liquor shops and wine stores that don’t allow open bottles) in Colorado.

“First, there was creativity in the decision by the governor to allow restaurants to sell wines, then the creativity by restaurants to open to-go windows so they could still interact with their customers.” Many eateries also have creatively put together wine offerings to help bolster their bottom lines in difficult times.

Local restaurants have taken full advantage and view this as a new opportunity.

“Wine and booze sales have really been a game-changer,” said Wendy Mitchell of Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop. “I love this governor. We’ve lowered our margins and all of our wines are half off our regular menu prices. Honestly, I might keep that policy going forward just to get people excited, especially about our natural wine program.”

This week, until April 26, is Natural Wine week at Meat & Cheese, with $5 off each bottle, on top of the already discounted price. And the process is flawless. Simply place an order online or call, and the meal — with your discounted wine — will be there when you arrive. You need not even go in.

And at Jimmy’s in Aspen a few new spokes have been added to the mix by proprietor Jimmy Yeager and wine and beverage director Greg Van Wagner. Last weekend they added an app that Van Wagner created that can be accessed with the link and downloaded with a QR code to your phone. Each evening between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m. their “Booze Bike” takes to the road, offering a promised one-hour delivery of bottled cocktails and spirits along with bottles on the prestigious and prodigious wine list offered at 50% off the list price. Customers also can order food and buy gift cards for future dining on the app.

It is slick, efficient and fun. And it is an example of the way restaurants are using technology and the tools at hand to creatively meet the crises.

“All of the revenue generated from food, wine and liquor sales has gone into our employee relief fund,” Jimmy said. “Wine is running at 20% of our sales. So, it’s been a great contributor.”

It is a trend that is seeing traction. Mawa’s Kitchen in Aspen is open every day, doing both delivery and curbside pickup of their homemade menu and, “Yes, we are selling wine with our to-go foods and deliveries,” said proprietor Mawa McQueen. Need a bottle of bubbly for breakfast? The current online list features both a 2006 Dom Perignon and a non-vintage Veuve Cliqout Yellow Label. Your choice.

In normal times at Basalt’s Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar, a spring evening would see a packed bar as guests toasted with wines from Steve Humble’s hand-picked list. But not now.

“Some of our great regulars that like my selections have bought wine, but not many,” he said via a recent email, though Free Range continues to offer wines with to-go and pick-up orders.

So what will happen to wine sales when restaurants reopen?

“It will be interesting,” said Salamanski, who sells the majority of his wine book, which features many limited allocation wines, to restaurants throughout the state. “Will people be spending as much on wine as they did before? Will there be pent-up demand?”

We’ll just have see. But in the meantime, if you are ordering delivery or pick-up from your favorite haunts, be sure to add in a bottle of wine.

It will make both the meal and the bottom line more palatable.