A downvalley Cuvée | AspenTimes.com

A downvalley Cuvée

Kelly J. Hayes

It’s pouring in Basalt. Formerly a shot-and-a-beer town, Basalt has undergone a metamorphosis these past few months, no doubt pleasing folks who love to drink wine as they dine. It started in December when the old Primavera got a yellow facelift and began serving tapas and Italian at Tempranillo, named for the ubiquitous grape variety of Spain’s Rioja wine region. Next up, Smoke fired up its grill over at Willits and started pouring international red wines to pair with their uniquely American cuisine. Then, earlier this month, Todd Slossberg, formerly of the Hotel Jerome’s Century Room and his partner, Rob Zack, cracked the doors on their much-anticipated urban dining emporium, Crave.And now, most recently, there’s Cuvée World Bistro, a new wine bar and restaurant that opened last Friday in the space that formerly housed the popular Dogwood Grill.Cuvée World Bistro, is, as the name implies, heavily into wine. The word “cuvée” derives from the French word “cuve,” which translates literally to “vat.” It is the place where different wines are blended together to create entirely new, different and hopefully exciting wines, or “cuvées,” as they are called.The Cuvée World Bistro concept is to create what they call “the perfect blend,” pairing food, wine and atmosphere. At a recent tasting it appeared they were on their way to an excellent first vintage. The food, prepared, by chef and co-owner Mitch Levy, who once worked at The Little Nell under Richard Chamberlain and then did a lengthy stint at the Snowmass Club, is big, bold and flavorful. The atmosphere has not changed much since the Dogwood days, but that is not to say anything is lacking. The bar is happening, the patio is glorious on a dry summer night and the room is cozy, though a bit loud for intimate dining.But it is the wines and how they are poured that is perhaps the most appealing. Levy obviously believes that wine is as much a part of a meal as the food and Cuvée emphasizes that what’s in the glass is as important as what is on the plate. To that end they are pouring, on any given evening, as many as 40 different wines by the glass. And it’s not just the number of individual pours that makes Cuvée a little different; it is the way they are integrated into the wine program that gives customers different options to order wines. If you want to try a series of wines from a similar grape, region, or winemaking style, you can order from what they call “Cuvée’s Cuvées” list. Say you like sauvignon blanc. For $10 you can order a sampling of three savvys from around the globe. This week’s offerings are a Brancott from Marlborough, New Zealand, a Dry Creek fume blanc from California and a Jean Max Roger Sancerre from France. A pretty cheap trip around the world. There are 10 such tastings on the list currently. Then there is the menu. From starters to salads to entrees, each item has a by-the-glass pairing suggestion. It makes it easy for someone who wants to try different wines with different food to simply put themselves in the hands of the chef and not worry about the wine list. In many restaurants, when one goes to a chef’s tasting you may have the option to add the suggested wines to the menu, but at Cuvee you can do it with anything you order. And if you prefer to order your wines first, and then pair the meal with your grapes, then more power to you. I recently ordered an appetizer of roasted garlic and cambozola cheese served with house-made flatbread that was large enough for a meal. The suggested pairing was a Mano a Mano Tempranillo, for $5 with a generous pour. I could have easily opted for Zinfandel, or a Shiraz and been perfectly happy with my pairing, but the inexpensive Spanish wine worked great.What allows Levy to offer such a range, is his investment in the OZ Winebar system. An Australian product, this glass-faced, stainless-steel refrigerating unit sits on the back of the bar where it stores up to two dozen different bottles at their optimal temperature. It preserves the wines and allows the bartender/wine steward the opportunity to pour a perfect, by-the-glass serving through a single-handled dispenser attached to each bottle. The system provides a restaurant greater flexibility in giving customers unique wine experiences while, at the same time, extending the life and freshness of an opened bottle.It’s an exciting time in Basalt with lots of new options. Get out and enjoy them this summer while they are still young and fresh.Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@wineink.com.