Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk |

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Think it’s easy for a liquor store to do business in this town?

The cash register may hum during Christmas week and the lead up to New Year’s Eve, but there are some slow, slow days to be found in April and May in these parts. Take a walk down Durant Avenue and you’ll find more dogs than cars and not so many folks seeking a bottle of 2005 Penfold’s Grange.

But, if you are looking for that Australian classic wine in this snowy offseason, simply head over to the venerable Grog Shop next to City Market. There, below a bottle of the 2001 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (with label art by American Robert Wilson, who was selected by baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the owner of the estate in Pauillac, Medoc to design that year’s label as a show of solidarity with America following the attacks on 9/11) and adjacent to a 2005 Harlan Estate Cabernet, you’ll find the Grange for a penny under $500.

And even though Aspen Highlands and City Market are both closing their doors at the end of Sunday, April 24, you can count on The Grog Shop to be open to supply your beer, wine and liquor desires. Highlands will close when everyone gets down the mountain and finishes partying and City Market will close at 4 p.m. for its renovation. But The Grog Shop will keep on keeping on with revised store hours from noon to 8 p.m. daily.

The Grog Shop is an institution in this town, bringing smiles and launching parties from its current location since the mid-1970s. Lanette Valerio and David Livingston have been the owners since 1984. Their delivery truck, the orange one with the tiger stripes, was one of the most recognizable vehicles ever to grace this town and when the wagon pulled up in front of someone’s house you knew it was on. Alas, that truck is gone, but they still deliver good times.

I was in the Grog Shop recently, buying a bottle of Woodford Reserve and the vanilla liquor, Navan, for some summer cocktails. There I caught up with assistant manager and “Mistress of Wine” Marilyn O’Sullivan, who let me know that the shop will remain open despite the offseason closure of City Market.

I asked Marilyn to suggest some deals, steals and just-plain-good wine recommendations for springtime sipping. The comments are hers.

She began with an interesting rose, a Casal Garcia – Rose Vinho Verde 2010: “A juicy wine from Portugal with soft flavors of strawberry and watermelon. The wine is crisp and refreshing, delicious with salads accented with fresh fruit and chicken dishes for just $9.89.”

Next up she recommended another steal for spring, the Cote Est. 2009: “This is a well-balanced, medium-bodied French white blend of Grenache, Chardonnay and Marsanne grapes with hints of yellow apple, honey, pineapple and a touch of almond. A delicious match for lighter fare or sitting on the patio … once the rain stops! $12.99”

The King Estate Pinot Gris 2009 was her first stateside wine. “This Oregon wine has a wonderful creamy texture. The delicate aromas of grapefruit, stone fruit, melons and light floral notes introduce the wine followed by balanced flavors of citrus, melon and honey. It finishes with a lingering minerality. A “go to” food wine. $16.99″

Those of you who are firing up the grill and want something with a bit more heft for your meal will appreciate Marilyn’s suggestion for a California Cabernet, the Geyser Peak Cab Sauvignon 2006- Alexander Valley: “Elegant with nice balance and structure, this wine has fruit-driven flavors of blackberry, black cherries with nice spice and cedar. Enjoy with steak, lamb, short ribs or dark chocolate truffles!! $15.99.”

And finally, she closed with a Sterling Vintner’s Collection Meritage 2008: “Five varietals combine to create a smooth and juicy wine filled with dark fruit and hints of chocolate. This is a great value wine. Enjoy with grilled meats, roasts or rich pasta with bolognaise. $12.29”

One of the highlights for me on any visit to the Grog Shop is checking out a wine that is not for sale. It is a magnum of the 1988 Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva. Why the fuss? Because of the signature attached. Alberto Tomba was one of the most charismatic skiers of all time. In 1988 at the Calgary Olympic Games he took home gold medals in the slalom and giant slalom events. The big bottle bears the signature of the big man.

It doesn’t get more Italian than that.