There is one thing to note before heading into the Balistreri Vineyards tasting room: The Denver winery has a never-ending wine list. Seriously.
On any given day there may be four Merlots, a few Cabs, dessert wines, some whites and a fruit offering or three at the bar. The free sampling can easily include more than a dozen wines, so pacing and spitting are of utmost importance.
Also note that Balistreri makes one of the only Colorado Zinfandels around—it sources grapes from perhaps the lone Western Slope vineyard that stays warm enough to allow Zin to ripen.
These unique traits, a propensity to win awards and a penchant for throwing great parties have made Balistreri one of the most popular Front Range wineries. It’s a family operation with John serving as the winemaker, and his wife, Birdie, and daughter, Julie, taking care of many other aspects of the business. It’s difficult to visit the quaint, hillside tasting room without running into one of the three.
John Balistreri started as a home winemaker working in the flower nursery business before going into vino professionally. Now his winery is producing about 3,500 cases annually in north Denver.
Balistreri focuses on reds, making a diverse wine list features the usuals such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and some fruit wines. He also makes a Sangiovese, Port, Chardonnay, Viognier and the Colorado Zin.
Like most Front Range wineries, grapes are sourced from multiple vineyards across the Western Slope. Instead of blending like grapes together, the Balistreris often bottle each vineyard separately, which is the primary reason you may notice two or three Cabs in the tasting room from any given year.
Despite that seeming extra stock, it can be difficult to track down certain types of their wine, such as a certain Merlot. Balistreri has developed a serious cult-like following for its Little Feet Merlot. The name coming from the manner in which the grapes are stomped. Hundreds of kids at multiple events each harvest become grape stompers—the bottles are labeled by event so parents can order the wine their children helped stomp.
The Balistreris also throw the best Colorado wine party this side of Mountain WineFest. Each October, hundreds, if not more, fans come out to their expansive property for wine tastings, music, a Little Feet grape stomping, cheese and meats, and pizzas made in outdoor wood-fired ovens.
Seeing so many people enjoy the Balistreri property is further proof that the family is doing something good for the local wine industry in north Denver.