It was the 7th Annual Wine Festival at the Denver Downtown Aquarium on August 18th, and it might just be the sleeper wine festival in Denver.
Start with the fact the Denver Aquarium is easy navigation from I25 with ample parking. The festival occurs on the spacious and meandering grounds, so you don’t feel like you are crowded into just one area. While there is the central area with food and a number of the wine and liquor samplings, the event continues around the garden walkway to the park area to the west of the Aquarium. With each twist, there is another libation or food item along the path begging for a sampling.
Each year, wines are chosen from a different part of the U.S., and in 2018 the region was the Pacific Northwest. And, add another three spirits and brewery options, and you get plenty of sampling. Being the Downtown Aquarium, no event would be complete without a display of critters to liven up the event. After the greeting by the mermaid, the options to see and learn about wildlife and their needs featured sharks, snakes, and even a porcupine. Each year, the event benefits a local charity, this year being the Colorado Liver Foundation. And, if you are so inclined, your Wine fest ticket gets you a hefty discount on regular aquarium activities. So, kids can go to the aquarium for education and fun, while the adults get over-21 activities.
It’s not the most prominent wine festival in Denver, yet given the format and the quality of the offerings, this might be the most vino-based fun you can have in three hours on a Saturday afternoon.
What might be the distinguishing feature of this festival is the excellence of the food. When the Downtown Aquarium first came into being years back, it was no secret the restaurant efforts were nowhere near the level of the exhibits and educational opportunities. Kind of like going to that Mousy place in Orlando and the rides are stupendous with food that is a tad better than mediocre with prices like Paris. The Landry’s group purchased the Downtown Aquarium a few years back; this has all changed for the exceptional. Participating restaurants included the Downtown Aquarium, Morton’s, Landry’s Seafood, Saltgrass Steak House, McCormick & Schmick’s and Chart House dishing up the best stuff with full spreads. Oysters, salmon, leg of lamb and various shrimp options highlighted the food stations.
It’s not a wine festival without some fun that gets a little greased by the libations. You have DJ spinning tunes, and about 90 minutes into the event, the dancing, and Pinot-infused Karaoke begin. No extra charge for that show, and the longer you sit there, the more likely you will be a toasted and willing participant.
Who doesn’t love a one of a kind design? With this festival, you purchase a tee shirt, then stomp the grapes to get the right amount of color, pulp and skin in between those toes, and there you have it. Your own, foot dyed tee shirt that will remind you of the event long after the aroma of Merlot is gone.
If you had to pick one wine fest in Denver, this is hard to beat with the quality offerings, ease of access, and of course, the fact it’s at the Downtown Aquarium! Get there in 2019, and you won’t be disappointed.