The first time Paul Bonacquisti was fired from his job as a DJ, he spontaneously asked his partner, Judi, to marry him. The second time, in 2005, he decided to open a winery. Both were ultimately good decisions: The happy couple has now been together for 20 years, and they jointly run Bonacquisti Wine Company, Denver’s longest-running urban winery.
For Paul, the leap from music to vino wasn’t as drastic as it might seem. A second-generation Italian American, he grew up in Brighton helping his father make wine in their garage. Plus, he’d been unhappy in the radio business for some time, so his firing, says Judi, was actually “a blessing in disguise.”
While developing the winery’s business plan, Paul earned a Level 2 sommelier certification from the International Wine Guild. The technical knowledge he gained allowed him to improve upon the “old-school Italian approach” that he’d learned as a kid. It didn’t take long for oenophiles to notice; Paul’s 2013 Malbec was selected to be part of the prestigious 2015 Governor’s Cup Case.
Now in its 11th year, Bonacquisti Wine Company offers a selection of award-winning wines both bottled and on tap, as well as a mouthwatering assortment of Italian antipasti (including spicy, housemade Italian sausage) to nosh while you’re sipping.
The Space: Bonacquisti Wine Company is located in an unpretentious “funky, industrial warehouse space” in the Sunnyside neighborhood on Pecos Street a few blocks south of I-70. Inside, the building’s industrial elements have been thoughtfully combined to create a modern, welcoming interior featuring seating on two levels and outdoor tables just outside a silver roll-up garage door.
The Grapes: Since urban wineries don’t grow their own grapes, Paul is free to source his fruit from a variety of fertile regions, including Colorado’s Western Slope, California, Washington, and New Mexico. Recently, he has also begun importing and repackaging wine from small producers in both Italy and Spain.
The Wine: In keeping with their deep family roots, Paul and Judi named a wine after each of their kids: Bella Risa, a refreshing Pinot Grigio with hints of juicy stone fruit, and Vinny No Neck, a smoky-flavored, Italian-style Sangiovese that garnered a bronze medal in this year’s Governor’s Cup competition.
Buzzed Trivia: For the Bonacquistis, who are strong supporters of local education and the arts, the winery has always been a reflection of its Sunnyside community. The facility’s walls are adorned with colorful paintings by local artist Daniel Luna, who also created Bonacquisti’s quirky labels, and the winery regularly hosts local musicians for “Fridays Uncorked,” as well as fundraisers benefitting neighborhood groups and educational institutions.
Taste it: Bonacquisti’s tasting room is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are free, and there is a $10 fee to taste all of Paul’s wines. Don’t leave without trying two recent releases: the 2016 Colorado Chardonnay, with lemony citrus notes, and the 2016 Colorado Cabernet Franc, whose earthy aroma and bing cherry flavor are ideal for pairing with turkey and stuffing as well as less-traditional holiday meals.
Take Home: In addition to bottled wine, Bonacquisti Wine Company offers one-liter, eco-friendly growlers that can be refilled from the current selection of red and white wines on tap.
Visit: Bonacquisti Wine Company is located at 4640 Pecos St., Denver; 303-477-9463