It’s no surprise that John Cowperthwaite grew up to be a wine lover. His German mother served him traditional “kinderwein” as a child and, as an adult, he spent years experimenting with making his own wine at home. As he dipped his toes into making larger batches, Cowperthwaite—an engineer who was working in the tech industry at the time—realized he needed to up his knowledge. The Virginia native re-enrolled in school, and in 2012 completed a certification in Viticulture and Oenology at UC Davis. Two years later he and his wife Liz, a journalist and fellow lover of vino, opened Black Arts Cellars in Littleton.
The Space: Thanks to the winery’s location in an industrial park on the edge of Ken Caryl Ranch, the Black Arts tasting room has wonderful foothills views. The sunny interior, comfortable lounge furniture, and inviting L-shaped bar craft a warm and welcoming interior that invites visitors to linger.
The Grapes: John is a detail-oriented person who once asked his winemaking mentors so many questions about the aging process that one exasperatedly told him, “It’s magic!” That exchange led to the cellars’ spellbinding name, and John’s continued fastidiousness has enabled him to create a collection of wines that consistently win competitive awards. One aspect that John focuses carefully on is sourcing his fruit from the region where each varietal grows best, so he purchases grapes from locations ranging from California’s Paso Robles region to Washington State and Colorado’s Grand Valley.
The Wine: A couple of decades ago, John discovered Hermitage, a popular northern Rhone wine region near Lyon, France that specializes in Syrah. He has worked hard to concoct his own delicious version, the Le Toille, which he considers his “heart and soul.” Black Arts’ flagship wine has won numerous accolades, including multiple golds at the Denver International Wine Competition, for its garnet color, berry-rich nose, and lingering black cherry and pepper flavors.
Buzzed Trivia: John is the only Colorado winemaker who produces Grenache blanc. Like all of his vino, La Lune is named for one of the cards in the original fortune-telling tarot deck that first became popular in the 16th century. With its pale, full-moon color and a crisp green apple flavor, a chilled glass of Black Arts’ La Lune is delicious with cheese and crackers or paired with spicy food.
Taste it: Black Arts’ tasting room hours vary by season; it is currently open from 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as by appointment. Tastings cost $5 apiece, but one fee is waived for each bottle purchased. While drinking in the view, be sure to try the 2014 Le Diable (The Devil), Black Arts’ best seller. It’s a medium-bodied, fruity blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, the three grapes that exemplify the Cotes du Rhone region. The inky 2015 RSVP Syrah, which John aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, will also cast a seductive spell upon those who enjoy full-bodied wines.
Take Home: In addition to a few of your favorites, consider picking up a bottle or two of Black Arts’ 2016 Temperance, a rosé made from Grenache Noir and Mourvedre grapes with a refreshing strawberry flavor ideal for the many warm weekend afternoons that lie ahead.
Visit: Black Arts Cellars is located at 11616 Shaffer Place, Littleton; 303-722-0669