When some people turn 40, they jump out of an airplane or buy a shiny convertible. Snooze co-founder and former CEO Jon Schlegel did something even more nonsensical: In 2013, he stepped away from the wildly successful breakfast empire and ran off to Piedmont, Italy.
It wasn’t all impulse. For years, Jon had vowed that he’d mark his fourth decade by moving to Italy to learn winemaking. That didn’t make the transition from running high-stakes, fast-paced eateries to living la bella vita any easier. “I have a restaurant brain and restaurant ADD. I’m used to constantly solving problems,” Jon says. But over the next couple of years, Jon, his wife, Megan, and their son Tre, who was three when they left the United States, immersed themselves in the slower rhythm of their adopted village of Monforte d’Alba. After Megan and Tre went to bed each night, Jon would hang out in the kind of space he knew best: restaurants. There, he learned street Italian, which, combined with Megan’s near-perfect Rosetta Stone Italian, helped them gain the trust of the community.
Jon began touring vineyards and working alongside his new farmer and winemaker friends, learning how to grow, prune, harvest, and crush grapes. “[I wanted to understand] how wine goes from soil to bottle,” Jon says. “I’m a first-level somm, but I wanted reps in the vineyard to really understand how it works.” In 2015, Jon bought an almost two-acre vineyard. Shortly thereafter, he delivered on his promise that the family would return to Denver in time for Tre to begin kindergarten.
Now, Jon is bringing his wine back to the Mile High City as well. Next month, Attimo Winery, his new wine bar and production facility, is slated to open in a former pawn shop adjacent to Snooze’s original Ballpark location. There, you’ll be able to try 11 Attimo (Italian for “moment”) varieties featuring grapes from vineyards near Jon’s, plus wines made by other small producers in Piedmont. A Barolo cru from Jon’s own grapes will be poured at the winery come May 2020. (A bianco, a rosso, and a rosato are also at local bottle shops, including Argonaut Wine & Liquor, and on area restaurants’ wine lists.)
When Jon isn’t tending his vines abroad, you’ll find him in Attimo’s Italy-meets-Denver tasting room, doing what he was born to do: take care of people. “I can’t wait to serve the wine,” Jon says. “My happy place is on the floor.”
The Schlegels’ Piedmont home has two apartments where you can rent the dream—at least, for a week or two. Members of the Attimo Wine Club ($22 per month) get discounted nightly rates, but even if you don’t make it there, the two bottles club members receive every month make joining worthwhile.