From an early age, food has been an important part of Dustin Chiappetta’s life. His parents both worked in the restaurant industry, and through his teenage years he served as a cook at the family’s café in the small mountain town of La Veta. During college, Chiappetta began learning about wine and how it can enhance food, and that, he says, “is when the wine bug bit me.” After graduating, Chiappetta worked in liquor distributing, where for 16 years he learned the industry inside and out.

So when the opportunity arose to open his own liquor store, Chiappetta leaped at the chance to not just make a shift professionally, but also to craft a novel concept. The result is Pearl Wine Company, a cozy store in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood built around the idea that without knowing much about wine, customers can pick up any bottle and know they’re getting “a fantastic wine for a good value and a strong sense of place,” says Chiappetta.

Pearl Wine Company focuses exclusively on family-owned wineries, craft beer, and small batch distilleries—groups that Chiappetta says make better products because they care about them. “Five companies control more than 50 percent of the wine in the U.S., and their focus is on how to get the consumer to take their bottle off the shelf,” he says. There’s no education on where the products come from and who created them. “That’s what I want to focus on,” he says, but “talking about this is not common in the industry.”

Chiappetta’s philosophy shines through from the moment you enter the spacious, modern shop, where the wine bottles are neatly arranged by country, with colorful maps highlighting each nation’s wine-growing regions. As part of its focus on education, the store offers a monthly wine share, where participants can pick up a box of wine curated by Chiapetta according to season (there are three options, ranging from $55 to $150), as well as free tastings every Wednesday and Saturday, including the popular monthly beer-and-ice-cream pairings held in conjunction with the neighboring Sweet Cow ice cream shop.

Just because Chiappetta and his staff focus on quality doesn’t mean that all the store’s products are expensive; Pearl Wine Company has an entire wall devoted to bottles under $15, as well as products like boxed wine ideal for your next picnic. For the summer, Chiappetta recommends trying a rosé, a wine that has recently caught on in the U.S. “Whether you’re just going to sip it, or you want to match it with grilled foods, rosé really does give you the best of both worlds,” he says.

Because family-owned wines are often not labeled as such, recognizing one often takes a considerable amount of research. Pearl Wine Company makes it easier for people to find their next favorite bottle of vino. “It’s hard on your own,” says Chiappetta. “The best thing you can do is go to a wine shop where the people are passionate about what they’re doing, and ask.”

Visit: Pearl Wine Company is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 1886 South Pearl St.; 303-282-5103

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at