Since they opened ten years ago, Wild Women Wine has been a staple in the Denver urban winery scene. Owners Charlene and Ross (the winemaker of it all) are getting ready to celebrate the ten year anniversary of being open; in that time they’ve seen the Colorado Wine scene grow and boutique wineries make their mark. When they started out as a Denver urban winery, as Charlene said, “we knew that we wanted to be someplace that a) had high foot traffic, and b) people were going to be surprised to see the word winery,” but when they rebranded as Wild Women Wine about five years ago, they would never have guessed at just how appealing the name would be to people.
Charlene and Ross originally joined the wine scene in Texas, but it was their juice company that spurred their move to Colorado. “The juice company where we get all our juice from really wanted the Colorado market opened. We knew the business well, and so we were asked to come to Colorado and open the Colorado market,” said Charlene. Having sold their wineries in Texas, they moved up here looking to start on a new adventure. They moved up to Silverthorne and opened two wineries in 2007, but before they knew it, the recession had hit. As Charlene said, “2008, 2009, and 2010 were very challenging” but they survived and things took a turn for the better in 2011. She left Silverthorne (their winery there had closed) and came down to Denver to take over the location of Wild Women Wine and re-establish the winery and tasting room. “We felt like coming out of the recession, we really had to set ourselves apart,” she said. They did just that.
As they were starting over, it was just Charlene and one other part-time employee helping when they got busy. They also partnered with a local artist, Jill Neal, who does humorous women’s art. “We were able to purchase the use of a lot of her artwork and we put a different piece of artwork on each wine. We tried to pair up the artwork with the wine so that it was very different looking,” Charlene said. It’s this artwork that set them apart from different wineries. As for how they get the different names of their wines (who doesn’t love Naked Chardonnay?!), Charlene explains that the artist will name the piece of art, and then they usually piggyback off that. The other thing they found when they came to Colorado was the need to produce more red wines. Because of this, Ross began to experiment making blends. She says that was in part because of the recession – you had to work with what you had. “The wine industry actually became very creative during and after the recession,” she told me, and it is quite evident in their wines and labels.
In fact, the first juices they sourced were out of Canada, “and that idea basically crossed the border.” They now get their juice from Central Valley, CA. but that helped drive what they were doing. They knew from the beginning they would be sourcing juice, with no desire to have vineyards, and thus being able to make wine year round. Ross orders juice about once a month and because they have about 1600 square feet of production space, there have to be cycles; “there has to be wine in production all the time and in different stages all the time.” And they truly make a handcrafted wine. Nothing is mass-produced, and it shows. Their labels may not always be on straight, but it’s a mark that somebody had their hands on that bottle of wine and they helped create it. “Wine is born when it’s born,” and when it’s ready, it’s worth the wait.
When they rebranded as Wild Women Wine, they also expanded their operations. As their business grew, so did their need to make wine; they moved all of their wine making process to one area (including where the tasting room had originally been) and now have their large tasting room. “We literally doubled in size in the course of six months,” said Charlene.
As for having a winery in downtown Denver, Charlene said there was no trepidation. Their wineries in Texas had been in town squares or on the strand in Galveston, “and the concept was really good there, and we had been very successful.” She knew the concept was good, but it was the fact that downtown Denver was pretty much a ghost town during the recession that was the problem. However, since then, they’ve seen not only the Denver wine industry blossom, but downtown Denver blossom as well. She finds that it also helps that the Colorado wine scene is ”unexpected.” It may not be why people come here, “but it’s one of the nice things you find in Colorado.” They are very supportive of local businesses, and when our very own owner of Mile High Wine Tours, Felipe, came to them, they worked together to come up with what they think people will enjoy. The more the merrier in the wine world, Charlene believes.
What else makes Wild Women Wine so special is the ability for customers to create their own wine blend and label. “That’s a really big niche for us,” and with that, they get business and bridal parties and customers celebrating their anniversaries who want their own wine. It’s very affordable for customers who are interested in making their own cases, Charlene tells me. They also carry quite a few sweet wines with different flavors to address those who enjoy sweet wine. With Wild Women Wine, Charlene and Ross make sure that everybody can enjoy the wine that they like in they way they like it. They want to show there’s nothing “scary” about wine. Their place is welcoming and inviting and there’s nothing scary about it. Though their way may not appeal to the “classic wine industry,” they’re clearly doing something very right.
“We make wine that people will really enjoy and that is our goal.” And if you’re looking for a recommendation, Charlene is currently really enjoying their Viognier.