A view of the Barolo wine region in Piedmont, Italy. This is where Attimo is based, in Monforte d’Alba, where owner Jon Schlegel runs a country guest house and vineyard. (Dan Fogarty, Provided by Attimo)
If you’ve ever vacationed in Italy, or maybe daydreamed of spending a season — heck, even a year — there, you’ll appreciate Denver restaurateur Jon Schlegel’s second of two life goals.
The first, apparently, was to open a business by the age of 30, which Schlegel accomplished when he started the breakfast behemoth Snooze, now with around 40 locations in five states and growing.
The second was to live overseas, but not just as a permanent tourist.
At 40, Schlegel moved with his Denver-based family to a small town in the Barolo wine region, where he would learn the winemaking business and some six years later open a Colorado- and Italy-based winery to bridge his two livelihoods.
RELATED: The founder of Snooze is starting a winery in Denver
On Friday, he debuted Attimo (Italian for “moment”) on Larimer Street, inside a former EZ Pawn and next door to the original Snooze location.
“I get to wake up every day and either serve you Benedicts or serve you grape juice,” Schlegel said with a big smile.
The Denver winery was just the last step in a process that included buying a small Monforte d’Alba bed and breakfast and a 2-acre vineyard, building relationships (in Italian) with neighboring farmers and then convincing two governments to let him open a wine business that spans both countries.
In the span of a month, Attimo winemaker David Fletcher ships the fermented juice from Genoa to Houston to Denver, during which time he and Schlegel can monitor their precious cargo’s progress and even watch its temperature.
Once it arrives to the Larimer Street facility, the wine is pumped into barrels where it’s aged for months and, in the case of Barolo and Barbaresco, bottled with the Italian government’s superior “denominazione di origine controllata e garantita” designation sticker. And this in Colorado.
Or it’s blended to make Attimo’s house bianco, rosato and rosso. In the Denver taproom, you’ll find all of those, plus Chardonnay, Barbera, Nebbiolo and a Dolcetto.
“This is your pizza, your simple pasta, your $10 everyday drinking wine (in Italy),” Schlegel says.
And to go with the glasses, flights or bottles ($20-$65), a former Snooze chef is preparing pretty true-to-Piedmont snacks, from short rib agnolotti ($10) to burrata with giardiniera ($14) and lecca lecca di prosciutto (basically a ham-wrapped breadstick, $8).
You don’t want to skip out on this taproom food, either. Schlegel calls the menu “Michelin bar snacks” because recipes were developed by Amy Bellotti and Marc Lanteri, who run a Michelin-starred restaurant outside of Alba. Turns out Bellotti is from Colorado, and at Attimo, the connections along these lines just continue.
Schlegel has partnered with his alma mater, University of Denver, to take two students every year to Barolo for an education in winemaking. He’s employing some of them now at Attimo. The winery already has around 100 restaurants and retail shops carrying its juice in Denver.
Outside of Colorado, you can find Attimo wines in Arizona, California and Illinois, with five more markets planned for 2020. Like Snooze next door to it, Attimo on Larimer Street is just the beginning, in Denver and elsewhere, though Schlegel talks like it’s the end of his 20-year plan.
“I can’t believe I’m in the former EZ Pawn shop right now!” Schlegel says, standing before framed photos of family and vineyards, inside a 7,000-square-foot production facility, tasting room, event space and education center. “This is my last office,” he promised.
2246 Larimer St., 2-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, attimowine.getbento.com
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