Tag Archives: wine

Winery Review: Balistreri Vineyards


Long known for its microbreweries and beer, Colorado is gaining traction in the winery business. Many small, local wineries have been sprouting up all over the Front Range and growing in popularity. From the Manitou Springs Wine Festival to the Denver Urban Wine Fest and  Denver International Wine Festival, to the Colorado Mountain Winefest in September, the Colorado appreciation for fermented fruit is gaining momentum.

red sangria

The Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE) is a member-based association that exists to encourage and support enology and viticulture in Colorado.” If you’re interested in viticulture, especially in the state of Colorado, check out their extensive website.

One local winery that has been a huge success since it’s opening in 2011 is Balistreri Vineyards, located at  1946 E. 66th Avenue. A local family business, they have been awarded medal after medal in local, national, and international wine competitions. Originally farmers, then owners of a large greenhouse, the family realized the cut flower and potted plant industry near home was taking a turn for the worse. They decided to tear down the dozens of greenhouses and build a little wooden building to house the beginnings of their winery.


This is the back of the winery in the winter. A large yard space is surrounded by a terraced walkway which is wrapped in lights in the winter and greenery in the summer. There is a raised stage on which bands could perform, or a couple could say their wedding vows.


Inside the remodeled and expanded building, there is a giant hall to hold a few hundred guests, a fully functional kitchen, and a beautiful picture-perfect staircase leading up to the bride’s and grooms chambers. It is a perfect set-up for a wedding, and so picturesque to boot.


This is just a sampling of the many award-winning wines Balistreri has produced. They specialize in bold, fruit-forward reds and dry, refreshing whites. If you go in the tasting room you can sample their entire line-up of wines. “The Winery is open for Wine Tasting, Winery Tours & Lunch seven days a week from 11:00am-5:00pm.”

The tours are fascinating and informative. All wine-making and aging is done in house. The basement is filled floor to ceiling with giant oak barrels, housing future Balistreri wines.


These barrels are majority American oak, with a few specialty barrels from time to time for seasonal and special wines. For example, two barrels that previously housed whiskey hold future port at the moment, to give unique flavors and aromas to the finished products.


They also hand-fill and cork all their wine bottles here, with huge ancient metal machines.


And the final, finishing touch: a swirl of wax to seal the top of the bottle. Keeps it fresh, and classy.


Demonstrating how to wax the bottle.


After your tour and/or tasting, if you’re feeling hungry or too buzzed to drive home yet, they have a wonderful lunch menu with everything from small tastes and cheese trays to full meals of salads, sandwiches, and pastas.

IMG_9435 These are the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds. They were sweet and a little bit salty, absolutely delicious. Every plate is served with fresh ciabatta and dipping oil.


This is the roasted pear salad with dried fruits, goat cheese, candied nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. The bed of arugula provided the perfect bite to the sweet fruit and balsamic, and I’m a sucker for anything with goat cheese.

The service is quick, and they are very attentive. Water glasses are kept refilled, and you can of course have a glass of any of their wines with lunch. Oh, and if you go on the tour after the tasting, they will pour you a glass of your favorite to take with you!

The location is fabulous, with the exception of the overall location. They family farm was in the same place for decades, but around it has sprung up the industrial heart of commerce city. Thus, the picturesque porch and trellises surround a lovely sitting area, right next to which drive giant semi trucks and various construction vehicles. The business next door rents cranes, whose long metal bodies you see peeking over the winery’s back fence.

I have not attended any special events, but I know they have many. A wine and dinner with a projected romance movie, live music, and harvest festivals are only a few of the yearly offerings. Check their website often for updates.

They also have a wine club, which offers two levels of membership, access to new releases and special edition wines, and great discounts. Especially if you live in the area you should consider it, as you get even more discounts for picking up your wines rather than shipping them.


Overall, I would rate Balistreri Winery as:

  • Taste: 8
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 6

As a reminder, for reviews the evaluations are based on:

  • Taste: 1 (wet toast) – 10 (your taste buds have died and gone to heaven)
  • Atmosphere: 1 (gas station bathroom) – 10 (best you’ve ever experienced)
  • Value: 1 (not worth it) – 10 (super duper deal)

All opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean. Please enjoy responsibly.


Twice the wine for half the calories!

Just in time for Thirsty Thursday, a smart trick to let yourself enjoy two glasses of wine for the caloric price of one!

Whether at home with your girls or sweetie, or out on the prowl at happy hour, this is a sneaky trick to help manage your weight without putting a damper on your social life. 


Now, before I tell you the trick, let me say this is in no way an endorsement for drinking. I am not giving anyone permission to over-indulge or anything like that.

There is much mixed information in the news about how red wine contains antioxidants and resveretrol, so it has to be healthy; or alcohol causes lowered inhibition, weight gain, and loose morals, so it’s the devil.

There is some truth to both sides, and my life motto is all things in moderation.  Women are recommended to drink no more than one beverage per day, and men two.

An alcoholic beverage means:

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, such as vodka (a shot)

While it is true that some studies show various mental and physical health benefits of moderate amounts of alcohol (specifically wine), alcohol also contains “empty” calories.

This means that you are getting calories from the drink, but no health benefits from vitamins or nutrients. So you need to take into account the calories that you will be adding on top of all your food calories for the day, or you will gain weight over time.

This also goes for other “empty” beverages like soda pop or sugary coffee drinks. 

Calories in Wine

Depending on the type of wine, one 5 ounce glass can contain between 100 and 300 calories. That is the typical size of a midday snack or breakfast. The range is large because it depends upon the type of wine and the sugar content.

Sweeter wines tend to have more sugar, and thus more calories, than dry wines. Which is unfortunate, because I can kill a whole bottle of moscato in one sitting, but take two hours to force down a dry red. I guess that’s the idea…

The website GetDrunkNotFat is aptly named, and specializes in exactly the type of information you would think. They have a great chart here that summarizes many types of beverages (including things other than wine) broken down by calories per serving, serving size, even grams of carbohydrates per serving.

You should also check out this amazing infographic on “Wine for Beginners” by Madeline Puckette from WineFolly.com

The part you’ve been waiting for!

Anyways, there is a way you can have you wine and drink it too. (Nonsensical metaphor, check). Simply ask the bartender or yourself to mix half wine with half soda water.

Carbonated water or seltzer water have as many calories as regular water: Zero.

Therefore, you can have 2.5 oz of wine plus 2.5 oz of sparkling water, twice! That’s nicer than having one glass of wine, and one glass of water, don’t you think? 

Carbonated water gets its fizzy property from dissolved carbon dioxide. Many names are basically synonymous, including: soda water, seltzer, carbonated water, club soda, sparkling water, and mineral water, with small distinctions.

The exception, which is not synonymous, is tonic water.

This is definitely not water-flavored; if ever you have tried it you are aware of its bitter taste. This bitter property comes from the organic compound quinine.  

What quinine looks like. In case you ever need to
organic chemistry your way out of a situation at a bar.

While bitter compounds are typically rejected by your taste buds (from an evolutionary mechanism which protected early people from ingesting poisons, see the comic below), quinine has been used in medicine for centuries.

In fact, quinine has been and is still used occasionally to treat malaria. Interestingly, it is also naturally fluorescent.

So if you’re at a club with black lights, you could always order a gin & tonic and amaze your friends with your glowing beverage. 

The same logic applies to foods and drinks. If it was bitter, it might be poison. At least nowadays we know better.

So now that you know, choose your fizzy calorie-free mixer, and your wine of choice. May I recommend not diluting a very expensive fine wine, but going for something like (now) three-buck-chuck?

Simply because, if you can afford a $200-bottle of wine, I assume you want to enjoy the wine itself. In that case, please proceed, and maybe email me so we can be friends?

You can even use flavored soda water so that you don’t notice a taste difference, or improve the taste of a wine you aren’t terribly fond of, but are tired of that 1/3 full bottle in the fridge.

It makes a bubbly beverage that feels special. And good news, there is no scientific evidence that carbonated water harms bone health, in case that was a concern.

Enjoy responsibly!

For more health effects of alcohol, check out:

Do you have any healthy or frugal drinking tips?