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Sandoval scores again

Chef Richard Sandoval has a lot to talk about. With more than 30 contemporary Latin cuisine-focused restaurants around the globe, Sandoval’s Denver fame is most notable with his Tamayo and Zengo iterations: cool, south-of-the-border bistros that remind the traveler (or traveling-inclined) diner that there’s more to Latin cuisine than paella and patatas (though god knows there’s nothing wrong with either of those).

He’s ratcheting-up his Denver vine vibe with his latest incantation: al Lado, a Latin wines and tapas delight tucked up next to Zengo and quietly residing in the midst of the walking mall at Little Raven Street. And Sandoval’s light has never burned brighter, made apparent in bringing on al Lado General Manager and wine genius, Kelly Berger.

Berger brings Johnston & Wales training, a first-level sommelier accreditation, loads of conviction, and not a little passion to her menu and it shows. Over two dozen Tintos, Blancos and Cavas line her by-the-glass menu and if you try nothing else, sip the Numanthia Termes, Tempranillo, or the Chilean Antu Syrah. An extra surprise added to her list is a Botani, Moscatel Seco. “Everyone thinks they don’t want a white or that it’s going to be a forgettable white. With the Botani Moscatel Seco, everyone’s minds are blown. It’s an exciting, bright wine.”

Her tapas menu cannot be outdone in Denver. Fideos Chorizo u Almejas Ahumado (Spanish pasta, chorizo bilbao, smoked clams, capers and spicy tomato made my knees week. The Albondigas de Cordero arrived as lamb meatballs swimming in a delicate tomato, zucchini, goat cheese broth. And the Hongos y Tarturo — yet the best surprise — brought a Spanish mushroom/ mushrooms/truffle oil/spinach and gruyere assembled delight.

These inventive and daring dishes and drinks spring from a genuine love for her craft. “My philosophy to creating a wine list is to stick to the genre of the restaurant and find amazing, approachable wines that would be great for everyday drinking as well as special occasion bottles for celebrating life,” says Berger. “I really like to have a well-rounded list that hits all regions and price points.

“al Lado separates itself by really focusing on the Pan-Latin (if you will) wine spectrum,” she adds. “Examples are the terrier expressions of not only Spain, but the yet unexplored regions of Chile and Argentina. I love finding a Syrah from Chile that is as good as or better than one from the Rhone region or California.”

Want to blow out the evening, blow your friends’ minds and have a blast — for little change? al Lado’s “Whole Shebang” option may be the most innovative restaurant marketing idea of this century. The Whole Shebang is designed for groups of six to eight people and allows for ordering the entire tapas menu — of which there twenty three items — and your choice of a magnum for the grand total of $220. Divvy that up eight ways and it’s obvious that this is an impossibly economical culinary treat for you and for your crowd.

Every once in awhile a cool, inviting places opens up and it has all the parts: expert service, knowledge, price points divine, extraordinary wine and inventive vittles.

Right now that place is al Lado. http://www.richardsandoval.com/allado/

One Winning Wine Tasting

Denver Savor the Flavors Walking Tour

Fridays offer wine lovers the chance to casually stroll down the historic streets of Denver while enjoying the local fare, flavors and fellow foodies. This two hour walking and tasting tour will takes attendees through the unique neighborhoods of LoDo, Highlands and South Pearl visiting specialty shops, restaurants and markets. The culinary spots rotate and opportunities abound to meet people and restaurateurs - always ending in Happy Hour.

This tour is limited to 12.

The Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 Savor the Favor is at Pig & Block, 3326 Tejon Street, Denver, CO 80211. Call 303-495-5487 for further information.

Weird Wine Trivia

Sulfites in wine can cause some people, particularly those with asthma, to have adverse reactions.

A scientific study has concluded that wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape reduces the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

“Cooper” is a craftsperson of wooden barrels and casks. A cooperage is a facility that produces such casks.

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