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Posted: November 11, 2009

The best-kept wine secret in town

You didn't hear this from me.....

I'm thinking of one of the best kept wine-drinking secrets in town and how I've got a true conundrum on my hands: I must write this column about this secret -- yet I'm oh-so-reluctant to give it away.

Let's just say it's a once-a-year event that five of my best gal pals and I indulge in. It involves champagne, wine, little sandwiches and chocolates and delicacies - and a grand piano in a hotel lobby that makes you feel like you're Greta Garbo in "Grand Hotel." You expect a shoulder-padded Joan Crawford and a luscious John Barrymore to come striding across the plush carpeting any second.

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It's the sumptuous, decadent, delicious Afternoon Tea in The Brown Palace Hotel Lobby. And, though one can enjoy the indulgence year-round, there ain't nothin' like indulging in The Brown Palace Afternoon Tea at the height of the holiday season.

Please forget the following: Every January 2, at precisely 8 a.m., I dial The Brown Palace Afternoon Tea reservation desk and book a table for six. No one else I know can score this table. Everyone always forgets.

All the reservations get booked the first 15 minutes of the new year and - in spite of The Brown Palace's extraordinary, European, garçon-like staff - I can tell that it's all they can do to keep from laughing their a__es off if you so much as suggest you'd like to tinker with your reservation time-wise or date-wise in December.

If you're lucky enough to snag a reservation, you'll enjoy an experience like nothing else in Denver. The long-standing event of "taking tea" at The Brown Palace is a tradition over 100 years old. Tea is served daily in the warm light of the atrium lobby, always with the soothing sounds of a harpist or pianist.

 Specially commissioned Royal Daulton bone china graces each tea table, along with engraved silver tea pots. Scones, tea pastries and tea sandwiches are artfully prepared by the hotel's culinary staff each day and Devonshire cream is shipped directly from England (good God, this stuff is better than chocolate, sex and a good night's sleep all rolled into one).

Loose leaf twinings tea is oh-so-properly steeped for five minutes before being carried to the table by experienced servers who have been schooled in the fine art of English tea service. A full complement of wines, champagnes, sherries and ports grace the menu and this year there's a new option: the "Royal Palace," which offers classic and chocolate pastries.

Lest you think the afternoon's only about scones and tea, think again. The wine list is thoughtful, celebrated and varied. The "white" side of the list includes several Chardonnays from Napa and Sonoma Valleys; a Trimbach from Alsace, France; and a Dolce Late Harvest.

Reds include a Silver Oaks Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; an Australian Green Point, Victoria, Shiraz; and Napa Valley's Frogs Leap Zinfandel.

One is tempted to adorn oneself ala "Joan-and-Greta" when attending The Brown Palace Afternoon Tea - all gloves and shoulder-padded dresses and little "netted" hats, but I advise against it. You'll make a spectacle.

On the other hand, should you be lucky enough score a holiday season reservation to The Brown Palace Afternoon Tea, you ought to be able to dress any way you like. Because the reservations are impossible to get and because no one thinks to stop the world and get on the phone at 8:00 a.m. on January 2 - when the world is suddenly back from a month's holiday decadence and ready to dive into the work-a-day world.

So forget you ever read this. And forget that the number to make a Brown Palace Afternoon Tea reservation is: 303.297.3111.

Fuhgeddaboudit. Please.

Word o' the Week

Rooibos (ROY-bos) - African for "red bush," Rooibos is a member of the legume family of plants and is used to make an herbal tea or "bush tea." Rooibos has been popular in southern African for generations and is now found outside of Africa in many countries. It's on the menu at The Brown Palace Afternoon Tea.

One Winning Wine Tasting

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, wine drinkers can enjoy "Wine Down Wednesday" (and Thursday) at Randolph's Restaurant & Bar, located in the Warwick Denver Hotel, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Patrons can enjoy 50 percent off of specially selected Captain's List wines when dining at Randolph's. Examples of specially selected wines include: Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Tolosa Winery Estate Syrah, and Groth Cabernet. Call 303.318.7272 for further information.

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Readers Respond

I was excited to read about the "Best kept wine secret in town", but disappointed to read about The Brown Palace. Holiday tea at the Brown was a treat my girlfriends and I enjoyed for 12 years. However over the past 3-4 years, the service and food aren't what they once were. The year the construction company was jackhammering was less than pleasant, not to mention that leaving messages for reservations seldom warrants a return phone call. This year my girlfriends and I are opting for a holiday celebration at a more enjoyable restaurant - one that has fresher food with a wait staff that checks in with the tables to see if drinks need refreshing, and a reservationist that returns our calls. By Gayle on 2009 11 12

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