Uncorked fun flows at Denali Winery
If there’s anything better than a great glass of wine, it’s a great bottle of wine. What’s even greater than that? Dozens of bottles that you get to bottle yourself, while surrounded by awesome friends, eating delicious food in a fun and lively atmosphere. Lucky us, Denali Winery in South Anchorage offers all this and more.
Friends from grad school turned me on to Denali earlier this year. Wine lovers with eyes and ears for the good life, these guys invited several of us to help them bottle a batch of red and enjoy an Italian dinner. Very quickly, they indoctrinated us into Denali’s inner workings and offerings.
It works like this: Denali doesn’t serve any food but they do have wine. Lots of wine. Because that equation doesn’t quite pencil out, they invite folks to bring their own food. As for the drinks, you pay $20 and can enjoy six tastes of wine. Some- times the sampling is preselected; other times, if you give them a general idea of what you like or are curious about, they’ll cater to your palette.
Six tastes may not sound like much. Trust me, this is a screaming deal. Pours are generous, the variety is surprising, and the staff set a measured and languid pace where suddenly two or more hours have trickled by with never a dull (or dry) moment.
Here’s where things get really fun: if you find a wine you like, you can order a batch that usually comes out to about 28 bottles for just over $300. That’s less than $11 a bottle. After my first visit, I decided to get in on this and I ordered a batch of Chilean Carmenere, a medium-bodied red wine whose grape originated in France but now flourishes in Chile.
At this point, Denali Winery does its thing: on-premise wine-making, crafting personal, micro-brewed small batches. From ordering time, it takes about six weeks to create. Avail- able varietals include reds, whites, dessert wines, and fruit wines.
As Denali’s website explains, their grapes come from vineyards all over the world. Juice is processed and shipped to the facility. Oak chips, bentonite and yeast are added to the juice to start the wine-making process. The yeast begins to ferment the juice, producing alcohol. The wine is sta- bilized to stop the fermentation process; sometimes more juice is added to make the wine sweeter. Then the wine is clarified and filtered and aged for several weeks.
When your batch is ready, Denali invites you and your friends to complete the process. You’ll want four or five buddies at least to manage this four-step procedure where you’ll fill, cork, cap and label your bottles. There’s something fun and simple about this hands-on, assembly-line activity. You can even order personalized labels that turn around and arrive within a week. This would be a great place to produce gifts or wine for an event like a wedding.
The “bring your own food” component really makes for a fun twist too. It isn’t uncommon to see one group’s table covered with elegant cheese plates while another has a bucket of friend chicken and yet another overruns with rich Italian dishes.
Denali Winery is open until 8 p.m., except on Friday and Saturday when it stays open until 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended for larger groups. The winery is located at 11901 Industry Way, Bldg A, No. 1 in South Anchorage. For more information call (907) 563-9434 or go to info@ alaskadenaliwinery.com.