Denver has long been lauded as one of the U.S.\u2019s leading beer meccas, where craft breweries see Black Friday-like lines upon the release of experimental brews. Spirits, bolstered primarily by whiskey, sit second.\r\n\r\nWine, on the other hand, has always been the third choice. But the natural wine fervor that has gripped the likes of New York City, San Francisco and the Midwest has made it to the Mile High City.\r\n\r\nDenver is one of the country\u2019s fastest growing urban sprawls, and many say that transplants have helped add to local cultural movements. Or that what happens in bigger cities impacts what people want in places like Denver.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBut when it comes to natural wine, much credit for this surge has been attributed to one surprising demographic: the adventurous beer drinkers.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe do still suffer from having a \u2018semi-younger\u2019 food and beverage scene,\u201d says Mary Allison Wright.\r\n\r\nWith her husband, McLain Hedges, Wright was an early champion of natural wines in Colorado. The couple launched projects like the bottle shop The Proper Pour and RiNo Yacht Club, a cocktail bar with an all-natural wine list.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut overall, because we have such a vast culture of craft beer, there\u2019s this sense of open-mindedness that has allowed for natural wines to grow,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\nDenver\u2019s natural wine scene is especially grateful to sour beer enthusiasts. Many in the wine business say this group has been the easiest to convert.\r\n\r\n\u201cThose who are really into sour beers in particular have started to take to natural wines,\u201d says Hedges. He maintains that the esoteric flavors often associated with a p\u00e9tillant-naturel appeal to those who favor sour ales and saisons. \u201cThese are the guys who are really interested in pushing their palates and trying things that maybe they didn\u2019t initially understand.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhile the couple\u2019s venues have since closed, wine geeks once flocked to each to sip natural wines from producers like Vignoble du R\u00eaveur, Martha Stoumen and Partida Creus. The uninitiated were often beguiled when they saw a category like \u201cOrange\u201d on RiNo Yacht Club\u2019s beverage menu.\r\n\r\nWright and Hedges are working to open another bar in Denver where they hope to continue what they started. They\u2019re convinced that natural wines, and wine in general, won\u2019t be in the shadows for very long. The Colorado Natural Wine Week has been staged each April since 2014. Expert-led tastings, pairing dinners at top restaurants and parties focused on natural wines were organized all over the city.\r\n\r\nTroy Bowen, one the event\u2019s founders, previously worked as a sales representative for natural wine importer Jenny & Fran\u00e7ois Selections. Even when natural wine didn\u2019t really have the fanbase it does today, he says, there was enough product and interest in Denver to make it work.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cWine week was like a safety net,\u201d he says. While the founding partners were able to cobble together decent events, the first few iterations were a very limited experience.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re gonna teach the trade and the public, and then maybe we\u2019ll have a reason to continue to have these wines in this market.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnd maybe that\u2019s exactly what happened.\r\n\r\nMr. B's Wine & Spirits has built out its natty inventory impressively since it opened in 2009. Only about 5% of its stock featured low-intervention bottlings in the beginning.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere was virtually no natural wine distributed in Colorado when we first opened,\u201d says owner Jared Blauweiss. \u201cBut in our first few years, we were still able to put some great producers on our shelves, including Elisabetta Foradori, Radikon and L\u00f3pez de Heredia.\u201d\r\n\r\nBlauweiss has worked to grow his selection, and Mr. B\u2019s has asserted itself as a major natural wine resource in Colorado and beyond.\r\n\r\nIn September 2020, it opened a third location, this one in downtown Denver\u2019s Golden Triangle district, where 439 natural wine bottlings make up nearly 80% of the inventory.\r\n\r\nAisles are stocked with sought-after bottles like the 2019 Let\u2019s Go Disco ros\u00e9 from Anders Frederik Steen, and Oregon winemaker Nate Ready\u2019s skin-contact 2017 Hiyu Aura.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBlauweiss says that Mr. B\u2019s could have the largest natural wine selection between Chicago and the Pacific Ocean.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ve had people drive from out of state to shop here,\u201d he says. Denver may have been slow to catch on, but as people learned more about natural wine, the more they wanted it, says Blauweiss.\r\n\r\nThe region\u2019s distribution network has met this uptick in interest. Benny & Zoid Selections, cofounded by musician Eric Bloom, has focused on getting the likes of Kmetija \u0160tekar from Slovenia and Spain\u2019s Esencia Rural to Denver cellars for years. But newer players like John Trahan, who has helped bring more natural bottles to top Denver wine shops like Mondo Vino, have entered the fray.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cColorado is the kind place where people care about where their produce comes from or whether their coffee is organic and fair trade,\u201d says Trahan, who owns distribution company Yes Wines. \u201cThat mindset was maybe a little late when it came to their wine, but what\u2019s cool about it is that there\u2019s a lot of people here who are potentially entering that world through natural wine.\u201d\r\n\r\nTrahan\u2019s offerings include Lelarge-Pugeot, Fond Cypr\u00e8s Premier Jus and Les Dolomies\u2019 sometimes difficult-to-find bottles from the Jura in France.\r\n\r\nIn addition to stores like Foss Wine Company and Denver Wine Merchant, Trahan also supplies buzzy restaurants like Safta and Noble Riot, which Bowen opened to great acclaim in the River North (RiNo) Arts District in 2018.\r\n\r\nBowen\u2019s eatery is the type of hangout where you squeeze into an oversize velvet booth pushed up against graffitied floor-to-ceiling windows. A bucket of fried chicken can be paired with a tasting flight of p\u00e9t-nats from all over the world, or maybe even a natural Pinot from one of Colorado\u2019s up-and-coming viticultural areas.\r\n\r\nSuch whimsical, unexpected food-and-wine programs might be old hat in Paris or Barcelona, but it\u2019s a new experience that\u2019s taking off in Denver.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nHead to James Beard-nominated chef Kelly Whitaker\u2019s Brut\u00f8, where you can wash down suadero tacos with a Bichi ros\u00e9. At Hop Alley, the spice of a Sichuan catfish stew is mellowed with Thierry Germain\u2019s dry, mineral Clos du Moulin Chenin Blanc.\r\n\r\nThese may not be as quintessential a Denver pairing as a green-chili burrito and limited-edition, small batch IPA, but they could be on their way.