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Denver’s Restaurant Scene Tempts Diners with Dramatic Wine Wall Displays
by Tom Davis, AIA, LEED® AP
Trend-setting restaurants such as Elway’s, Venice Ristorante, TAG, and soon-to-open Charcoal in Denver are using the time-tested merchandise presentation technique of mass display with accent lighting to excite, entertain, and suggest purchases to their clientele.
For most people, a fine dining experience is incomplete without the right choice of wine to accompany the meal. The best restaurants have trained staff to provide information on the complicated task of sending diners home with pleasant memories of wining and dining, but now restaurant design is facilitating the wine selection process. What is behind the rise of this trend?
Charcoal in Denver’s Golden Triangle
Davis Wince, Ltd. recently created Charcoal, a new restaurant concept based on adapting traditional bincho-tan charcoal-style cooking to contemporary European cuisine. The European fusion menu is complemented by a minimalist, yet warm dining interior with a reserved focus on concealed light sources and natural materials.
The restaurant’s design features an open kitchen with the bincho grill in the center. At the grill is a seated bar, similar to a Sushi bar, where one may observe the food preparation. A bar and bar lounge area are separated from the dining room seating area by a transparent wine wall which is visible from both the lounge and seating area. The wine wall is multi-functional as space divider, light fixture, display element, and dominant representation of the wine menu. No matter where seated, diners are constantly reminded of the opportunity to have wine with the meal.
Another dimension of the wine soft sell is the wine area at Venice Ristorante, also in downtown Denver. Like Elway’s the dramatic display is visible in all areas of the dining area, but here the presentation is more than a wall. It is a walk-through library of fine wines where wait staff can escort clientele and educate them on the qualities of various wine choices. With a selection of 800 Italian wines and 300 international varieties, the wine vault is a potent selling tool that also adds to the visual pleasure of an evening out.
Venice Ristorante, downtown Denver
Denver’s TAG, a place where the young and hip meet to be part of the scene, offers up an incredible selection of unconventional dishes such as sushi tacos, Korean pork belly ssam, and duck-fat French fries.
Tag restaurant in Denver’s LoDo area
The owner aptly refers to the menu as “Continental Social Food.” In this establishment the wine wall is part of the entire ambiance package of polished wood natural brick and burnished metal, gleaming with warmth, and arranged so that the restaurant feels crowded and alive even on a slow night. The wine wall is part of an environment that attracts the city’s young cognoscenti and keeps them coming back.
Elway’s, located in Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Denver and named for Denver Bronco’s quarterback John Elway, is a steakhouse that caters to an upscale business crowd. Here the curved winewall highlights a refined interior that features multicolored light, soft wooden walls, blown-glass sculptures, and posh leather chairs. The wine wall, focal point of the dining experience, helps position the restaurant as the select spot in Denver for business meetings, entertaining clients, and having a top-notch steak dinner while traveling.
The Future of the Wine Wall
Will wine walls serve as a suggestive selling or market positioning in restaurant design of the future, or will they be essentially part of the design package? Will function win out over form? There’s room for both in the world of creating the ideal customer experience.