Mar 262014

“…Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.” William Shakespeare, Henry VIII – 1613

“All good things must come to an end.” Geoffrey Chaucer – 1374

My emotions are today ranging from melancholy to near sadness. The Buddhist in me is reminded that attachment only causes pain. But for all my human failings, I find myself attached to what was and feeling some modicum of pain.

Tonight we will be attending a celebration of sorts, or maybe more like a wake. For tonight marks the closing of the place we thought of as our second living room, our other home and extended family, CRU Wine Bar in Park Meadows. Our Cheers Bar, if you will. Before you roll your eyes and judge, I encourage you to read on about this wonderful little wine bar that lost its lease because the mall property owner preferred to move in a high volume chain steak house. What once was interesting is now becoming another cookie-cutter experience. CRU is not the first victim as leases have come up for renewal. No doubt the little wine bar could never generate the rental revenue of the newer high volume tenants…but not all food and wine options need to cater to manic disengaged crowds when there is space for the large and intimate alike.

In 2006, we moved to the south suburbs of Denver, a great place for our children to finish high school. The only problem we found was the absolute dearth of culinary and wine options. P.F. Chang’s was as exciting as it got. Of course, there are many interesting wine and food choices in and around Denver but most were at least a 30 minute drive from our rocky mountain suburbia. However, that began to change when Park Meadows Mall opened an outdoor park-like restaurant area called The Vistas. One of the first tenants, seven years ago was CRU…and we, some of the first customers. Read Donna’s 2010 review in What Makes a Great neighborhood Wine Bar

Though CRU is a small chain out of Texas, nothing about our CRU (and the others we have visited) felt corporate. The atmosphere was relaxed and once the staff knew you, it was like family. The wine was even served at the proper temperature, no over-chilled whites and over-heated reds. Yes, there was turn-over during the seven years, but not as much as one might think. Because CRU was located halfway between our office and home, the wine selection was great and the people awesome, we stopped by many an evening, especially after the kids were away in college.

The staff, while younger than us, was and are friends and in some cases feel like extended family. We shared so many ups and downs during our time together. We saw boyfriend/girlfriend relationship blossom and die. We celebrated births, watched babies grow into childhood, hugged and cried over family deaths. We were disappointed as staffed moved on. We took pride in novice wine servers became accomplished (often despite my unrequested advice). We celebrated those who completed their Sommelier certifications. We were even taken into the small inner circle of friends as one discreetly embraced her sexuality.

Donna and I, along with our kids when they joined us, shared our daily lives at CRU; we were in that way a family. We discussed the successes and setbacks in our daily lives and often shared our wine-stained dreams and aspirations. High School and college graduations, ringing in of the New Year, Father’s/Mother’s Day Brunches, anniversaries, birthdays and so much more was celebrated and shared in our other living room.

A former manager/trained chef, David took an interest in our daughter’s passion for baking. When Whitney would come home from college, David would invite her to come to the kitchen before opening so he could help her become more accomplished. As a result, Whitney landed a spot on the 2013 CBS reality show The American Baking Competition and is still an avid baker. You can find her blog, Appleton Desserts. Thanks David!

Our children have since graduated from college and are now in the wine industry themselves. Our son is an aspiring winemaker (now in New Zealand) and our daughter is in wine hospitality at Jordan Winery. Over the past few years, when they came back to Denver to visit, CRU became the family meeting spot. It gave everyone an opportunity to sample and discuss an array of well selected wines, chat about the details our day and share a charcuterie board or succulent lamb pops before heading home for dinner. I’m sure they too would attest that the folks at CRU has had a positive effect on their wine lives. In this way CRU was our living room…before we headed to our family living room.

And friends, we made new friends at CRU, often over a shared love for wine. Some of these friendships remained rooted at CRU but others developed into friends we dine with, drink wine with and continue to cherish the relationship.

So tonight it is, to use an overused cliché, the end of an era. We will raise a glass to a great seven year run and the friendships we made over the best of man’s, some say God’s, inventions, wine. No chain steakhouse bar could ever be what CRU, the staff and patrons were to us.

To my CRU extended family, staff past and present…may the wind be at your back and we wish you the best of success. We only hope our relationship has enriched your lives half as much as you have enriched ours.

To the CRU staff in downtown Denver (some now from Park Meadows) …. We will make the 30 minute drive (just not as often) and share a glass of wine, soon. I’m sure we all will have wine-stained tales to tell.

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