217 Wine Bar combines class with quality entertainment – Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Wide-framed windows give way to a Rocky Mountain backdrop, while a Steinway and Sons grand piano beneath a proscenium lends the space an elegant charm. The wine served is of the finest quality and the various furnished conversation areas provide a quaint communal atmosphere for guests.

The space is called 217 Wine Bar – the Stanley’s newest offering for guests and local community members. 217 is located in the main building of the Stanley Hotel and fills the former music room.

At the end of the Victorian era, this music room was used as a ladies’ tea room. Women held seances, played cards, and drank tea—now that tea-drinking has turned into spirited wine-tasting.

The 217 Wine Bar opened to the public in late July and has been in operation ever since. However, the grand opening is still a work in progress as the finishing touches are still being put on the space. Nevertheless, the wine bar still has a lot to offer its customers.

Maitre D David Czapp of 217 gave a guided tour of the space and all it has to offer on Monday 14th November.

“John Cullen [owner of The Stanley] wanted to give customers a different experience that they couldn’t get anywhere else in the city,” Czapp said of the idea behind the wine bar. “You can buy wine anywhere in the city, but there is no place that looks like it. It’s a low pressure environment and we regularly have fun with all the customers.”

The 217 Wine Bar offers a selection of over 50 wines – red, white and sparkling – with part of the menu being changed according to customer preference. One of the best sellers on this list is the House 217 Cabernet Sauvignon. Those who purchase a bottle of this delicious red can personalize the logo and have it placed on a ceiling raptor in the bar as a symbol of remembrance.

“We had this wine bought for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, etc.,” Czapp said. “People love to party with this bottle and it’s actually quite high quality.”

217 also offers a wide range of locally brewed beers and non-alcoholic options, making the place all-inclusive.

For dining options, customers can enjoy charcuterie platters in two-meat, two-cheese, or four-cheese and four-meat portions paired with crackers and fresh fruit. A vegetarian hummus is also on the menu for something lighter to munch on.

Discussing the food, Czapp explained that the food on offer goes extremely well with any drink pairing thanks to The Stanley’s Michelin-starred chef – aka the best of the best.

“I honestly don’t know how he does it,” Czapp said, laughing. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s red wine, white wine or beer. What the chef makes tastes good. The menu also works great with the wine tasting itself because it’s not a full meal – people can enjoy their wine and not feel bloated.”

While the 217’s fine wine and sophisticated design raises the bar for competition, the unique entertainment on offer at the wine bar sets it apart from any other location in the Estes Valley.

As previously mentioned, the presence of a Steinway and Sons concert grand piano already calls for an entertainment factor, while the proscenium under which it stands offers the potential for universal acoustics.

A view of the proscenium and the Steinway and Sons concert grand piano.  (Matthew Poust/Estes Park Trail Gazette)
A view of the proscenium and the Steinway and Sons concert grand piano. (Matthew Poust/Estes Park Trail Gazette)

The Steinway has a history of its own. The original owner of The Stanley – FO Stanley – gave it to his wife Flora in 1909 after the hotel was built. Since there were no microphones or speakers available at the time to amplify the sound, the proscenium was built to perform this effect.

Simply put, sound entering the proscenium reflects off the gentle curvature of the domed ceiling, allowing it to propagate throughout the room at a relative loudness level.

With these two instrumental masterpieces, guests have the opportunity to play the Steinway. However, as Czapp explained, only those worthy of touching the buttons are allowed.

“You can usually tell from friends’ reactions whether or not the person can actually play,” Czapp explained lightheartedly. “If the friends are in awe of playing, they’re usually up to the task, but if they’re sitting there playing chopsticks with the friends and cracking jokes, they probably aren’t.”

In addition to this classic entertainment style that comes with playing the piano, the sung so-called “wine songs” offer a unique experience for the customers.

The story behind these tunes is that when Czapp was hired, he was asked to find wine-themed songs to sing to clients.

“The purpose behind this conversation is to give people something to talk about,” Czapp said. “You give them a kind of show that carries a conversation forward. People have good conversations and good wine – that’s what we want.”

However, the problem with these wine songs that Czapp found was that they were a bit too depressing. Through creative thinking, Czapp found a solution to this problem – he took songs that already existed and turned them into a wine-based parody.

Czapp’s plan was to take musical-based showtimes that move a plot and turn them into these wine parodies. Once the plan was hatched and Czapp started performing in front of audiences, clients began writing their own parodies and the idea caught fire.

“Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Johnny Cash, whatever, someone made a song about it,” Czapp said. “The Righteous Brothers, Gloria Gaynor, Hellen Reddy, they’re all there and it’s fun.”

Czapp’s narrative of this newfound song parody trend was clear as he held up a book crammed with lyrically scrawled notes from clients attempting to write their own parody.

In addition to these wine tunes, Czapp also tells historical stories, tells ghost tails and provides background information on the history of The Stanley.

“We integrate this entertainment to give customers an experience, that’s what we strive for and that’s what we see,” said Czapp.

In the next phases, before the grand opening of 217, a chocolatier is to be brought in to accompany the wine tasting and a new bar top is to be deployed to complete the renovation process.

The 217 Wine Bar is open seven days a week – from 3pm to 10pm on weekdays and from 2pm to 10pm on weekends.

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