Turning Up the HEAT, with Purgatory Wine Cellars!
BY AMY COTSWORTH
If you are looking for a unique atmosphere and ambiance where you can enjoy exceptional wine—which you will quickly discover is markedly and distinctively different from wines found anywhere else in our region—it can be found in our very own backyard in Highlands Ranch.
Located at 30 Springer Drive, Purgatory Cellars Highlands Ranch is a local gem. Owners James and Ashlee Brejcha opened their tasting room on January 24, 2019.
The impetus for opening this location came while James and Ashlee were helping at the main production location and original tasting room in Parker, run by Marko and Ivanka Copic. Marko and Ivanka have owned and operated the Parker location since 2014, producing amazing wines using traditional winemaking techniques from their home country of Croatia, including Amphora-style fermentation (wine made in a large clay vessel). This rare winemaking technique has been used since the 6th century B.C., and produces a fine complexity and finish, which is superbly pleasant and enjoyable, and only found in very few locations in the US.
James and Ashlee are longtime homebrew beer and wine enthusiasts, and when the idea of opening a franchise location arose while bottling (and sampling) wine at the Parker production location, it was a natural fit. James recalls musing incredulously the next day, asking himself and his wife, “Did we just agree to open a winery?”
James, an Army veteran, and Ashlee, who left a 13-year career in the insurance industry, threw themselves into the enterprise of opening their tasting room with the help and support of Marko and Ivanka. James became Marko’s junior winemaker, and Ashlee worked at Ivanka’s side to learn everything about finances and marketing.
Their labor of love has become a beautiful space to enjoy with friends, family, and groups. They host regular events and entertainment, and are actively involved in their community, giving back in many ways, particularly to military and veterans organizations such as Team Rubicon Disaster Response, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Victory Service Dogs program. They are working to partner in the future with the Fallen Officer Fund of Douglas County.
Of course the real star of the tasting room is the superb and extensive wine selection, with multiple award winners on the menu, largely sourced from Colorado grapes, fermented and bottled locally as well. Among Purgatory Cellar’s accolades are 15 medals awarded by the Colorado Governor’s Cup for their absolute must-try wines, including their Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine, Syrah and Petite Sirah, Chardonnay Amphora, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Riesling Late Harvest and Ice Wines, several of their Reserve wines—Merlot, Primitivo, and Zinfandel, the Redemption Red Wine Blend, and Indulgence Sparkling and Amphora Wines.
As if that impressive list is not enticing enough, James and Ashlee have integrated their own passion into their new endeavor by creating their own red wine blend of Merlot and Primitivo grapes, called Dragonship, which is being aged onsite at their Highlands Ranch location using Croatian oak barrels as well as an Oak Bourbon barrel that was sourced from Breckenridge Distillery, for a delightful bourbon flavored blend.
Having been recognized as the 2019 “Best of the Best” Wine Bar and Place to Meet New People in Highlands Ranch in their first year of operation, this is a destination and experience that is not to be missed. You will find an Old World feel with lots of authentic winemaking artifacts such as an ancient winepress and handcrafted furniture made by Marko himself, who is also a gifted woodworker. The staff will make you feel welcomed and even provide wine education tidbits, and they have small bites available onsite such as a charcuterie board, hummus plate, and a recently added Chocolate Mousse Cake to pair with their fabulous wine selection! Along with fun events such as cheese and chocolate pairings and Yoga and Wine events, fundraising events, and entertainment of all sorts makes Purgatory Cellars Highlands Ranch the place to be.
Their hours of operation and calendar of events, as well as other fascinating information can be found on their website at purgatorycellarshighlandsranch.com or on their Facebook page.