Wide-framed windows give way to a Rocky Mountain backdrop while a Steinway and Sons concert grand piano sitting beneath a proscenium casts an elegant charm on the room. The wine served is of the finest quality and the various furnished conversational areas offer a quaint communal atmosphere for guests to enjoy.
The space is called 217 Wine Bar – The Stanley’s latest offering for guests and local community members to roister in. 217 is located within the Stanley Hotel main building, filling what used to be the Music Room.
During the end of the Victorian Era, this music room was used as the designated ladies’ tea room. Women would hold seances, play cards and sip tea – now that tea-sipping has transformed into spirited wine tasting.
217 Wine Bar opened to the public in late July and has been servicing since. The grand opening, however, is still in the works as the finishing touches are still being added to the space. Nonetheless, the wine bar still has plenty to offer to customers.
217’s Maitre D David Czapp gave a tour of the space and all it has to offer on Monday, Nov. 14.
“John Cullen [owner of The Stanley] wanted to offer customers a different kind of experience than they could get anywhere else in town,” Czapp said, speaking on the idea behind the wine bar. “You can buy wine at places all over town, but there is no place that looks like this. It’s a low-pressure environment and we have fun with all of the customers on a regular basis.”
217 Wine Bar offers a selection of over 50 wines – red, white and sparkling – with a portion of the menu changing based on customer preference. One of the best sellers on this list is the house 217 Cabernet Sauvignon. Those who purchase a bottle of this delectable red are able to personalize the logo and have it placed upon a ceiling raptor within the bar as a symbol of remembrance.
“We’ve had this wine bought for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, you name it,” said Czapp. “People love celebrating with this bottle, and it’s actually of pretty high quality.”
217 also offers a fair variety of locally brewed beer and non-alcoholic options that make the spot all-inclusive.
For food options, customers can enjoy charcuterie boards in portions of two-meat-two-cheese or four-cheese-four meat, paired with crackers and fresh fruit. A vegetarian hummus is also on the menu for something a bit lighter to snack on.
Speaking on the food, Czapp explained that thanks to The Stanley’s Michelin Star Chef – aka best of the best – the food offered pairs excellent with whatever drink combination one may choose.
“I honestly don’t know how he does it,” Czapp said laughingly. “It doesn’t matter if it’s red wine, white wine or beer. Whatever the chef makes tastes good. The menu also just works great with wine tasting itself because it’s not a full meal – people can enjoy their wine and not feel bloated.”
While 217’s fine wine and refined design raise the bar for competition – the one-of-a-kind entertainment offered at the wine bar sets it apart from any other place in the Estes Valley.
As mentioned previously, the presence of a Steinway and Sons concert grand piano already begs for an entertainment factor, while the proscenium it sits beneath makes the potential for universal acoustics.
A view of the proscenium and Steinway and Sons concert grand piano.(Matthew Poust/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)
The Steinway has a distinct history of its own. The original owner of The Stanley – F.O. Stanley – gifted it to his wife Flora in 1909 after the hotel had been built. Since no microphones or speakers were available to amplify sound at the time, the proscenium was built to carry out that effect.
In simple terms, sound admitted within the proscenium reflects off the smooth curve of the dome-shaped ceiling, which allows it to travel throughout the entire room at a relative volume level.
With these two instrumental masterpieces present, guests are offered the chance to play the Steinway. As Czapp explained, however, only those worthy enough to touch the keys are permitted.
“You can normally tell by the reactions of their friends if the person can really play or not,” Czapp explained light-heartedly. “If the friends are in awe of the playing, they’re usually up to the task, but if they’re sitting there playing chopsticks with the friends cracking jokes, they’re probably not.”
Aside from this classical style of entertainment the piano playing brings, the so-called “wine songs” sung are what offer a unique experience for customers.
The story behind these tunes is that when Czapp was hired, he was asked to find wine-themed songs to sing to customers.
“The purpose behind this entertainment is to give people something to talk about,” Czapp said. “You give them some sort of show which carries on a conversation. People have good conversations and good wine – that is what we want.”
The problem with these wine songs that Czapp found, however, was that they were a bit too depressing. Thinking creatively, Czapp came up with a solution to this issue – taking songs that already exist and make a wine-based parody out of them.
Czapp’s plan was to take musical-based showtimes that move a plot and make these wine parodies out of them. Once the plan was hatched and Czapp started performing to the audience, the customers began writing their own parodies, and the idea caught fire.
“Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Johnny Cash, you name it, someone has done a song about it,” Czapp expressed. “The Righteous Brothers, Gloria Gaynor, Hellen Reddy, they’re all in there, and it’s all fun.”
Czapp’s telling of this newfound song parody trend was made clear when he held up a book crammed full of lyric scribbled notes from customers who tried their hand at writing their own parody.
Along with these wine tunes, Czapp also shares historical stories, tells ghost tails and gives background on The Stanley’s story.
“We incorporate this entertainment to give customers an experience, that is what we are shooting for, and that is what we’re seeing,” Czapp said.
In the next stages, before 217’s grand opening, a chocolatier is planned to be incorporated to pair with wine tasting, and a new bar top is to be put in to finalize the refurbishing process.
217 Wine Bar is open seven days a week – 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.