LOTR Red Rocks has a full house and plenty of vino

The Colorado Statesman

When I got the invitation from Jeff Sacco, president of the Red Rocks Chapter for Liberty on the Rocks (LOTR), I knew I had to attend. There were going to be many well-known Coloradans in attendance.

This year’s 2nd Annual Christmas/Holiday Party and fundraiser was held at the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association outside downtown Denver on December 20. I was promised wine.

Former Denver Broncos star Reggie Rivers with Brandy Williams and LOTR founder and president Amanda Teresi.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Kent Lambert with state Treasurer-elect Walker Stapleton and Jim Kerr at the Dec. 20 event in Denver.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Speaker of the House Frank McNulty welcomes attendees to the party.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo and Jeff Sacco point to a friend in the crowd. Left, Tancredo’s birthday cake.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

I arrived a tad early, and the bar was being stocked with locally brewed beer and many different bottles of wine. I was expecting to see only one variety of red and one variety of white as is normal for large parties, but here that wasn’t the case. This particular evening I only tasted two since I was driving. I started with McManis Pinot Grigio. I have also tried their Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah — all reds — and have never been disappointed. They only make three whites: Chardonnay, Viognier and the Pinot Grigio, which was absolutely great. You will always get your money’s worth with one of their bottles.

One of the first people I met that evening was a young Steve Klein, who told me that he loves the concept of drinking and politics, which was what drew him to this group. Normally, drinking and political discussion in public would sound like a dangerous combination. As a former bartender, I would never allow that kind of talk in the bar, along with religion or family topics. However, as people here seem more or less ‘like-minded’ or at least open-minded, it seems to be okay. I also personally prefer listening to political opinions while sipping some delicious fermented grape juice. It sets off the ‘reward’ trigger in my brain, not to mention it is more or less now my job to do so.

Klein told me that he was going to be making a holiday cocktail for the party that he found in GQ Magazine. The Holiday Punch consists of four bottles of Korbel Brut, a fifth of Cointreau (orange liqueur), 20 ounces of white cranberry juice, and sliced oranges for presentation. The punch sounded delicious, though I must admit every time I was about to sample it I was pulled away for another photo opportunity. The champagne punch will no doubt be added to my list of holiday recipes for the future — perhaps next New Year’s Eve?

But how could I complain when I had such a rare chance to meet people like treasurer-elect Walker Stapleton, former presidential and gubernatorial candidate (and congressman) Tom Tancredo and the Independence Institute’s research director David Kopel? I also met the friendly Reggie Rivers, former Denver Bronco player (1991-1997), Rocky Mountain News sports columnist and fiction writer. After talking to Rivers about various topics, I later saw him signing and talking about two of his books: The Colony, A Political Tale, and My Wife’s Boyfriend and Our Feud with the Highlands Ranch Homeowners Association. Both books are fiction and political satire.

Rivers told me that he and his wife live in Washington Park and have never lived under the political rule of a homeowners association, as I do. He does have some passion for the topic, however. “HOAs are like smaller local governments,” he remarked. It’s an interesting take on things, and I can certainly see that side since many associations have rule books thicker than the Colorado state budget. I do like the fact that my neighbor cannot paint his house purple or pink, nor shoot empty wine bottles off a wooden fence with a shotgun in the backyard. Forgive me, but I do find some comfort in that.

Tancredo was in the house, celebrating his 65th birthday that evening, his “Medicare birthday,” as he called it, and wished everyone there a Merry Christmas. Now that he has all these choices to make regarding his healthcare, he said, “It’s a bummer to deal with the government.” He did raise his glass to the fact that the Dream Act failed, but relented, “It’s unfortunate that it had to come on the heels of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal,” to which many cheered. Oh well, you win some you lose some, eh?

“Sorry we didn’t move with the tidal wave coming across the nation. I hope we lived up to your expectations,” Tancredo said. He seemed okay with losing the race for governor and started preparing for an equally trying task — choosing his Medicare coverage.

Though he ultimately lost the election, Tancredo commented “Winning is nice, but support is great, just ask a Mexican,” referring to a rally where he spoke on the corner of 7th and Santa Fe, and saw only four of his own supporters who were identified by their “Tancredo” T-shirts. “It is not a friendly neighborhood,” he said about the area where Colorado Democrats have their state headquarters. Really? I find the art galleries quite friendly giving out free wine during First Friday Art Walks. The Mexican restaurants aren’t half bad, either.

I was hoping to find some “Tancredo” wine there, but I did not. A few months ago, while Tancredo was raising funds for his gubernatorial campaign, he had several varietals of wine fermented and bottled for fundraising purposes. He even had his own red, white and blue label made. It was very clever.

A later announcement by host Sacco apprised the guests of the door prizes being given away throughout the night, the first being the book, The Economics of Freedom: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You, by Frederic Bastiat. There were also Cheba Hut Toasted Subs and Wynkoop Brewery products, a company co-founded by our Mayor and Governor-to-be, John Hickenlooper, who was invited to this event and again could not make it, according to Sacco.

There was also a voluntary 10-question quiz being conducted in the basement to see what political party you identify with. Sacco said that many of the Libertarians were hanging out down there because there was such a diverse group of people at the event, which was not something they were expecting. The participants taking the quiz were videotaped for a documentary.

Amanda Teresi, president and co-founder of Liberty on the Rocks, also welcomed everyone. Stressing how important it is to stay involved with what is going on, she said, “When we’re not paying attention, that’s when our liberties are taken away from us.”

After another announcement or two, Sacco introduced Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, who said a few words and cracked up the crowd a bit. With microphone in one hand and beer in the other he roasted Tancredo, saying too many people are on Medicare, essentially “crippling America.” He also joked that Tancredo was “elderly” and teased, “You never know where he stands on any issue.” Asking Tancredo to cut his birthday cake, Caldara asked whether anyone in the room had a knife. “Oh, wait, since the Patriot Act we’re not allowed to carry knives,” he quipped.

After the announcements, I was corralled by Ari Armstrong, self-employed blogger, who introduced me to Kopel of the Independence Institute. Kopel seemed very relaxed at such an event where he said many people assume he’s a Republican, but, “I’m actually a Democrat.” We had a long conversation about healthcare and the lawsuits against Obama. I asked Kopel what he thought a good solution would be to the healthcare coverage problem in America, and he offered, “It would be nice if they started with something Constitutional.”

At one point ethics writer John H. Zaugg, whom I met a few minutes later, overheard me speaking with Kopel and asked me whether I was taking a survey. So I got back to the reason I was really there — wine. It turns out that Kopel, though he was drinking beer that evening, actually prefers wine. “Cheap chardonnay from either Chile or Argentina,” he replied. I think it’s good to have specific opinions on things like that.

Zaugg prefers red wine. As red wine is said to be good for the heart, he said, “Liberation is ethically good for your heart.” I was drinking a glass of the Ravenswood Zinfandel at the time. It was passable, but not something I would buy myself. Mr. Zaugg and I have since corresponded about some of his ethics writing, and I look forward to finding out more about his take on things…and the next political wine event!