Representative Andy Kerr finds time for wine

The Colorado Statesman

I had recently interviewed Representative Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, for a previous article, which lead me to further curiosity about his wine interests. While he gave me his take on Senate Bill 60, he also told me about his background in the restaurant business, and out came his love for good wine. I invited him to sit and talk with me over a glass to discuss wine and politics, and otherwise entertain the readers at The Colorado Statesman.

Rep. Kerr recommended his favorite place to drink wine, and he told me that 240 Union in Lakewood was a place that he frequents from time to time, and it is close to his home. As it turns out, he also used to work there…

Representative Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, below, savors a glass of Hayman Hill Pinot Noir at Lakewood’s 240 Union, above. Kerr worked at 240 Union as a server in high school.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

Punctual as ever, Rep. Kerr was waiting for me at a high-top table near the bar. He already had a glass of wine in front of him, Hayman Hill Pinot Noir from Saint Lucia Highlands in California. The tasting notes I found are this: “Color: Medium ruby, (though it was hard to tell since it wasn’t exactly bright in the restaurant.) Nose: Earthy tarter cherry and cranberry, dried basil. Palate: Medium full, good acid that is still integrating with the dried cherry and juicier raspberry. Cranberry in the mid-palate to mouthwatering cranberry and raspberry finish, with some of that basil from the nose.” All I remember was that it was very drinkable. If I didn’t already have dinner plans, I would’ve ordered a pizza to go with it.

After shaking hands with Rep. Kerr, I settled in and ordered a glass of the Penfolds Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon. “On the palate, a full, slate-like mineral middle is the first impression — solid fruit wrapped in a muscular robe. The tannins then press an additional layer of fabric over the slate, bringing along impressions of inky black cherry and oak. The finish lingers for a few moments, picking up at the very end with a friendly wave of light acids. Very well balanced for such a value-priced wine. Also gives the impression that age will serve it well.” Slate-like mineral middle? I guess I should take classes to know what slate tastes like, since I don’t remember ever being face-down on slab of slate in my life.

As we chatted about his interest in wine, Rep. Kerr told me that he occasionally gets together with a group of friends for blind tastings at his home. There is usually a regional or varietal theme such as “Reds from Australia” in order to stay consistent. Each couple invited brings two bottles, one for everyone tasting “blindly,” and one for the winner. The winner who identifies the wines correctly takes home the second bottle of wine, and thus increases their wine collection by the number of bottles set aside. What a great concept! If only I could get several legislators in a room together to try this experiment out. Any takers?

Rep. Kerr also told me about a bicycle tour he and his wife, Tammy, take with another couple in Palisade every year, the weekend after the annual Colorado Mountain Winefest. It’s pretty busy out there that weekend from what I remember. After the crowds have gone you can actually relax and take your time touring the wineries and vineyards. “You don’t need to go to California to enjoy that type of thing,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “Wine lends itself to lots of different social opportunities, and it’s great for the local economy,” referring to the tourism that the wine industry brings to Colorado in the late summer and early fall.

Just then, Michael Coughlin, the owner of 240 Union, stopped by our table to say hello. Andy used to work at the place as a server before Coughlin was there, while he was still in high school. After college, he came back to Lakewood and he and Coughlin worked together. It’s always nice seeing friends unite, even if you have just met them.

While he was working at 240, he said they would always taste a new wine before every shift so they were able to sell it to restaurant guests. That was the start of Kerr’s wine education that continued while he worked at The Broker Restaurant in Boulder and was studying at the University of Colorado to become a social studies teacher.

Getting back to Kerr’s love of cycling, that’s just another thing that he and fellow wine lover Senator Greg Brophy have in common, not to mention their work together on many bills. The one we talked about that evening was House Bill 1092, which passed out of committee on Feb. 2, and “allows Colorado citizens and visitors the ability to travel to jobs, schools, stores and attractions by bicycle or electric-assist bicycle without being restricted from using public streets.” The vote was 7-6. In 2010 the city of Black Hawk, known for its gambling industry, had banned anyone from riding a bicycle through the city last year. Rep. Kerr thinks that is absurd, especially when Colorado is known for bicycling and many other outdoor forms of recreation. “Biking has become our ski season,” he said.

“People come from all around the world to ride here in Colorado,” Kerr said. “There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to boycotting Black Hawk that has 1870 — wait —1871 people who ‘like’ it. The page for the city of Black Hawk, Colorado, has about 203 ‘friends’ and has a post that reads simply, ‘In early 2010, the Black Hawk city council passed a law banning the riding of bicycles in the town, drawing a reaction from bicycle advocacy groups and international press.’ ” Rep. Kerr thinks that is an understatement.

Support for this bill seems to come from all over the world, what with 700,000 tourists bicycling while visiting Colorado each year. The success of this bill could have cyclists clinking glasses all over Colorado, preferably in wine country, where there is less to crash into.

As always, please enjoy responsibly, and do not operate heavy machinery while drinking. This does not include bicycles!