For years, the Irish Embassy was a town favorite for residents and tourists to stop and have a drink. But because of economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the embassy closed its doors in September 2020.
Now, a new business owner is trying to make the location a favorite hangout once again, albeit with a twist. Durango Winery opened Nov. 11 in the basement of what used to be the Irish Embassy at 900 Main Ave. Suite E.
Co-owner Tim Hassemer said the Durango Winery will have its own feel. It is a boutique winery, which means it is small.
Durango Winery does not grow its own grapes; rather, it has the juice delivered and later ferments it. That saves the couple time on production while still focusing on quality.
“It kind of gives us the freedom to experiment with different things and concentrate more on quality rather than the quantity,” Hassemer said.
Hassemer never thought owning a winery would be a possibility, but after the Irish Embassy vacated its location, he became curious about the business possibilities. He and his wife, Micki, also own Sticks & Stones Handmade, a crafts store in downtown Durango, but thought the old Irish Embassy basement had the perfect wine cellar aesthetic.
“We're familiar with the whole Irish Embassy setting and that downstairs area, and I've had a lot of people walk by that window super excited to see that something’s actually going down there,” he said.
He said adding the winery will attract more people to the 900 block of Main Avenue.
Hassemer has always been passionate about making wine. He has worked with wineries in the past but decided to pursue his own brand. The winery offers eight homemade wines including variations of red and white wines including a moscato and a rose.
“My wife is very passionate about wine. She’s always been, but it wasn't until I kind of stumbled upon the whole winemaking gig that I realized that I really enjoyed it myself,” he said.
Hassemer doesn’t have a favorite housemade wine – he enjoys all of them. He said the winery is unique because it makes all of its wine on-site.
“People can walk in, and they're looking right at the production area,” he said.
Durango Winery also offers other Colorado wines such as Foxfire Farm in an attempt to support other local winemakers.
Hassemer said downtown Durango is a great market for a winery because there are few places that serve only wine. Durango Winery now competes with Four Leaves Winery over the downtown winery market.
He said the winery will have a different atmosphere than the Irish Embassy and emphasized that it’s not going to have a dive-bar feel.
“We are going with kind of a traditional winery sort of feel with tastings and such. We don’t offer a whole lot to eat but do have some snacks. It’s certainly not like any sort of restaurant but it is super mellow down there,” he said.
In addition to an unsaturated wine market, Hassemer said the winery’s location sells itself. With a wooden and stone interior it makes the experience feel authentic.
He plans to have sommelier events, with wine professionals teaching customers about different aspects of wine quality and business. He is also open to hosting private parties at the winery.
Hassemer also wants to sell his wine wholesale to other businesses. He wants to get his wine into as many restaurants in Durango as possible.