2 Great Cabernets from B.R. Cohn

BR-Cohn-Wine

I had a chance to meet Dan Cohn for dinner earlier this fall.  We met for an old school steak dinner at the famous Durant’s steakhouse in Phoenix Arizona and of course to taste some wines.

Dan, is the son of Bruce Cohn, founder of the winery.  Bruce is also the manager of a band called The Doobie Brothers, and has been since 1970.  Bruce founded the B.R. Cohn winery in 1984, but he had already been running a vineyard and selling grapes for 10 years by that time.

I sat down in one of the booths at Durant’s and waited for Dan.  He arrived a few minutes after me and greeted me warmly.  The first thing I noticed about Dan is that he is a straight forward completely un-shy (if that’s even a word) kind of guy. Or at least that is how he comes across.  He gets straight to the point, he’s confident but has a sort of boyish sense of humor.  In talking about how he currently runs the whole show for B.R. Cohn, he almost laughed:

“My office is the bedroom I grew up in, like literally the tasting room and offices is the house I grew up in.”   Suddenly he stood up and walked over to another table and greeted the guests.  They had just ordered a bottle of B.R. Cohen with their dinner and he quickly went over and thanked them personally.  The guests were quite old and I could tell they didn’t quite know what to make of this guy.  He was wearing a purple corduroy type blazer and had a paisley shirt and a fat tie on.  He looked like a rock star.  A little later on at another table a young couple also ordered some of his wine and he raised a glass to them, their waiter let them know who he was and they were definitely interested.

Dan talked a little bit about winery life, but for the most part he was persistent in asking me questions.  While not the greatest for pulling information, I did find it flattering and interesting.  Not a lot of wine makers and people in the business want to know about the details of wine blogging.  His interest was genuine and I appreciated that.

When it came time to order, of course we had steak, and paired it with B.R. Cohn’s Olive Hill Estate Cabernet.

B.R. CohnBR-Cohn-olive-hill-bottle 2010 Olive Hill Estate Cabernet, Sonoma

This wine is 100% Cabernet, aged 24 months in French Oak.  The flavors of anise and mint dominate the palate.  This wine would pair very well with Lamb, although it did go quite nicely with the steak as well.  3,000 cases were produced and the suggested retail is $55.

B.R. Cohn 2012 Gold Label, Cabernet SauvignonBR-Cohn-Gold-Label-Bottle

I was surprised by how different the Gold Label is to the Olive Hill.  This wine is solid, still young and will benefit from several hours of decanting in the near future.  The blend is 67% Napa County and 33% Sonoma County, all Cabernet.  Each lot is aged separately in French Oak.  4,800 cases were produced and the suggested retail is $40.  I was surprised to see the price at only $40. This a really good deal for that price.  The wine is ideally suited to prime cuts of beef grilled over an open flame.

B.R. Cohn Website

Durant’s Steakhouse Website

Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Recognizes Excellence

arizona-wine-2014-14You’ve heard of pairing wine with dessert, but have you heard of wine from the desert?

Over the last 5 years areas other than California have stepped into the national spotlight as wine producing regions.  Washington State, Oregon and the Finger Lakes region of New York State have earned solid reputations for high quality fruit and wine making.

Arizona’s entrance into the wine world started a little more recently.  Pioneers like Al Buhl and R.W. Webb began developing vineyards and producing wine 25-35 years ago in South Eastern Arizona.  In the last 5-6 years the Arizona Wine industry has seen explosive growth, almost doubling in size.  This is due in large part to the increased notoriety brought to the region by rock stars like Maynard James Keenan ( Tool, A Perfect Circle,Puscifer) as well as rock star wine makers like EricGlomski.

Arizona Judgment 2010 Judges

Arizona Judgment 2010 Judges

Let’s not forget the contribution made by rock star restauranteurs Pavle Milic and Charlene Badman, owners of Scottsdale’s restaurant FnB.  These two pioneered Arizona wine in a big way back in 2010 when their restaurant featured an all Arizona wine list.  In the summer of 2010 they organized “The Judgment of Arizona”.  They brought in major wine personalities from all over the United States and had them blind taste Arizona wines and major wines from around the world, reminiscent of 1976’s Judgment of Paris.  The consensus at the time was that there were some world class wines being produced in Arizona.  Unfortunately, there were also some wines that were not world-class.  Gary Vaynerchuk noted that (I’m summarizing) that in order for the region to be taken more seriously, the consistency of  quality in the region would have to improve.  That was over 4 years ago, and in that time huge strides have been made.  Arizona is now recognized as a region capable of producing world-class wines, it’s not just a novelty “wine from the desert”.

But the growth can’t all be credited to just two wine makers, a chef and a handsome Colombian from Brooklyn. The industry as a whole, and all the wine makers have really worked hard to increase the reputation of the region.  They’ve done this by focusing on quality not quantity.   Although the quantity has definitely increased, this is a by product of producing superior wine.

Each November since 2009 the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association (AWGA) and the Arizona Republic have teamed up to recognize excellence in Arizona wine making.  Every November, for the past 6 years “The festival on the farm at South Mountain” has allowed the public to taste 30-40+ Arizona wineries all in the same place.  The night before the festival there is an exclusive awards banquet held at Quiessence restaurant (on the farm as well).   The Arizona Republic Wine competition is held in private in October, with the results released to the public on the night of the Awards banquet.  This year is different, however as the award winners have been announced over the last several weeks.

arizona-wine-2014-25

Stone Grove

This year’s Awards Banquet featured a little change in venue as well.  The banquet was moved to “Stone Grove” instead of Quiessence.  Stone Grove is located right next to Quiessence, so it’s really the same place, just a bigger more open setting.  With all the interest in Arizona Wine these days, the logistics of hosting this event in the little farm house that is Quiessence were becoming difficult.

I talked with some of the wine makers including Kent Callaghan, winner of this year’s “Best in Show” and first place “Grower’s Cup, Red” for his 2012Tannat.  I asked Kent about his Tannat and Tannat in general.  He said it’s a pretty interesting grape.  Good yield, but a little difficult to work with.  He’s tried blending it with other grapes but the result was a “dumb wine” as he put it.

Kent Callaghan

Kent Callaghan

He said it would be interesting to see how it turns out in a few years, but his immediate impression was that it wasn’t working.  Callaghan Vineyards only has a half acre of Tannat planted and only 60 cases of wine were made.  The wine is sold out, mostly to Callaghan’s wine club members.  Luckily for wine lovers Callaghan’s “Padre” which tied with Dos Cabezas Wineworks for 2nd place in the Grower’s Cup Red is still available.  See the link at the bottom of the article for Callaghan’s website.

 

I also had a chance to follow Todd and KellyBostock from DosCabezas Wineworks around.  Todd and Kelly were recently

Todd and Kelly Bostock

Todd and Kelly Bostock

featured in an independent film about wine titled “American Wine Story”.  Todd has recently discovered the concrete slabs around the winery make an awesome street hockey surface and has developed what he believes to be the best family hockey team in Sonoita.  Dos Cabezas Wineworks did exceptionally well this year, winning 3 first place awards for their Rose, Syrah and Rhone Style blends.

Finally I chatted briefly with Patti King, executive director of the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association.  She was very pleased with the turn out and said that the Festival on the Farm (nov 15th) sold 300-400 more tickets this year than last year.  This represents about a 30% increase!

In recognizing excellence, the AWGA and the Arizona Republic have really helped to create a sense of community and raised the local profile of Arizona Wine.  Just a few years ago, even Arizonans were skeptical of Arizona Wine.  Today the industry has a solid reputation for producing world class wines.  The consistency that Gary Vaynerchuk talked about 4 years ago has really come a long way.  It would be interesting to gather together the judges from Judgment of Arizona and try again.

PHOTO GALLERY OF THE AWARDS BANQUET

LINKS

2014 Arizona Republic Winners List

AWGA website

Stone Grove/Quiessence

The Farm at South Mountain

Callaghan Vineyards

Dos Cabezas Wineworks

Photo Gallery | 2014 Arizona Wine Grower’s Awards Banquet

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2014 Arizona Republic Wine Competition Winners List

2014 Arizona Republic Wine Competition Winners List

 

Best in Show

Callaghan Vineyards Tannat 2012.

Growers Cup Red

First place: Callaghan Vineyards Tannat 2012.

Second place (tie): Callaghan Vineyards Padres 2012 and Dos Cabezas WineWorks La Montaña 2011.

Growers Cup White

First place: Caduceus Cellars Dos Ladrones 2013.

Second place: Sand-Reckoner Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Third place: Alcantara Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Growers Cup Rosé

First place: Dos Cabezas WineWorks Pink 2013.

Second place: Caduceus Cellars Lei Li 2013.

Third place: Caduceus Cellars Nagual del Marzo Rosé 2013.

Growers Cup Dessert

First place: Pillsbury Symphony Sweet Lies 2013.

Second place: Carlson Creek Sweet Adeline Riesling 2012.

Winemakers Medal Red

First place: Merkin Vineyards Tarzan 2013, New Mexico.

Second place: Aridus Wine Co. Syrah 2012, Russian River, Calif.

Third place: Caduceus Cellars Anubis 2012, New Mexico.

Winemakers Medal White

First place (tie): Aridus Wine Co. Chardonnay 2012, Santa Maria, Calif., and Aridus Wine Co. Malvasia Bianca 2013, New Mexico.

Second place: Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Chardonnay 2013, New Mexico.

Best Chardonnay

First place: Carlson Creek Chardonnay 2012.

Second place: Jerome Winery Chardonnay 2012.

Best Chenin Blanc

First place: Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Chenin Blanc 2013.

Second place: Passion Cellars Jerome White 2013.

Third place: Carlson Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2011.

Best Malvasia Bianca

First place: Sand-Reckoner Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Second place: Arizona Stronghold Site Archive Malvasia Norte 2013.

Best Pinot Grigio

First place: Passion Cellars Pinot Grigio 2013.

Second place: Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Pinot Grigio 2013.

Best Sauvignon Blanc

First place: Alcantara Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Second place: Sonoita Vineyards Arizona Fume Blanc 2013.

Third place: Zarpara Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Best Viognier

First place: deep sky vineyard Aurora 2013.

Second place: Jerome Winery Viognier 2013.

Third place: Zarpara Viognier 2013.

Best White Blend

First place: Caduceus Cellars Dos Ladrones 2013.

Second place: Sand Reckoner w 2013.

Third place: Dos Cabezas El Campo Bianco 2012.

Best Cabernet Sauvignon

First place: Golden Rule Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Second place: Arizona Stronghold Site Archive Bonita Springs Cabernet Sauvignon Pick 4 2013.

Third place: Javelina Leap Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Best Merlot

First place: Freitas Vineyard Merlot Private Reserve 2011.

Second place: Arizona Stronghold Bonita Springs Old Vine Merlot 2012.

Third place: Rancho Rossa Vineyards Merlot 2009 and Carlson Creek Vineyards Merlot 2012.

Best Shiraz/Syrah

First place: Dos Cabezas WineWorks La Montaña 2011.

Second place: Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Home Place Reserve 2012.

Third place: Golden Rule Vineyards Syrah 2012.

Best Petite Sirah

First place: Freitas Vineyard Petite Sirah 2011.

Second place: Pillsbury Wine Co. Petite Sirah Special Reserve 2012.

Third place: Lawrence Dunham Vineyards The Signature Petite Sirah 2011.

Best Sangiovese

First place: Flying Leap Sangiovese 2013.

Second place: Golden Rule Vineyards Sangiovese 2012.

Third place: Caduceus Cellars Kitsune 2012.

Best Zinfandel

First place: Golden Rule Vineyards Zinfandel 2012.

Second place: Sand-Reckoner 3 2012.

Best Rhone-Style Blend

First place: Dos Cabezas WineWorks El Norte 2011.

Second place (tie): Callaghan Vineyards Back Lot 2012 and Golden Rule Vineyards Commonwealth 2012.

Best Bordeaux-Style Blend

First place: Saeculum Cellars Gallia 2012.

Second place: Alcantara Vineyards and Winery Confluence VI non-vintage.

Best Super Tuscan Blend

First place: Caduceus Cellars Nagual del Marzo 2012.

Second place: Dos Cabezas Toscano 2012.

Best Red Blend

First place: Callaghan Vineyards Padres 2012.

Second place: Sultry Cellars Top Hat non-vintage.

Third place (tie): Los Milics Oliver’s 2012 and Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Primer Paso 2012.

The judges

Here are the judges in the 2014 Arizona Republic Wine Competition and their favorite wines.

Mark Tarbell: Owner of Tarbell’s restaurant. No favorite.

Richard Betts, Napa Exclusives: Los Milics Hannah’s 2013, Callaghan Vineyards Padres 2012, Sultry Cellars Top Hat (non-vintage), Caduceus Cellars VSC Primer Paso 2012.

Kim Casale, fine-wine manager, Southern Wine and Spirits: Merkin Vineyards Tarzan 2013.

Dante Fiorenza, fine-wine specialist, Action Wine & Spirits: Sand-Reckoner w 2013, Caduceus Cellars Dos Ladrones 2013.

Conor Favre, executive chef, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa: Pillsbury Wine Co. Symphony Sweet Lies 2013.

Jeff Grenfell, sommelier, Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar: Freitas Vineyard Merlot Private Reserve 2011, Callaghan Vineyards Petit Verdot 2012.

Josh Herbert, owner and chef, Posh Improvisational Cuisine: Sand-Reckoner Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Regan Jasper, corporate sommelier and vice president of beverage, Fox Restaurant Concepts: Dos Cabezas WineWorks La Montaña 2011, Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Home Place Reserve Syrah 2012.

Damien Kanser, Vias Imports LTD, certified specialist of wine: Callaghan Vineyards Padres 2012, Zarpara Vineyard Odisea 2012.

Brent Karlicek, beverage director, Upward Projects: Caduceus Cellars, Nagual del Marzo Rose 2013, Dos Cabezas Pink 2013, Carlson Creek Chardonnay 2012.

Kevin Lewis, wine director and certified sommelier, Kai restaurant at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa: Callaghan Vineyards Back Lot 2012.

Patrick Norton, general manager, J&G Steakhouse: Callaghan Vineyards Tannat 2012, Caduceus Cellars VSC Chenin Blanc 2013, Sand-Reckoner Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Jared Sowinski, director of beverage, the Phoenician: Saeculum Cellars Gallia 2012.

Katie Stephens, general manager and certified sommelier, Beckett’s Table: Saeculum Cellars Gallia 2012, Callaghan Vineyards Petit Verdot 2012, Rancho Rossa Vineyards Merlot 2009.

Scott Stephens, general manager and certified sommelier, Southern Rail: Dos Cabezas WineWorks El Norte 2011.

Greg Tresner, court of master sommeliers, the Phoenician: Dos Cabezas El Campo Blanco 2012.

Alec van Dobben, beverage manager, El Chorro: Dos Cabezas Pink 2013, Callaghan Vineyards Padres 2012, Sultry Cellars Top Hat (non-vintage).

Noelle M. Waite, division manager and certified specialist of wine, Southern Wine & Spirits: Dos Cabezas WineWorks El Norte 2011, Dos Cabezas WineWorks La Montaña 2011.

Michael West, hotel sommelier, the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: Sand-Reckoner Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Ryan Wolf, assistant general manager, J&G Steakhouse: Golden Rule Vineyards Zinfandel 2013, Saeculum Cellars Moscato 2013, Pillsbury Wine Co. Symphony Sweet Lies 2013.

Gold, silver, bronze rankings

These wines were ranked gold, silver or bronze based on judges’ scores on a 100-point scale. Gold wines earned above 90 points, silver scored 85-89 and bronze scored 80-84.

Gold Medal Winners

Alcantara Vineyards and Winery Confluence VI non-vintage

Alcantara Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Aridus Wine Co. Chardonnay 2012.

Aridus Wine Co. Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards Bonita Springs Old Vine Merlot 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Lei Li 2013.

Caduceus Cellars Nagual del Marzo 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Chenin Blanc 2013.

Callaghan Vineyards Back Lot 2012.

Callaghan Vineyards Padres 2012.

Callaghan Vineyards Petit Verdot 2012.

Callaghan Vineyards Tannat 2012.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Carlson Creek Chardonnay 2012.

deep sky vineyard Aurora 2013.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks El Campo Blanco 2012.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks El Norte 2011.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks La Montaña 2011.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks Pink 2013.

Freitas Vineyard Merlot Private Reserve 2011.

Freitas Vineyard Petite Sirah 2011.

Golden Rule Vineyards Commonwealth 2012.

Golden Rule Vineyards Zinfandel 2012

Keeling Schaefer Vineyard Home Place Reserve Syrah 2012.

Merkin Vineyards Tarzan 2013.

Passion Cellars Pinot Grigio 2013.

Pillsbury Wine Co. Petite Sirah Special Reserve 2012.

Pillsbury Wine Co. Symphony Sweet Lies 2013.

Saeculum Cellars Gallia 2012.

Sand-Reckoner Malvasia Bianca 2013.

Sand-Reckoner w 2013.

Sultry Cellars Top Hat non-vintage.

Silver Medal Winners

Aridus Wine Co. Syrah 2012.

Aridus Wine Co. Viognier 2013.

Arizona Angel Red Blend non-vintage.

Arizona Stronghold Bonita Springs Cabernet Sauvignon Pick 4 2013.

Arizona Stronghold Site Archive Malvasia Norte 2013.

Bitter Creek Winery The Devil non-vintage.

Caduceus Cellars Anubis 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Dos Ladrones 2013.

Caduceus Cellars Le Cortigiane Oneste 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Nagual del Marzo Rose 2013.

Caduceus Cellars Sancha 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Aglianico 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Chardonnay 2013.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Pinot Grigio 2013.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Primer Paso 2012.

Caduceus Cellars Velvet Slippers Club Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Callaghan Vineyards Al’s 2013.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2011.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Merlot 2012.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Rule of Three 2012.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

Carlson Creek Vineyard Sweet Adeline Riesling 2012.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks Aguileon 2011.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks Meskeoli 2013.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks Toscano 2012.

Fiddlebender Cannonball non-vintage.

Flying Leap Vineyards Sangiovese 2013.

Golden Rule Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Golden Rule Vineyards Sangiovese 2012.

Golden Rule Vineyards Syrah 2012.

Javelina Leap Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Javelina Leap Vineyards & Winery Chenin Blanc 2013.

Jerome Winery Charbono 2012.

Jerome Winery Chardonnay 2012.

Jerome Winery Viognier 2012.

Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Schaefer Boys Mourvedre 2012.

Kindred 2011.

Lawrence Dunham Vineyards The Signature Petite Sirah 2011.

Lightning Ridge Cellars Montepulciano 2011.

Los Milics Hannah’s 2013.

Los Milics Lorenzo’s 2012.

Los Milics Oliver’s 2012.

Merkin Vineyards Shinola Bianca 2013.

Passion Cellars Jerome White 2013.

Passion Cellars Love Rosé 2013.

Pillsbury Wine Co. Roan Red 2012.

Pillsbury Wine Co. Diva 2012.

Pillsbury Wine Co. Symphony Goddess 2012.

Rancho Rossa Vineyards Merlot 2009.

Saeculum Cellars One Stone 2012.

Sand-Reckoner 3 2012.

Sand-Reckoner a 2012, New Mexico.

Sonoita Vineyards Petite Sirah 2012.

Sonoita Vineyards Arizona Fume Blanc 2013.

Sonoita Vineyards Arizona Mission 2013.

Su Vino Winery Chardonnay Unoaked non-vintage.

Su Vino Winery Sparkling Moscato non-vintage.

Zarpara Vineyard Odisea 2012.

Zarpara Vineyard Sangiovese 2012.

Zarpara Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Zarpara Vineyard Viognier 2013.

Bronze Medal Winners

Alcantara Vineyards and Winery Merlot 2012.

Alcantara Vineyards and Winery X The Lost Lot Red Dessert Wine 2009.

Arizona Angel Moscato non-vintage.

Arizona Stronghold Bonita Springs Merlot 2013.

Arizona Stronghold Dala Chardonnay 2012.

Arizona Stronghold Site Archive Viognier 2013.

Bodega Pierce Rolling View White 2013.

Callaghan Vineyards Buena Suerte 2012.

Callaghan Vineyards Lisa’s 2012.

Fiddlebender Tea Toadler non-vintage.

Flying Leap Vineyards Duet 2013.

Freitas Vineyard Dolce Vita Rose 2011.

Golden Rule Vineyards Copper Queen Rosé 2013.

Golden Rule Vineyards Eureka 2012.

Golden Rule Vineyards Manzora Red 2012.

Javelina Leap Vineyards and Winery Legacy Zinfandel 2013.

Javelina Leap Vineyards and Winery Zinfandel 2013.

Passion Cellars Late Harvest Verdelho 2013.

Pillsbury Wine Co. Rosé One Night Stand 2013.

Rancho Rossa Vineyards Rosé 2012.

Sonoita Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013.

Sonoita Vineyards Red 2012.

 

For the First Time Ever…Thanksgiving at Eddie V’s!

Last week I dined at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood restaurant’s Scottsdale Arizona location.  Although Eddie V’s is very well known for their prime seafood, I decided to try out the steak.  But not before trying the crab cakes.

Looking towards the bar and live music

Looking towards the bar and live music

First, I was pleasantly surprised by the setting.  From the outside it’s easy to miss Eddie V’s, even if you’re looking for it.  It is located on the very north east corner of Scottsdale Quarter, kind of in the back.  From the outside it just looks like a concrete building with nice doors.  But as soon as you walk in, a total transformation occurs.  The atmosphere is definitely that of a restaurant that serves prime seafood and steak.  The lighting is toned down, even a little dark but your eyes will soon adjust to it.

The glass walk thru wine cellar

The glass walk thru wine cellar

There is a glass wine cellar that you walk through to get to one half of the restaurant.  The other half of the restaurant is set up more like a wine bar, with live music at night.

The reason I was at Eddie V’s was to experience the dining firsthand so that I could tell you about something big that Eddie V’s is doing.  For the first time ever, they will be open on Thanksgiving day, serving traditional Thanksgiving food!

This is what they’ll be serving:

Eddie V's ThanksgivingSliced Turkey

Homestyle Green Beans with Bacon

Brioche Stuffing

Glazed Acorn Squash

Pan Gravy with Mirepoix Brunoise

Cranberry Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Turkey Gravy on the side

AND Thanksgiving Dessert!   Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and praline sauce

Call them right now to reserve your table as this will definitely sell out 480 730 4800

Back to my dining experience…  I have to say, that without a doubt the giant crab cake I had was the best I have ever had.  I consisted of ONLY crab meat and some seasoning.  Just deliciously juicy crab meat, with a dipping sauce on the side.  I was trying to save room for the steak, but I ended up eating the whole thing, and it’s not a small crab cake either.

I paired the crab cake with a glass of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay on the suggestion from managing partner, Richard Schumacher.  Although I am quite capable of choosing my own wine, these days I’ve actually started making a habit of going on the recommendations of the people running the establishments I visit.   Richard and I talked for a little while about the whole new idea of being open on Thanksgiving.  Luckily for Eddie V’s their sister restaurant, Capital Grille has already done this once before and Richard was able to quiz them on what they learned.  Turkey is not steak, you can’t just grille up more turkey, you have to plan half a day or more in advance to have enough food ready for all your guests.  Richard is a friendly fellow and a true restaurant professional.

For steak I tried out both the 22 ounce bone in Rib eye and the New York Strip, both prime.  Again on Richard’s recommendation I had a glass of Sequoia Grove 2010 Cabernet.  The steak was awesome.  I mean really awesome.   The steak was sizzling hot and cooked perfectly medium rare just like I asked.  The New York Strip was actually the best NY Strip I’ve ever had.  Absolutely perfect, tender, juicy with a full robust flavor.  I’m a steak connoisseur just like with wine, and I’ve eaten at Steakhouses all across the United States, and this was the best.  Look for Eddie V’s to be in my “Best of 2014″ list coming out at the end of the year.  Hey, the Rib eye wasn’t bad either.  Just kidding, it was awesome as well.  I find that many times Rib eye’s can contain too many large fatty areas, leaving disconnected chunks of meat for you to dig through.   Will the marbling in this particular Rib eye allowed me to eat everything except the bone.  That’s perfect in my book.

One day I will have a wine cellar like this!

One day I will have a wine cellar like this!

The Sequoia Grove Cabernet was a nice pairing as well.  At $24 a glass it is the most expensive wine on the wine by the glass list.  Luckily there are about 400 wines available by the bottle and the by the bottle prices are a lot more reasonable.  Here’s some examples:  B.R Cohen “Silver Label” Cabernet $52, Duckhorn Cabernet $75 and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Artemis” $99.  Not bad for a prime restaurant, not bad at all.

Last but not least was dessert! Vanilla ice cream with chocolate cake just oozing with warm melting chocolate on the inside, and big enough for two.

Links:

Eddie V’s Scottsdale Arizona location

Chateau Montelena

Sequoia Grove

disclaimer: My dinner was provided free of charge

6th annual Festival on the farm

The 6th Annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association “Festival on the Farm”

Festival on the farm

Saturday November 15th, 2014.
Wine in the desert? You Bet!

Set amongst the 100+ year old pecan groves on The Farm at South Mountain, the event will feature over 30 Arizona wineries, wine education seminars, and a live auction.  The idyllic setting is the legacy of Dwight Heard (yes, from the Heard Museum).   In addition to tasting Arizona wines, guests get a chance to meet and greet the wine makers and principals of the various wineries.  The intimate and casually relaxed atmosphere is a great way to really get to know the wines, the people and new friends!

In addition to the tastings, the festival offers educational seminars and tastings.  You might get to taste some rare wines, as the wine makers often bring wine from their personal collection, not available to the public.  Last year Maynard James Keenan of Caduceus Cellars brought a few bottles of his ’08 Judith, which had long since sold out even at it’s initial offering of $100 a bottle.

Later in the afternoon the live auction becomes the center of attention.  The real live auctioneers are very entertaining even if you’re not bidding.  If you’re bidding you could walk away with some truly amazing steals.  In years past wine maker dinners, wine collections, and amazing vacations have fetched top dollar.

If you’re looking for something more intimate you should check out the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Awards Banquet.  This event is held the Friday night before the festival.  For $75 you’ll get to taste this year’s Arizona Republic Wine Competition winners paired with amazing dishes at Stone Grove at the Farm at South Mountain.  Stone Grove is located right next to Quiessence restaurant, nestled in  very back of the farm.  Arizona wine makers will be on hand for guests to mingle with throughout the night.  Only 100 tickets are available for the Friday night event.

Whether you’re a sommelier or just getting into wine, there is no better event than this to experience what Arizona wine has to offer.

Visit azwinefestivalatthefarm.com for more information and tickets

3 New Releases from Paul Dolan Vineyards

Paul Dolan Vineyards

paul-dolan-wine-bottles

Have you ever had any wines from Mendocino County?  Until recently when I took San Francisco Wine School’s CWAS program I had not been exposed to a lot of wine from Mendocino.  At many retail wine outlets the selection from California consists mostly of Central Coast and Napa/Sonoma, with very little from Mendocino.  The area has a rich wine history and if you’re looking to expand your palate, this is the first place I would recommend you start.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County

paul dolan sauvignon blanc bottle

Vineyards:  100% Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Aging: 100% stainless steel fermented and aged

Alcohol: 13.5%

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

This wine is an almost perfect blend of the Californian and New Zealand styles of Sauvignon Blanc.  The nose has distinct lemongrass notes while the palate is a blend of kiwi and grapefruit.  This wine has a very solid backbone of acidity, and just enough ripeness to dial that acidity back a notch.  Suggested retail is $18.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 96 points

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

paul dolan pinot noir bottle

Vineyards:  100% Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Aging: 16 months in new and seasoned oak barrels (currently no additional information, I’ll update when I learn more)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Production: 2,000 cases

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

This wine has some nice notes of leather and red fruit on the nose.  The palate consists of crisp strawberry and cocoa.  This is a medium/light bodied wine with low tannins and a medium/low level of acidity.  Suggested retail is $30.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 88 points.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel, Mendocino County

paul dolan zinfandel bottle

Vineyards: 100% Mendocino County

Aging: 16 months in new and seasoned oak barrels (currently no additional information I’ll update when I learn more)

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 4,000 cases

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

I really enjoyed this wine as it was a welcome departure from the overly ripe simplistic fruit bombs I’ve been running into lately.   Blackberry, black pepper, full bodied, medium/high tannins and medium acidity.  The wine evolved quite nicely over my 24 hour tasting period.  I recommend decanting for at least an hour or two on this wine as of right now (Oct 2014)  Suggested retail is $25.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 92 points.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by all three wines. Why?  I didn’t know what to expect, I had no pre conceived opinions of what these wines might be.  I know I’m supposed to do that with all wines, but if you put a $100 Napa Cabernet in front of me I can’t help it – I just know it’s going to be pretty good. More often than not, it is.   But with these wines I just didn’t know and now that I do, I have a new standard with which to measure all wines from the region.  The wines were interesting, a departure from the standard fare.  But not such a radical departure as to be weird and off putting.  Just enough to be interesting and delicious.

Another thing to note as that Paul Dolan Vineyards doesn’t seem to be making a big deal about their Certified Organic credentials by plastering it on the front label of the bottle.  The stewardship of the environment doesn’t just stop with being organic.  Special attention is paid to water reclamation and waste.  Tim Thornhill, chief operating officer and owner talks about changes he made at his other project, Parducci Wine Cellars in an upcoming PBS series titled Quest for Water.

Paul Dolan Vineyards website

 

 

 

Scottsdale’s Palm Court Restaurant receives Wine Spectator honors

scottsdale-palm-court

Wine Spectator’s 2014 dining guide is a list of over 3,700 “restaurants for wine lovers”

I was recently invited to experience the Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center’s Palm Court Restaurant in light of their recent inclusion on the Wine Spectator list.  In addition to receiving the basic award for having a good wine list Palm Court was noted for having a relatively inexpensive pricing structure. I was interested to see this first hand as one of my pet peeves (besides cheap stemware at a nice restaurant) is paying excessive wine markup at a nice restaurant.

scottsdale-palm-court-restaurant-3The first thing you’ll notice about Palm Court, is that it can be a little bit tricky to find.  It’s located on the 3rd floor of the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, which is itself easy to miss.  After turning down a small unassuming side street in central Scottsdale, suddenly there it is.  This majestic little gem with the circular drive way, with valet service, a big ornamental fountain and palm trees with white Christmas lights.

I wandered around the property for a few minutes before heading to the restaurant.  It felt a little like a time machine taking me back to the late ’70’s early ’80’s when I used to visit my grandparents at McCormick Ranch.  There’s quite a few interesting architectural features to explore, I recommend spending a few minutes doing that before heading up to the restaurant.

The restaurant has a nice traditional feel to it, and open and airy atmosphere with nice big windows that allow diners to look out over the golf course and catch a sunset.

I had a chance to talk quite extensively with Ahdy Youssef, the assistant Maitre’D and Wine Steward.  He’s a very friendly and warm guy who got his start 17 years ago as a bus boy in the restaurant.  He worked his way up over the years and started getting very interested in wine some years back.  He studied through the Society of Wine Educators program and achieved CWE (Certified Wine Educator) status about 5 years ago.  He was hired by Mr Kwan, who has been working at The Palm Court for 21 years.  The two of them together make a great team and compliment each other very well.   Ahdy also studied with The San Francisco Wine school taking their CWAS course (which I completed this past August)

scottsdale-palm-court-restaurant-6I asked Ahdy what his favorite wines were and he thought about it for a few seconds and then came back with a suggestion: Lancaster Estate Cabernet from Alexander Valley.  He brought out the wine popped the cork and decanted it while Mr Kwan wheeled in a portable cooking station and prepared some gigantic prawns in a Reggiano parmesan risotto with parsley and diced tomato and Chardonnay sauce.  Ahdy asked me what my all time favorite wine was and I replied “Chateau d’Yquem”

“We have that, by the glass”  he smiled.

I don’t think I can recall any restaurant in Phoenix service Chateau d’Yquem by the glass.  Priced at $38 a glass, that is very reasonable considering a half bottle (375ml) of the ’02 vintage they serve goes for $162 at Total Wine in Phoenix

scottsdale-palm-court-restaurant-5I quickly looked up Lancaster on my phone and if you can get it, the ’09 cab will run you at least $75 a bottle.  Palm Court price…$110.  This is why they received that award from Wine Spectator.   One of my pet peeves is paying excessive markup for wine in a fancy restaurant.  It utterly ruins the evening for me.  I always feel like I could have just stayed home grilled up a prime steak from Costco and spent the savings on some killer wine.

 

For dessert: Flourless chocolate cake

For dessert: Flourless chocolate cake

For dinner I chose the lamb, which was done quite well. Not too gamey.  Although I don’t mind gamey lamb either.  One thing to note about the menu:  You’re not going to find the more chef driven style of food here.  You’re going to find more of the French style of cuisine.  The beef tenderloin is carved in half and drizzled with a red wine and béarnaise sauce.  The potatoes are mashed with Gouda.  You’re going to find a more traditional menu.   Appetizers run in the $12-$15 range and main courses are in the $25-$40 range, which is quite reasonable for an establishment with AAA’s four diamond award.

chateau-d'yquem-2002

After dinner I indulged in a glass of d’Yquem and I wasn’t disappointed.  There’s a reason why Chateau d’Yqeum is nicknamed “Nectar of the Gods”, and Palm Court is the only place that I know of in the Phoenix area where you can find out why without having to buy a whole bottle.

Palm Court Website

Lancaster Estate website

 

 

 

Greg Gauthier Select Vineyards

Gauthier-wine

Greg Gauthier is an amazing wine maker that you may never have heard of.  For over 30 years Greg Gauthier’s passion has been wine making.  He’s worked closely with a number of well known wine makers, including Rodney Strong and Ted Seghesio.  He’s also worked with Mike Richmond at Acacia vineyards for many years, and Mike helped out on this very personal project.

I had dinner at a steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona this past summer.  We spent 3 hours sipping wine, filling our bellies with steak and desserts, and did I mention..wine?  We talked a lot about Greg’s history in the wine business, how he worked at Acacia and how he came to work at Bouchaine Vineyards in Carneros.  Over the course of the evening I was able to pick up on Greg’s vibe and this is it.  He’s a funny guy, though not clownish.  He has an understated dead pan sense of humor.  He’s a thoughtful and deliberate man, pragmatic and also very aware of detail.  These are very useful traits to have in the wine business, if you know anything about all that can go wrong and right during the wine making process.   Listed below are the four wines Greg brought to the dinner for me to take home and sample at my own leisure.

 

G-Squared  – Riesling 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands g squared wine

The grapes for this wine come from the Hillside Vineyard which was originally planted by Robert Mondavi in 1970.  The Santa Lucia Highlands are located in the Salinas valley southeast of Monterey Bay.  The region achieved A.V.A. status in 1991.  Although it is considered a cool region, the area does have a relatively dry climate and offers a long growing season with bud break starting in late February early March and harvest occurring mid September through late October.

This wine is nice and crisp with lots of green apple notes with minerality on the back end.  Nice floral aroma.  Alcohol is 11% and the retail price is $18.  This is a good deal for $18

 

G Squared 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Yountville Napa Valley

Gauthier-wine-3

This wine is a great combination of two very different styles.  The wine blends the lemon grass style of New Zealand with the ripe smoothness of Napa Valley.  Not just a summer sipper, this wine is a bit too refined to merely gulp down in the afternoon.  This wine should be treated more like a weekend reward!  Retail price is $18, and it is a great value.

G Squared, 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast “Rockin’ H Ranch Vineyards”

Rockin’ H Ranch is a 150 acre ranch located about 8 miles south east of Petaluma.  If you don’t know where that is, think of the southern end of Sonoma Valley right near San Pablo Bay.   The Rockin’ H Ranch has about 50 acres under vine, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

This Pinot is a big meaty Pinot with loads of spice and firm tannins.  If you like Syrah and Grenache, you’ll probably like this wine. Cranberry, cinnamon and cherry.  Retail price $35.

Gauthier-wine-4

 G – Squared 2012 Grenache, Sonoma Coast “Rockin’ H Ranch Vineyard”

I really loved this wine!  Again, big and bold, with loads of fruit on the front end.  Dark and rich, but with only 13.9% alcohol none of the alcoholic heat that can come from hot climate Grenache.

Gauthier-wine-5

 

Unlimited Constructive Criticism: The New Olive Garden Policy

By now you might have seen the news about Olive Garden and the bread stick policy.  If you haven’t here’s a quick run down:  Starboard Value, which owns 8.8% of Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants released a very critical 294 page document to the public detailing the short comings of the Olive Garden brand and practices.  The part that everyone seems to be focused on is the part about “No more unlimited bread sticks”.  While this is partially true, if you read the report, what it actually says is something more like: “Don’t bring all the unlimited bread sticks out at the same time, they tend to not taste as good after they’ve been sitting for 7 minutes.  Bring them out one or two at a time and then keep them coming as requested.”   So it’s not about being stingy, it’s about serving quality food.  Another choice quote was critical of the Olive Garden practice of not adding salt to the water while boiling the pasta noodles: “If you Google how to make pasta 101, the first step is to salt the water”  the Starboard Value report said.

Another key point (of many) was the alcohol and wine in particular.  Olive Garden alcohol sales amount to only 8% of sales while other chain restaurants like Macaroni Grill are significantly higher – in the 15-20% range.  Alcohol is profitable.  There’s no getting around that. Sell more alcohol, make more money.

My insight on the low alcohol sales:  The wine list is not good.  I’ve been there and tasted the wine, and it’s almost undrinkable.  Not that Olive Garden needs to start stocking high end wine, but just a few labels that people recognize and flavor profiles that lend themselves to being paired with the food they serve would be good.  The wines I tried a few years back were terribly astringent, flat and generally very unpleasant.  There are a lot of wines out there that are rated 90 points plus which retail for under $10 a bottle.  They need not limit themselves to Italian wines, just wines that go with the food.

One last thing I wish Olive Garden, and chain restaurants in general, had more of is Gluten Free options.  It’s not like its 1999 and these products are super pricey and hard to come by.  I can get gluten free corn based pasta in Super Target, so Olive Garden and others should have the ability to prepare gluten free pasta.  Think PF Chang’s.

See the report for yourself: http://shareholdersfordarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Transforming-Darden.pdf