Every once in a while I am lucky enough to attend a truly remarkable wine event. Not that the other events are not remarkable.
It’s just that some events are so special that they really give you that feeling that you are in the midst of or witness to the start of something exceptional. The 2nd annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Awards reception 2010 was one of those events.
The banquet was held at Quiessence restaurant at The Farm at South Mountain. First a little background about the Farm: Originally developed by Dwight Heard of the Heard museum, in the 1920’s the 10 acre parcel was planted with over 100 pecan trees. These trees still stand today and provide a wonderful, lush and serene setting for Quiessence restaurant which is nestled way in the back of the property. Quiessence has accumulated an impressive list of awards but even more impressive were the culinary creations of executive chef Gregory LaPrad and Chef du Cuisine Anthony Adiario that were paired with the gold medal winning wines
The food and wine pairings were set up at 7 different stations around the restaurant and out in the garden. Here is a list of the menu and wine pairings:
House Cured Meats & Salumi – Arizona Stronghold Vineyards “Dayden” 2009
Winter Squash Soup – Caduceus “Dos Ladrones” 2009
Handmade pasta: Capunti with tomato, eggplant, fennel and sardines – Caduceus “Kitsune” Sangiovese 2008
Potato & Cheese Francobolli with Black Trumpet Mushroom Cream Sauce – ASV Bonita Springs Chardonnay 2009
Housemade Boudin Blanc Sausage with “El Norte” Braised Crimson Gold Apples & Fried Sage – Dos Cabezas “El Norte” 2008
“Frito Misto” Crispy Fried Shrimp, Calamari & Alaskan Halibut – Merkin “The Diddler” 2009
Braised Beef Wellington with Roasted Vegetable Compote – Alcantara Cabernet Sauvignon 2007-Paso Robles
Desserts: Petit Fours, Truffles & Confections – Sonoita Sparkles Peach
Also out in the garden were a cellist and a violinist playing contemporary music accompanied by an Macbook back up band which really added a nice touch to the ambience.
I was introduced to a man named Bob Webb, who founded the first winery in Arizona back in 1980. I had a very interesting discussion with Mr. Webb. One of my dreams is to buy some land and plant a vineyard and start a winery, which is quite unlike any other wine bloggers dreams! Mr Webb was actually retired out of the wine business but recently came out of retirement when he decided to plant vines in the spring of 2010. He said it’s in his blood, he cant stop. Mr Webb planted multiple varieties on 13 acres high in the Sierra Madre mountain range. At elevations above 7,000 feet these could possibly be the highest vineyards in North America. He says he will only make wine from those vines if the fruit is exceptional, otherwise he will just scrap the idea. I will be writing more on this project in the future.
Later on I met legendary Arizona wine maker Kent Callaghan (pronounced Calla Gan). We were talking inside in a small hallway and I told him I had grown up in British Columbia and suddenly he became animated. Kent is actually a shy and humble guy – not very comfortable with the limelight. But with the B.C. connection he became a bit more animated. He told me that his parents had owned property on Galiano Island and he had learned how to grow grapes from his father there. Then he said “Hey, you like wine? Come with me.” This is where an event like this becomes truly interesting… we went outside and he reached under one of the tables and pulled a couple of bottles of wine out of a box. I sat with Mr Callaghan and Todd Bostock and drank some truly remarkable wine which shall remain nameless.
This event was a very nice and intimate conclusion to a year of hard work by the Arizona wine industry. It was really nice to see all of the people I have interviewed and met over the past year all in one place.
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Here is a short video of some scenes from the evening:
List of Award Winners HERE
Kent and his wife are some of the nicest people in the wine biz, and perhaps that’s the reason their wines are one of the few that I recommend to people who are looking for AZ grown wines. It certainly helps that the wines are outstanding and good values for the money. Don’t you just love it when the wine maker gives you that conspiratorial look, pulls a bottle from under the table and says, “Here, try this…”
I’m curious to read the update on the high altitude project; seems some of the best wines that I’ve ever tasted have come from higher altitudes. The process seems to have something to do with the grapes gaining more physiological ripeness due to increase levels of UV, which prompts thickening of the skins as a defense against the potentially damaging effects of the UV rays.
Conspiratorial look….LOL Yes I will be finding out more from Mr Webb when he returns from Argentina