Del Frisco’s Grille built around a great wine list

wine bar phoenix

The glass private dining room with the wine storage behind the glass

When I heard there was a new wine centric restaurant in the Biltmore district, I must admit I was skeptical.  I thought, really?  Another place to buy overpriced Silver Oak and eat steak?  My skepticism vanished quite quickly upon entering Del Frisco’s Grille.  The first thing I noticed was the interesting interior design.  The restaurant’s central design are huge floor to ceiling glass walls that have wine bottles behind them.  When I win the lottery, that is exactly how I am going to design my mansion!  I explored a little deeper into the restaurant and found the private, all glass dining room.  I inspected the bottles behind the walls a little closer and found a Methuselah (fancy word for 6 liter) bottle of Caymus Special Selection.  A little farther along the wall I saw something that caught my attention big time.  I tall stack of bottles: 2007 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa.  I have been on a huge Howell Mountain kick ever since visiting Robert Craig’s vineyard “above the fog” back in 2011.  I put the Dunn in my memory bank for later use.

wine bar phoenix az

The bar area

I continued on my tour led by general manager Tony Brunetti and he opened up the storage area for me.  The majority of Del Frisco’s 500+ selections of wines are actually stored behind the glass walls in a temperature and humidity controlled and quite narrow cellar!  Great design and function, definitely on the lottery list! Also on the lottery list were many of the labels I found back there:  Dalla Valle, Hundred Acre, and Mouton Rothschild.

On a follow up visit for this article I met with Sarah Falconer, the wine sommelier.  Sarah has worked for the Del Frisco’s organization for quite some time and actually got her sommelier training while working there. Sarah gave me the background scoop on Del Frisco’s Grille.  The original restaurant, Del Frisco’s double eagle, started in Dallas over 20 years ago.  It is a fine dining restaurant serving only prime steak and fine wine.  The Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group also owns over 20 Sullivans Steak Houses across the country.

Wine bar phoenix

A nice view from the upstairs patio

The Del Frisco’s Grille concept is rather new and the Arizona location is only the 3rd location.  The concept is an extension of the prime steak theme, mixed with a more contemporary feel and lighter food fare.   Sarah manages the wine inventory for this location, which means she is constantly stacking and counting wine bottles.  Contrary to popular opinion, sommeliers don’t recline on plush leather couches sniffing and swirling wine in dimly lit rooms all the time.  There is an amazing amount of work that goes into a properly managed inventory of wine. Imagine keeping track of 500 different brands of wine, with multiple bottles of each brand! Talking with Sarah I could easily tell she enjoys it, she is passionate about wine and even more passionate about people.  She really knows her stuff too.

wine bar phoenix

The wine storage area behind the glass walls

It eventually came time to be seated for dinner and I, along with Josh and Rhonni were in for a treat.  Not only was the food great, but we enjoyed a bottle of that Dunn Howell Mountain. Not that wine should be reduced to a number rating by a fancy wine reviewer, but if a wine is rated 97 points, its probably worth a try right?   The wine was still very young, quite tannic, but still really delicious, and even Rhonni who is not much of a big bold cab drinker, really liked it.  Given 5 more years of aging this wine will really be absolutely amazing.  More about the wine and its presentation:  The wine was brought out cool but not cold,and our server brought a decanter and appropriate stemware. I am a real stickler for 3 things when paying top dollar for wine:  #1 Correct temperature i.e. NOT room temperature. #2 decanter, and #3 appropriate stemware.  Small sports bar glasses are no way to enjoy a $125 bottle of wine.

Dunn Howell mountain wine bottle

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet

Apart from the main dining area, the private dining area would be a great place to host a small event.  On my second visit I noticed a private wine tasting being set up.  There is also a large bar area, and also a long communal table where meeting new people is inevitable.  In fact on this visit I ran into some people that I knew, and they happened to be sitting right next to Josh and Rhonni and chatting up a storm.

weekly wine journal wine blog

An amazing wine

The main idea I took away from Del Frisco’s Grille is that it is really a wine bar with an excellent menu.  A lot of restaurants have wine as an afterthought, whereas I get the distinct impression that Del Frisco’s really paid attention to what kind of food would go with some of the greatest wines in the world and built their menu around a massively impressive wine list.

One last thing to note:  Del Frisco’s has an upstairs patio featuring a view of Camelback mountain.  Its a very relaxed casual place to hang out on large comfy couches and relax over drinks.

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