Places to buy wine

North Scottsdale gas station opens wine bar

I was recently invited to attend a wine tasting at a gas station.  I had to re-read the invitation to make sure I had read it right.  Yes, a gas station in North Scottsdale has a wine bar!

north scottsdale wine

It looks like a gas station, but inside its oh so much more!

I arrived at the address I was given (right next to the Ice Den), and yes, it looked like a gas station, albeit a nice clean gas station with a large office type building behind it.  From the outside you would never expect what awaits you on the inside.

Scottsdale wine barOnce inside, I immediately realized that this wine bar thing was the real deal.  I was half expecting large bottles of cheap wine being served in red plastic cups, but that was not the case.

wine shopI was greeted by Chuck Hesson, the market’s on staff Sommelier.  After introductions Chuck took me on a quick tour.  Chuck is a bona fide Som,  Level II WSET.  Chuck is from Texas originally and comes to Arizona by way of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  It was in Texas about 25 years ago that he met chef Tudie Frank-Johnson.  Tudie is the award winning chef and Southern BBQ specialist who runs the Campfire Bistro at Tom’s Thumb.  Tudie recently took home top honors at the ABC channel 15 Sonoran Living BBQ challenge.

scottsdale wine barThere is a wine department in the market with a decent selection of wines.  There is a good mix between big brands and lesser knowns.  There is also a very good Arizona wine selection.  I was quite surprised to see harder to find AZ Wines such as Page Springs Cellars SMGp, Caduceus Anubis and Dos Cabezas “Pink”

toms thumb gas stationOn our way to the wine tasting table we passed by the Gluten Free section.  I know this is a wine blog, but as a gluten free person I am always happy to see the trend gaining popularity.  The wine tasting table, is located in the back of the market, it’s private and quite, and the table offers a nice setting.

After the tour, Chuck treated me to some Southern Style BBQ.  He brought out an assortment of chicken, steak and pulled pork with 4 sauces (all gluten free and made by Tudie)  He poured a couple glasses of wine to sample as well.  First thing I noticed is THE APPROPRIATE STEMWARE!  Even though the glasses were stemless, they were of sufficient size to properly swirl and sniff the wine.  One of my biggest pet peeves is crappy stemware.

I sampled A to Z Pinot Gris from Oregon.  This wine is made by Rex Hill’s William Hatcher and it was a very nice summer wine, and for only $13 a bottle I will have to take a detour off the 101 Pima Freeway and grab a bottle or two.

This summer the market is hosting some wine and craft beer tastings and educating customers on pairings with BBQ food.  Check with them for time and dates.

As I was leaving I thought to myself, they really ought to market this place as a Gourmet bbq and  wine bar with a gas station instead of the other way around!

Have you been to Tom’s Thumb?  Have you found wine bars in any unlikely locations?

See more pictures on the Weekly Wine Journal Facebook Page

Wine and cuisine synergy in Scottsdale | Baratin

scottsdale wine bar

Baratin Cafe

If you follow the food and wine scene in Arizona you’ve probably heard of Charleen Badman and Pavle’s Milic’s FnB restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale.  FnB features chef driven cuisine and an all Arizona wine list.   FnB played host to a major wine tasting back in 2010 dubbed Arizona Judgment 2010, where Arizona wines competed against some of the world’s best known brands. Read more about that HERE.

Since then, the Arizona wine industry has really started to capture some national attention, especially with Eric Gomski winning several Jefferson Cup awards in 2011.  Read about that HERE.

Scottsdale wine bar

Baratin interior: The plates are from Charleen’s restaurant in NYC

One night while I was dining at FnB, Pavle began musing about starting a little wine cafe, or a place to buy wine in Old Town Scottsdale.  He hadn’t figured it out yet, but the inspiration was there and he seemed excited.

He had spent some time trying to find a suitable location when he happened to walk past a vacant building, he quickly called the number in the window.  As it turns out the building actually contained 3 separate spaces.  Also, as it turns out Charleen Badman had been wanting to open a small, local and farm fresh grocery outlet, and Brian Reeder from FnB had been wanting to start a little cafe.

AZ Wine merchant

The tasting table at AZ Wine Merchants

The result is an amazing synergy of wine and cuisine.  The center space is occupied by Baratin Cafe and features Arizona wines as well as well known brands by the half bottle and a simple yet inspired menu.  The most interesting part about the whole set up is that if you like the glass of wine you’re drinking, you can purchase it from the wine shop, AZ Wine Merchants.  If you like the food, you can purchase most of the ingredients from Bodega Market.  That way you can attempt to recreate some of the creations back at home.

Another really great thing about Bodega market in particular is the freshness of the product.  Bodega actually serves as a storage facility for the ingredients used in the dishes made at FnB.  And if you’re ever dined at FnB you’ll know that it is always full!  As a result they go through fresh ingredients at a rapid rate, and almost everything in Bodega is less than a day old.  In a lot of cases the items were picked out of the ground at the local farm and delivered right to Bodega, then prepared into your meal at Baratin or FnB on the same day!

At my recent visit to Baratin I was amazed ( I know, I keep using that word right?!)  I was amazed at how such simple dishes could taste so complex and rich and YUMMY!

Scottsdale wine bar


FnB, Baratin AZ Wine Merchants and Bodega WEBSITE

More pics at the Weekly Wine Journal’s Facebook Page

Wine Tasting at the Phoenix Public Market

Inside the Phoenix Public Market

Inside the Phoenix Public Market

I recently attended a free wine tasting at the Phoenix Public Market in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.  Every Wednesday starting at 5pm the Public market pours local Arizona wines for the public to sample.  The wines being offered this particular night were Oak Creek Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay, Rancho Rossa 2006 CSM and Canelo Hills 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.

3 arizona wines

Oak Creek Winery, Rancho Rossa and Canelo Hills

First up was the Canelo Hills 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.  The first thing I noticed was a very crisp acidity and tartness.  This wine is not for people who can only drink the ripe fruit forward styles of Sauv Blanc.  Personally I thought the crispness and tartness were quite welcome considering it was at least 106F outside!  The tart fruit is along the lines of green or Granny Smith apples mixed with a bit of lemon.  There is a hint of grassiness along the lines of what is commonly produced in New Zealand.  The alcohol came in at 13.7% which was pleasant, no heat on the finish. This is a dry Sauvignon blanc.  $22 a bottle retail.  Canelo Hills was one of the vineyards almost completely destroyed by a violent wind and hail storm this summer.  So there might some sort of collectability to this vintage as their 2010 vintage will most likely have to be sourced from alternate growers.

Red Yellow and Purple pepper

Interesting Purple Peppers

Next up was the Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery 2008 Chardonnay.  This wine is made in the Burgundian style with no oak.  It underwent malolactic fermentation.  Unfortunately I found this wine to be a little on the flat side.  The fruit was lacking in something that I could really grasp and say “Ah thats it!”  To be honest I would say Chardonnay is the wine of which I am most critical, it takes a lot for me to be wowed by a Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay did not wow me.

Barrel wine sign

Signs made from old barrels

Last but not least was the Rancho Rossa 2006 CSM.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot.  This wine was the most interesting of the three.  Full-bodied with solid tannins throughout.  There is a predominant smokiness that I think could use a little toning down, but there is a decent complexity to make up for that.  The fruit is along the lines of blackberry and cherry, and plum.  Standard fare for red wine.

After the tasting I enjoyed a fabulous sample platter paired with a brand new wine from Dick Erath…

Sample Platter

Delicious sample platter

Click here to see a quick video tour of the Phoenix Public Market

Canelo Hills website

Oak Creek Vineyard and Winery website

Rancho Rossa website

A quick tour of the Phoenix Public Market

I visited the Phoenix Public Market

Phoenix Public Market logo

Cool Logo

in downtown Phoenix and was treated to a wonderful wine tasting and sample platter of their food offerings.  Patty (PJ) also was brave enough to give me a quick video interview and talk about the Public Market.

Click here to see some wine reviews

A visit to ENO oENOlogy Wine bar, Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego

I took a trip to San Diego to attend my brother’s graduation ceremony.

Wine Cheese and Chocolate

He graduated from Scripps with a doctoral in Philosophy.  Interesting thing about the sciences I learned: Your degree is called a degree in Philosophy and that’s it.  There are no other letter codes such as M.D. at the end!  His area of expertise is stem cells.  So to celebrate we packed up the family and headed to San Diego.  We gathered with some of his friends one night and had dinner at the Hotel Del Coronado.  But before we met up, I took him to a little place called ENO.  Eno wine rooms are located in Chicago and California.  They specialize in wine, cheese and chocolate.  On Friday nights ENO has a happy hour with an assortment of wines for only $5 a glass.

Riedel stem ware

And the wines are only served in Riedel stemware.  Top notch.  The wines are stored sideways in a temperature controlled glass room, which is incorporated into the design of the bar.  There is bar seating, table seating and long tables with various varietals of grapes backlit in the tables surface.

Interesting table top

Eno has a great assortment of cheese flights, specialty meats, and amazing chocolates.  Click here to view the menu

My brother and I enjoyed “The Great Cheese Experience” which is 6 of the staffs top pics, and includes  Brindisi,

The Great Cheese Experience!

Noord Hollander Gouda, Robiola a tre latti, Gruyere, Brebis and Roquefort.  I really liked the Gouda, the Roquefort was very strong!

We also had the Charcuterie which was an assortment of Prosciutto, Sopresseta, Salame, and Duck Pate.  Followed by a bowl of Olives marinated in chili, thyme, garlic and citrus.  Delicious!

Last but not least was the Sea Salt Caramel!

Sea Salt Caramel

To enjoy this treat, you turn it upside down and place it on your tongue allowing the salt to melt before sucking on the melting chocolate and caramel.

While we were there we were introduced to the  assistant sommelier at the Hotel Del Coronado, Joe Weaver.  Super nice guy, a little shy, but super nice.  Ladies…take a trip down to this wine bar and meet Joe..wink wink.  We also met Ted Glennon,wine director.  Ted is also a super nice guy.  Friendly, out going.  Both guys are really down to earth.  If you are looking for wine snobs you are in the wrong place!

I almost forgot…the wine!  We sampled 4 wines:

Click to enlarge, you can see a man in the wine!

Four Vines “Naked” Chardonnay, Santa Barbara, 2008.  Un-oaked Burgundian, Crisp, clean, and if I’m not mistaken, not buttery.

Vina Nora 2008, Albarino.  Delicious, fruit forward, tangy pineapple and citrus.

Andrew Lane Gamay “nouveau” Suisun Valley, 2009.  I really loved the bright vibrant color on this wine.  Crisp, fruity, very light on the tannins.  Served slightly chilled this wine would be a great summer refresher.

Maipe, Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina 2008.    Yes, Bonarda.   Ripe black fruit, almost fig like with sweet herbs and a rich oaky finish.  I am going to have to buy this wine and give it a more thorough review.

Thanks again to the staff at ENO for a wonderful experience, I will definitely be visiting the next time I am in San Diego!

A conversation with Sommelier Dave Johnson Oakville Grocery, North Scottsdale

Dave Johnson takes care of the wine department at Oakville Grocery in North Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dave Johnson

The Store is located directly across the street from P.F. Chang’s restaurant at the Kierland Shopping Center.  Dave is a warm and friendly fellow, he is well-traveled in addition to being a Level III Sommelier.  He has worked with and trained with some of the worlds most famous wineries, wine makers, he’s been there and done that, so to speak.  He now calls Arizona home, and has lived here for the past 10 years.

This is a video of my visit.  In it Dave tells us about a wine he had a hand in creating, he has actually made 6 vintages of wine.

What is that? It’s Tannat!

These days there are so many different places that you can shop for wine.  Some places carry furniture, garden tools, and oh ya… $2.87 wine.  Some places carry slightly

Tannat means Tannins!

higher end stuff, like funky furniture, and wine.  Oakville Grocery is not one of those places.  Oakville specializes in “the best” .  The best oils and vinegar, the best deserts, the best breads, the best meats and diner entres. And the best wines.  The Oakville Grocery in North Scottsdale which is located across the street from Kierland shopping center even has its own Sommelier.  Dave Johnson is not just a Sommelier, he is a level 3 Sommelier.  He is extremely knowledgable, yet totally approachable, down to earth.  There are not many places in the valley with such a well qualified staff to assist you in your wine purchases.   At Oakville you will find Louis Roederer Cristal.  You will find all the most well-known high California Cabernet’s.  But you will also find wines that you are not likely to find anywhere else.

I recently sat down with Dave Johnson for a private tasting.  The first wine we tried was a Tannat.  Dave asked me : “Do you know what Tannat means?  It means Tannins!” He poured me a generous glass of M. Cosentino Winery 2006 Tannat from Lodi California.  Actually, he popped the cork and then stamped my note pad with the wine stained end of it.  “Just look at that!”  he proclaimed.  I looked.  Dark purple, with tiny fine grains.  The wine itself was almost black.  Dave explained that there has been a huge rise in the popularity of red wine due to the “health benefits” of resveratol, and anti oxidants found in the tannins and grape skins.  It turns out that the Tannat varietal has 70 times more anti oxidants than Cabernet Sauvignon!  Wow!  But how does it taste?

I was expecting a bitterly acidic monster that I could use to strip paint.  It was nothing like that.  The tannins were actually not huge and over powering like a young Bordeaux or big California Cabernet.  M. Cosentino Tannat is from Lodi.  Lodi is the Zinfandel capital of the world.  This wine reminds me a lot of the Zinfandels that are produced in the area.  Big, for sure, but smooth, well rounded, and ripe.  It’s like a mouthful of astringent blackberries.  Some Zins are spicy, this Tannat was not.  Just an all around great wine.  If you like the bigger bolder wines like Cabernets and Zinfandels and Shiraz, you will LOVE this Tannat.  Plus you can pat yourself on the back for loading up on the health aspects.  And finally I flipped the bottle around and saw the price tag: $17!  What a deal!

Sam Pillsbury’s new tasting room, Cottonwood Arizona

For those of you who Sam Pillsbury is, he’s a movie director who was born in the North East, moved to New Zealand as a teenager and then moved back to the USA in the 1980’s.  He has been growing grapes and producing wine in Arizona for the past 10 years.  For more detailed information click on the link at the bottom.

Here are a couple of short videos of my trip:

Pillsbury Wine Company tasting room north soft opening, April 9-11 2010

I received a special invite to the “soft” opening of Pillsbury Wine Company’s Tasting Room North. A soft opening is different from a Grand Opening in that the event is not

Pillsbury tasting room north

promoted to the general public. The general public is welcome, it’s just not announced. A soft opening is where the restaurant, bar, hotel, it’s where the business opens and works out the kinks in the system by testing it out on their friends!
Pillsbury Wine Company’s North Tasting Room is located at 1012 Main street in Old Town Cottonwood, Arizona. It’s called the north tasting room because the vineyard is actually located far away in the south eastern part of the state. Cottonwood is about an hour and fifteen minute drive north of Phoenix, just a few miles from Jerome where Tool front man Maynard Keenan’s Caduceus cellars and Merkin vineyards tasting room is located.
Pillsbury’s tasting room, features a simple design and layout. It also features art work by members of Sam’s family. There is an espresso bar, and of course wine to taste!

Inside the Tasting Room

On Friday night Sam estimates that there were close to 100 visitors over the course of the night, that is some soft opening! I arrived at about 11am on Saturday to meet Sam and do a little interview for the Weekly Wine Journal’s Youtube Channel, and take some pictures for the Facebook account. Nice way to plug alternate forms of media eh??
I also tasted 2 wines. I tasted the 2008 Roan red, which is a Grenache based Rhone style wine. And I also tried out the 2009 Viognier. The Viognier had just been bottled by 3pm the previous night. We will be giving more in depth reviews of Pillsbury’s wines in the future, but here is a little teaser.

The 2008 Roan Red is stylistically quite similar to the ’07 Roan Red, if you liked that, you won’t be disappointed with the new offering.

Beautiful color on the 2008 Roan Red

The 2009 Viognier is amazing! In just a couple of weeks it will have settled nicely in the bottle, but even at the time of tasting, with less than 24 hours in the bottle this was a very nice smooth, crisp wine. I was amazed. This wine will sell out fast, only 80 cases were produced.
Before I left I had to pick up a bottle of the 2007 Petite Sirah. Only 30 cases were made of this monster 15.4% 28 brix wine. Sam told me that there are now only 3 cases left. I will be opening this one soon!

more of that beautiful color

A video tour of Bomberos Cafe and Wine Bar

If you are looking for somewhere to hang out after the Sunny Slope Art Walk this Saturday April 10th, you can always head over to Bomberos Cafe and Wine Bar. It’s located on Central Avenue just south of Dunlap. I paid a visit to Bomberos a few nights ago and met up with owner Oscar Mastrantuono. Oscar is from Paraguay, and Bomberos is the only place in Arizona that has an all South American Wine list. In this video he leads us through the former fire station, and onto the back patio. Then we check out the wines, and he shows me several interesting items. A syrah from Paraguay, a beer from Argentina and a traditional South American tea. For more info on Bomberos click the link below the video

Bomberos Website