Places to drink 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

Fleming’s 46 Diamonds Debut, October 26th 2011

Fleming’s Steakhouse has long been a supporter of breast cancer awareness in the month of October (and year round).   I met with Darrin Visser, managing partner of the Fleming’s on Scottsdale road and he gave me a brief rundown of some of the events and specials.

2 minute video

46 Diamonds Debut
An Evening of Exclusive Wine, Small Plates and High Fashion
Benefiting the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade

Wednesday, October 26
6 – 9 pm

Fleming’s at DC Ranch
20753 N. Pima Rd.
Scottsdale, Arizona 85255

Join Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar as it debuts its new private label wine – Forty-Six Diamonds, Toscana 2009. Enjoy a Arizona sunset on the DC Ranch patio while sipping this exclusive red blend created with Salvatore Ferragamo and the Il Borro estate all in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Guests will be able to sample the Forty-Six Diamonds, Cline Cellar’s Cashmere wine, and Fleming’s newest low-calorie cocktail – The Stiletto. Fleming’s newest Small Plates will be passed for noshing and the latest luxury handbags and shoes will be on display.

A portion of each ticket sale will be donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

RSVP with Fleming’s at 480-538-8000.


Fleming’s raises two glasses for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Fleming’s Raises Two Glasses for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Flemings steakhouse

New Stiletto Cocktail and Cline Cashmere Wine Only $6 during “5 for $6 ‘til 7” Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar raises not just one but two glasses honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month with on its new “5 for $6 ‘til 7” bar menu. Fleming’s new signature cocktail The Stiletto and Cline Cellar’s Cashmere wine will raise funds for organizations providing research and support in the fight of the disease.

The Stiletto martini is Fleming’s newest Skinny Cocktail. Fleming’s Director of Wine Maeve Pesquera created the 99-calorie drink in celebration of the women whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. The Stiletto is Fleming’s first gin-based skinny cocktail. It muddles Hendrick’s Gin with fresh blackberries, Monin, and lime juice and is topped with a float of diet ginger ale.

During October, 100% of the sales of The Stiletto will be donated back to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade was launched in 1992 as a small pioneering program in the U.K. Avon in the U.S. adopted the Crusade the following year. Over the last 17 years, Avon philanthropy has raised and donated more than $640 million to breast cancer programs around the world, supporting cutting‐edge research to find a cure for or prevent breast cancer as well as programs that enable all patients to access quality care.

Also in October, Cline Cashmere wine will be featured by the glass on the “5 for $6 ‘til 7” menu. Cline Cellars is making a $25,000 donation to Living Beyond Breast Cancer through the sales of Cashmere during the month. Guests ordering Cline Cashmere will receive a complimentary pink ribbon wine charm (available after October 5).

October 1 – 31, 2011


  • The Stiletto: $6 from 5-7pm / $9.95 after 7pm
  • Cline Cashmere: $6 from 5-7pm / $11 by the glass

Fleming’s has four restaurants in Phoenix located in Scottsdale, DC Ranch, Chandler and Peoria.

  • Scottsdale: 6333 N. Scottsdale Rd. / 480-596-8265

  • DC Ranch: 20753 N. Pima Rd. / 480-538-8000

  • Chandler: 905 N. 54th St. / 480-940-1900

  • Peoria: 9712 W. Northern Ave. / 623-772-9463


An evening at Quiessence restaurant | Phoenix Arizona

The entrance to Quiessence


The garden at the entrance

I recently had reason to celebrate and was looking for somewhere really special to take my business partners.  In the year and a half I have been wine blogging I have been introduced to many of the valley’s top dining establishments and so I found it to be a rather difficult choice.  Well the decision came down to several factors.  First, could the restaurant accommodate a table of 7 at 6:30 P.M. on a Saturday night.  Secondly, and more importantly, could they accommodate guests with gluten allergies.  And last but not least, would this place have the special kind of ambience fitting of kind of feel I was going for.  I decided to pose the question to my Twitter followers and quite quickly the consensus was Quiessence.

The front dining room over looks the garden

I was first introduced to Quiessence restaurant on The Farm at South Mountain last November when the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Awards Dinner was held there.  The setting is truly remarkable, nestled in the back of the Farm at South Mountain, just a few minutes south of downtown Phoenix.

We arrived and were seated and I quickly perused the wine list.  Actually I had been online earlier in the day looking at the wine list but for some reason the reds were not showing up and I emailed the restaurant about it.  Amazingly I received an email from the chef’s wife with a pdf attachment which included the complete wine list.

wine bottle with candle

2008 Callghan Cabernet

For wine I chose one of Arizona’s best producers: Kent Callaghan’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoita a.v.a.  Quiessence actually has one of the most if not the most comprehensive Arizona wine lists.  On it you will find many of the top producers that Arizona has to offer.

For starter I had a salad: Shaved asparagus, Pancetta, and Poulet egg with Maya’s greens, shaved red onions, parmesan croutons and creamy rosemary buttermilk dressing.  Maya’s farm is a 2 acre farm located right on the property.  The pancetta really added a wonderful zest to the creation.

For my main meal I had beef shank pizzaiola.  The beef was so tender and was seasoned with a spicy olive oil.  The beef was sourced locally from Power Ranch.  The 07 Callaghan Cab was really a great compliment to the meat.  The wine is a bold and powerful spicy cab with a hint of Arizona terroir.  Callaghan’s 25 acre vineyard is located in South Eastern Arizona at an elevation of 4,800 feet Restaurant price was $54 a bottle and well worth it.

One thing to note about dinning at Quiessence is that you should expect to make an evening out of it.  Creating dishes that focus as much on presentation as taste is not something you whip together on a production line.  Our dinner lasted a little over 3 hours.  Just as we began to wonder if the next course was coming, it magically appeared.  There is a lot to be said for riding that fine line of anticipation!  and doing it well.

I took a little walk about to take some video footage and I ran into Todd Bostock sitting at the wine bar.  Todd is owner and wine maker at Dos Cabezas Wineworks right next door to Callaghan’s.  Todd is also the former president of the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association.  He was relaxing, enjoying a glass of wine after attending the Scottsdale Culinary Festival.  When you dine at these kinds of places you never know who you will run into!

For dessert we enjoyed a confectionary tray which included among other delights chocolate truffles, chocolate and caramel covered pecans. I also enjoyed Justin Vineyard’s “Obtuse” which is an American style Port.  It paired very well with the decadent chocolate ice cream I was gobbling down.

Quiessence Website

Arizona Wine Grower’s Award Banquet reception review

Video of the scenery at Quiessence:

Review: Fleming’s Women and Wine Dinner

Steakhouse dining room

Fleming's on North Scottsdale Road

Last week Fleming’s Steakhouses across the country hosted their “Women & Wine” dinners.  At the events guests were treated to some amazing wines made by some legendary women in the wine world including Cathy Corison, Kristin Belair and Janet Myers.

Cathy Corison wine

Corison 2000 Cabernet

We started out the evening with swiss cheese puffs and house cured salmon, citrus creme fraiche and crispy wonton.  These were paired with Cathy Corison’s 2000 vintage  Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa valley.  Cathy Corison is a legendary wine maker having made wines for over 30 years for brands like Chappellet, Staglin Family, York Creek and Long Meadow Ranch.  It was very nice to taste a wine that has had significant time to age in the bottle.  This  wine was very refined with beautiful and mature tannins.  It paired very well with the food as it was soft and gentle enough as to not overpower  the food.

Next we enjoyed Butternut squash bisque with Danish blue cheese fondue and bacon herb bruschetta.  This was paired with Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa.  Kristin Belair is the wine maker at Honig and has been since 1998.  This wine is much bigger and bolder, younger than the Corison.  It displays notes of sage and currant as well as a pronounced creamy vanilla which only really came out after the Lamb chops served next.  The wine manager for this Fleming’s location, Tony Novak suggested we save a little of the Honig to try later after the main course, to see how it changes with the main course.  And it did.  I thought it was delicious to begin with, but actually found it tasted better with the rosemary Lamb chops which is what we enjoyed next.

05 Magnificat

Rosemary-scented lamb chops on parmesan risotto with maple roasted parsnips and a red wine demi glace.  This was paired with Franciscan, Magnificat 2005 from Napa.  This wine is made by Janet Myers who joined Franciscan Estate in 2003 and began winemaker in 2005.  Janet is also the winemaker at Mount Veeder winery. The ’05 Magnificat is a blend of 73% Cabernet, 23% Merlot, 2% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.  This wine is loaded with dark fruit, powerful and a made for red meat!

During the dinner we watched on a big flat screen some short videos made by Wine Spectator which gave us a little insight into the wine makers and the wines, including interviews and scenery.  I thought that was a nice touch.

My favorite part of the dinner came next: dessert!   Thick and rich caramel pudding with crumbled Heath bar on top with shortbread cookies on the side. The dessert was pretty big and I was unable to finish it all, but I kept going back and nibbling on it, I couldn’t stop myself.

At the end of dinner each table was presented with a special gift.  A set of nice big red wine glasses with the Fleming’s “F” engraved on it and a bottle of the 2005 Magnificat.  That was really an amazing touch because the wine alone retails for about $55 a bottle.  Guests enjoyed an amazing meal, amazing wines, and then were given a whole bottle and two glasses for later…all for $95 a plate.  It’s these  extras that can really make a merely good evening into a great evening.

*Disclaimer*  I attended this event as a guest of Fleming’s and Tin Can Marketing.

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

Tasting Wine at the historic Wrigley Mansion

The Weekly Wine Journal was lucky enough to be invited to a very special wine tasting last week, held at the historic Wrigley Mansion.  I did a quick bit of research before showing up and found out that the mansion was built between 1929 and 1931 by the same Wrigley fellow who made Wrigley’s Gum.  Tragically he died in 1932 right after completion of his mansion.  My initial impression was that the Wrigley Mansion is some kind of exclusive club.  It is not.  It is a club, but merely as a formality due to zoning restrictions.  It costs $10 a year to be a member and you can sign up when you get there.  They don’t check references as far as I know!  What do you get for 10 bucks?  You get a lot.  Discounts on food and drinks, and a truly unique experience.

The mansion is a 16,000 square foot Spanish colonial style building sitting on a 100ft tall “bump” or hill right in the heart of central Phoenix.

Spectacular view!

This slight elevation allows for spectacular views of the valley, and sunsets and other romantic things like summer monsoon storms!  The mansion has 24 rooms and 12 bathrooms, it has a separate bar and lounge called “Gordie’s” which has really interesting peacock feather lampshades.  Gordie’s has a “pay what you think is fair” pricing structure! No kidding!

Peacock feather lampshade!

I will have to try that out soon.  Then there is the piano room and the front banquet area.  The piano is a 1929 Steinway, that you can play, and it also plays itself!  According to the nice young lady giving us the tour, the piano is priceless.  It costs more to insure the piano than it does to insure the whole rest of the mansion!  I overcame a desire to play chopsticks and headed towards the wine…

Tonight we were tasting Arizona Stronghold’s 4 current offerings:  Tazi, a Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling based blend, Dayden a dry rose, Mangus an Italian styled wine and Nachise a Rhone styled wine.  I found all of the wines to be superb examples of the what Arizona is capable of when it comes to wine.  I especially liked the Nachise.

Complete reviews of  the wines here

Short video of the views

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.