FnB restaurant

Arizona Judgement 2010: Arizona Wines Vs. The World

All eyes and palates will be on Arizona wines on June 2nd, for Arizona Judgement 2010. Pavle Millic, co-owner of FnB restaurant will be hosting the event.

Arizona State Flag

Note:  The event is not open to the public.  FnB can only fit about 35 people, so the event is limited to judges and a few members of the press.  This event is reminiscent of the Judgment of Paris, 1976.  The movie “Bottle Shock” is based on those events.

Here’s how it is going to work:  There will be 5 red and 5 white wines from Arizona going head to head against wines of the world.  It will be a blind tasting, so the judges won’t know which is which.  The Judges will make notes and keep score.  At the end, the wines and results will be revealed.

Who are the  Panelists?

An Arizona wine

Gary Vaynerchuk:  Host of the daily wine blog “Wine Library TV”, New York Times best seller “Crush It!”, and co owner of Vayner Media. a branding and consulting firm.

Laura Williamson:   Laura Williamson is one of only 105 people in North America who have earned the title of ‘Master Sommelier and she is one of only 15 women with the title.  Laura is also a Certified Wine Educator.  She is co-owner of Vin Tabla restaurant in Tucson where she manages the wine list.  She also lectures nationally. Check out her Bio at the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Tadeo Borchardt:  Tadeo is winemaker for Napa Valley’s Neyers Vineyards. Neyers Vineyards regularly scores 90+ points from Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator.  Tadeo graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Arizona.

Anne Rosenzweig: Anne has earned not one but two elusive and prestigious 3 Star Ratings from the New York Times.  One for each of ear East Side Manhattan restaurants Arcadia and the Lobster Club.  She opened Arcadia in 1985, and the Lobster Club in 1995. Read a little more about Anne in this article from Cuisine Net’s Diner’s Digest.

Mark Tarbell:  Mark is owner of Tarbell’s restaurant on Camelback, as well as the Oven, and the restaurant Home in Colorado.  He is also Arizona Republics wine critic.  Mark’s restaurants have won dozens of awards including Food and Wine’s “Best Restaurant”.  Mark has also been a judge at The Los Angeles International Wine Competition for the past 10 years.

Chris Bianco: Chef at Pizzeria  Bianco, James Beard award-winning chef that is!  Pizzeria Bianco has been rated by the New York Times as one of the best Pizzeria’s in the WORLD!!

Sommelier Journal will be assessing the results and providing final analysis.

I recently emailed Pavle Milic some questions I had about him, and the event:

WWJ: Where are you from, where did you grow up?

Pavle Milic:  Father defected from Communist Yugoslavia (Montenegro) in 1962.  He landed in Colombia, South America where he met my mom and I happened.  I grew up in Queens, New York with a pack of Jews and Italians.  I can say Shabbat Shalom on the weekends, drink grappa and break a leg (someone else’s) all at the same time.

WWJ:  How did you end up in Arizona?

Pavle Milic: Parents moved here in 1988 to open an Italian restaurant called Franco’s Trattoria on Mountain View and Hayden

WWJ: How long have you been in the restaurant business?

Pavle Milic: 22 years

WWJ:  How did you come up with the Arizona Judgement idea?  Was there an aha! moment?

Pavle Milic:  I have tasted a lot of guests in a blind setting.  Arizona wines have always faired well. When I performed blind tastings before I decided to do the list, guests loved the wine. Now that the wines are on a printed list–assumptions are made, like the wine isn’t good.   If you are judging a wine on balance and quality I think they are great.   I thought, why not have a tasting where we pair AZ juice against other wine regions and see what happens.  So here we are!

WWJ:  You are a very enthusiastic promoter of Arizona wines, why?

Pavle Milic: It felt good. I am not reinventing the wheel. Many restaurants close to wine regions pour the local bounty of the terroir. I figure this was a no-brainer. The idea of pouring local wines was also analogous to the way Charleen(Charleen Badman Co-Owner and head Chef at FnB) sources most of the time. I also felt honored and proud to partake, even at a limited capacity, in the beginning of something special. The folks that I met were passionate, creative, irreverent and true. I remember reading about Napa and its grassroots beginnings and the pioneering spirit of its people. I felt I was rubbing elbows with people whose energy was redolent of times past. I also felt that by pouring these wines I would help the local economy and minimize carbon footprint.  I firmly believe that this is how you build community. You support each other and endorse each other for working hard and making Arizona a great place to live. It is certainly acceptable to look outside of our state for inspiration, but there is so much to be proud of here. If the wines were not balanced and quality driven, I would not have done this. BTW-I love wines from all over the world.

My first wine tweetup, January 14th 2010

A tweetup is where people who use twitter meet up in real life! Wow! What a concept!  It is quite a concept though.  I had never met any of the 300 plus people I follow or who follow me on twitter and the wine tweetup seemed like the best way to do it.

Having never organized a tweetup before I thought I better ask some people who have organized tweetups how to do it.  So I contacted Barbara Evans @Seattlewinegal and asked her a few questions.  Barbara has written on the subject of the wine tweetup here.

My first question was:  Should you contact the wine bar to make a reservation and let them know you are a wine blogger and are having a tweetup with other wine bloggers?  I really didn’t want to sound self-important or seem like I was asking for special treatment.  Barbara said it would be a good idea to let them know ahead of time so they can save space for the tweetup.  You wouldn’t want to arrive with 10 people only to find out that the place is full and then have to wait a long time, or start trying reorganize and go somewhere else.  She also said it is a good idea to contact more than one place.  Not all places can accomodate larger groups, not all places return phone calls or emails 😦  She said its worth noting to the establishment  that they will be getting a fair amount of free press out of the even, and any discounts or complimentary food and or wine would be greatly appreciated.  Sometimes they say yes, sometimes no.

I chose Pavle Milic’s FnB restaurant because he got back to me right away and was very enthusiastic about the event.  I asked about the discount, but he explained that he has only been in business for 5 weeks, and I said say no more.  Cash flow is difficult when a restaurant first opens, there are a lot of unforeseen expenses and plus, who is the Weekly Wine Journal anyways?  Bloggers shouldn’t assume that anyone outside of the blogging community knows who they are or can gauge their influence.  Best to show what you can do first and then ask for a discount later!

First I  made the reservation for 10 and then sent out tweets with hashtags #wine #tweetup and #scottsdale.  This lets other twitters who are searching for tweets with those specific words in them know about my event.

It was only after I started sending out these tweets looking for people who would be interested in a wine tweetup that I understood the meaning behind the twitter follower strategy.  Most people suggest that you start with a local following when you are building a twitter following.  And now I know why.  When I sent out tweets for a wine tweetup in Scottsdale, Arizona…my 200+ followers from around the world were not able to attend.  I seemed to have just a few local followers.  So I got little response.  Luckily my friend and fellow wine blogger Josh Wade @nectarwine was visiting the valley for the PF Chang’s Rock N Roll Marathon, so I knew at least one person would show up. So then I had to get back to Pavle and let him know I would probably only need a reservation for 5 people.  But then an interesting thing happened…

Ty Largo @JuxtaPalate RSVP’d and invited his friend Nicki Buchannan,food critic for the Arizona Republic.  Then Colleen Chase @CChaseEnt who runs Arizona Grape Escapes responded.  Next thing I know we’re up to 12 people.  Pavle was very accommodating I have to say.  I neglected to tell him about the extra people. He was able to think on the fly and his head waiter Josh put 4 tables together in the front of the restaurant and it all worked out absolutely fabulous!  We were joined by Marianne Belardi @ciaomari who is the  “Schmooze diva” for Cowboy Ciao, Kazimierz, and FnB!

Afterwards we decided to head around the corner to Kazimierz for some more wine and we were joined by Justin @JustinEats.  Ty is a fantastic connector and organizer, I have to say.  We walked into a very crowded and busy wine bar and were seated immediately at a “reserved” table.  Blogging has its privileges!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  I learned that it’s not the quantity of people that show up for your tweetup, it’s the quality.  With the people that were there, we had rich and interesting conversation.  The guests were engaging, outgoing and interesting!  And somewhat important to a tweetup is that the guests share common interests.  This tweetups guests were very interested in social media, entertainment, wine and food. I am really excited to plan another one ASAP!  I know Ty is working on something Top Secret…