phoenix

An evening at Fogo de Chao, Scottsdale

I was first introduced to the Brazilian steakhouse concept at Fogo de Chao in San Antonio a number of years back and was excited when I first learned that Scottsdale was getting a Fogo de Chao.

If you’re not familiar with the concept here’s how it works:  You pay a flat fee for your meal and head over to the “Market Table” (salad bar) to get a plate.  You load up your plate with salad, vegetables, deli meats and artisanal cheeses.  Then you head back to your table for “some” steak.

On your table you’ll notice a disc.  One side is red and one side is green.  If this disc has the green side facing up, the servers will continue to bring and offer you steak.  When you need a break, simply flip the disc over to show the red side.

The servers bring a lot of different meats, from lamb to chicken to sausage.  Also, prime rib, rib eye, top sirloin, filet mignon among others.  You can ask for rare, medium rare, medium or more well done and the server will carve a piece of meat off of for you right there.

I’ve been to steakhouses all over the United States and world since starting The Weekly Wine Journal, and each of them has a unique charm.  For Fogo de Chao the magic is really in attempting to eat as much as possible.  Not to say this isn’t a classy joint, but inevitably what you’ll find when a place tells you the food is all you can eat is that you will eat as much as you can.  Save room for dessert though!

As far as the steak, it’s decent.  Obviously it’s not St, Elmo’s in Indianapolis or Primehouse in Chicago, but definitely worth the price.  Another thing to consider is to look up the specials online before your visit.  They often have restaurant week deals, or specials on wine.  While I was there the wine special was 50% off any South American wine priced under $100 a bottle.  A great deal!

Enjoy these pics of the food!

Weekly Wine Journal | Best of 2014 List

Weekly Wine Journal best of 2014

2014 was another great year for The Weekly Wine Journal.  Traveled to Napa for the Taste of Howell Mountain again this year.  Also attended the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Festival on the Farm at South Mountain.  Dined at a lot of nice restaurants with great wine lists and also met a lot of wonderful people in the wine industry.  It was very difficult to choose the best of the best, but after much consideration, here it is, the list

Best Red Wine

TIE:   CHATEAU NENIN 2005, POMEROL  / ALTAMURA 2007 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NAPA VALLEY

This year for the first time there is a tie.  Both of these wines were exceptional.  Beyond exceptional, truly great.  And for completely different reasons.  If you can find either of these wines prepare to have your mind blown.

Best White Wine

PAUL DOLAN 2013 SAUVIGNON BLANC POTTER VALLEY, MENDOCINO COUNTY

This is an interesting one.  Paul Dolan underwent some big changes recently, but the quality still remained.  This wine shows that California can produce Sauvignon Blanc that people who don’t like Californian Sauvignon Blancs might like!

Best Wine Restaurant

EDDIE V’S PRIME SEAFOOD & STEAK, SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA

This restaurant has an extensive wine list, with a good range of wines from affordable to “Hey let’s buy a few $3000 bottles of wine!”  Known for their seafood, it turns out their NY Strip and Rib Eye are easily the best I have ever tasted.  And that’s saying something considering how much steak I eat.

Best Wine Tasting

TASTE OF HOWELL MOUNTAIN, ST HELENA, CALIFORNIA

Year after year The Taste of Howell Mountain wins best wine tasting.  There is just simply not a better collection of high end wines for such an affordable price, AND a friendly laid back atmosphere

Best Winery Experience

RED CAP VINEYARDS, ANGWIN, CALIFORNIA

Red Cap Vineyards does not have a tasting room and is not open to the public.  I was invited there as a friend and guest and really had a blast hanging out with husband & wife owners Tom & Desire Altemus.  Also present was social media/marketing manager Michael.  I spent the afternoon sipping wine chatting listening to stories, telling stories and getting ridiculous with some Grappa made by Rebekah Wineburg.

 

 

 

For the First Time Ever…Thanksgiving at Eddie V’s!

Last week I dined at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood restaurant’s Scottsdale Arizona location.  Although Eddie V’s is very well known for their prime seafood, I decided to try out the steak.  But not before trying the crab cakes.

Looking towards the bar and live music

Looking towards the bar and live music

First, I was pleasantly surprised by the setting.  From the outside it’s easy to miss Eddie V’s, even if you’re looking for it.  It is located on the very north east corner of Scottsdale Quarter, kind of in the back.  From the outside it just looks like a concrete building with nice doors.  But as soon as you walk in, a total transformation occurs.  The atmosphere is definitely that of a restaurant that serves prime seafood and steak.  The lighting is toned down, even a little dark but your eyes will soon adjust to it.

The glass walk thru wine cellar

The glass walk thru wine cellar

There is a glass wine cellar that you walk through to get to one half of the restaurant.  The other half of the restaurant is set up more like a wine bar, with live music at night.

The reason I was at Eddie V’s was to experience the dining firsthand so that I could tell you about something big that Eddie V’s is doing.  For the first time ever, they will be open on Thanksgiving day, serving traditional Thanksgiving food!

This is what they’ll be serving:

Eddie V's ThanksgivingSliced Turkey

Homestyle Green Beans with Bacon

Brioche Stuffing

Glazed Acorn Squash

Pan Gravy with Mirepoix Brunoise

Cranberry Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Turkey Gravy on the side

AND Thanksgiving Dessert!   Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and praline sauce

Call them right now to reserve your table as this will definitely sell out 480 730 4800

Back to my dining experience…  I have to say, that without a doubt the giant crab cake I had was the best I have ever had.  I consisted of ONLY crab meat and some seasoning.  Just deliciously juicy crab meat, with a dipping sauce on the side.  I was trying to save room for the steak, but I ended up eating the whole thing, and it’s not a small crab cake either.

I paired the crab cake with a glass of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay on the suggestion from managing partner, Richard Schumacher.  Although I am quite capable of choosing my own wine, these days I’ve actually started making a habit of going on the recommendations of the people running the establishments I visit.   Richard and I talked for a little while about the whole new idea of being open on Thanksgiving.  Luckily for Eddie V’s their sister restaurant, Capital Grille has already done this once before and Richard was able to quiz them on what they learned.  Turkey is not steak, you can’t just grille up more turkey, you have to plan half a day or more in advance to have enough food ready for all your guests.  Richard is a friendly fellow and a true restaurant professional.

For steak I tried out both the 22 ounce bone in Rib eye and the New York Strip, both prime.  Again on Richard’s recommendation I had a glass of Sequoia Grove 2010 Cabernet.  The steak was awesome.  I mean really awesome.   The steak was sizzling hot and cooked perfectly medium rare just like I asked.  The New York Strip was actually the best NY Strip I’ve ever had.  Absolutely perfect, tender, juicy with a full robust flavor.  I’m a steak connoisseur just like with wine, and I’ve eaten at Steakhouses all across the United States, and this was the best.  Look for Eddie V’s to be in my “Best of 2014” list coming out at the end of the year.  Hey, the Rib eye wasn’t bad either.  Just kidding, it was awesome as well.  I find that many times Rib eye’s can contain too many large fatty areas, leaving disconnected chunks of meat for you to dig through.   Will the marbling in this particular Rib eye allowed me to eat everything except the bone.  That’s perfect in my book.

One day I will have a wine cellar like this!

One day I will have a wine cellar like this!

The Sequoia Grove Cabernet was a nice pairing as well.  At $24 a glass it is the most expensive wine on the wine by the glass list.  Luckily there are about 400 wines available by the bottle and the by the bottle prices are a lot more reasonable.  Here’s some examples:  B.R Cohen “Silver Label” Cabernet $52, Duckhorn Cabernet $75 and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Artemis” $99.  Not bad for a prime restaurant, not bad at all.

Last but not least was dessert! Vanilla ice cream with chocolate cake just oozing with warm melting chocolate on the inside, and big enough for two.

Links:

Eddie V’s Scottsdale Arizona location

Chateau Montelena

Sequoia Grove

disclaimer: My dinner was provided free of charge

6th annual Festival on the farm

The 6th Annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association “Festival on the Farm”

Festival on the farm

Saturday November 15th, 2014.
Wine in the desert? You Bet!

Set amongst the 100+ year old pecan groves on The Farm at South Mountain, the event will feature over 30 Arizona wineries, wine education seminars, and a live auction.  The idyllic setting is the legacy of Dwight Heard (yes, from the Heard Museum).   In addition to tasting Arizona wines, guests get a chance to meet and greet the wine makers and principals of the various wineries.  The intimate and casually relaxed atmosphere is a great way to really get to know the wines, the people and new friends!

In addition to the tastings, the festival offers educational seminars and tastings.  You might get to taste some rare wines, as the wine makers often bring wine from their personal collection, not available to the public.  Last year Maynard James Keenan of Caduceus Cellars brought a few bottles of his ’08 Judith, which had long since sold out even at it’s initial offering of $100 a bottle.

Later in the afternoon the live auction becomes the center of attention.  The real live auctioneers are very entertaining even if you’re not bidding.  If you’re bidding you could walk away with some truly amazing steals.  In years past wine maker dinners, wine collections, and amazing vacations have fetched top dollar.

If you’re looking for something more intimate you should check out the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Awards Banquet.  This event is held the Friday night before the festival.  For $75 you’ll get to taste this year’s Arizona Republic Wine Competition winners paired with amazing dishes at Stone Grove at the Farm at South Mountain.  Stone Grove is located right next to Quiessence restaurant, nestled in  very back of the farm.  Arizona wine makers will be on hand for guests to mingle with throughout the night.  Only 100 tickets are available for the Friday night event.

Whether you’re a sommelier or just getting into wine, there is no better event than this to experience what Arizona wine has to offer.

Visit azwinefestivalatthefarm.com for more information and tickets

Robert Craig Winery | Phoenix tasting

This past January I attended a Robert Craig Winery wine tasting held at Garage Wine & Tap in Phoenix, Arizona.  Mr Robert (Bob) Craig was on hand to talk with guests and answer their questions and show case the brand new release of his flagship wine the 2010 Affinity.

a picture of robert craig and weekly wine journal writer Tim Hilcove

Robert Craig & me

If you don’t know Robert Craig, then lets start with a little background:

Robert Craig is responsible for the Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain American Viticultural Areas (A.V.A’s)  He is a Napa pioneer, and started out putting together real estate deals in Napa in the late 1960’s early 70’s. During this time he came across an offer he couldn’t refuse for some potential vineyard land which he later sold to Donald Hess and then stayed on as vineyard manager during the 1980’s.  In 1992 Robert Craig started his own winery and in 2002 he built a state of the art winery and started a small vineyard on  some prime land on the top of Howell Mountain situated right between Black Sears Vineyard and Outpost.  An interesting factoid about Bob is that he was in the Coast Guard in the 1950’s and was stationed off the very southern panhandle of Alaska just a few hours from where I grew up as a kid.   A while back I wrote a 5 part series on Affordable California Cult Wines, Robert Craig was one of them.  Check out that post HERE.

image of Robert Craig wine label

2009 Affinity

SO!  How was the wine you are probably asking.  Very, very good.  I started out with the only white wine made by Robert Craig, the 2010 Durel vineyard Chardonnay.  This is a very nicely balanced Chardonnay, not too much oak, in-fact very little, and not overly buttery.  This is a much more Euro style Chard than a California butter and oak pile-driver.  I mingled with the guests and tried to gauge their “affinity” for the chard and even though most people were there for the reds, they actually were pleasantly surprised by this wine.  I’ve had it before and new to expect good things, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Next up was the ’09 Affinity followed by the brand new 2010 Affinity.

2009 Zinfandel

2009 Zinfandel

Both are stellar, and very approachable right now.  Only minimal decanting might be required and certainly no extra again, although like most fine wines these will improve with age.  I was eager to get into the mountain fruit and so I moved over to an additional tasting station near the back of the restaurant that was serving Robert Craig’s 2009 Black Sears Vineyard Howell mountain Zinfandel, and the ’08 and ’09 Howell Mountain Cabernets.  Robert Parker gave the ’09 Howell mountain cab 96 points.  Most Napa Valley Cabernets scoring 96+ points are in the $300 range. Compare that to Robert Craig’s price tag of $80 and you can easily see why I put him in the Affordable California Cult Wines series.

garage wine and tap interior

Inside the Garage

Near the end of the evening I sat on a bar stool next to Bob and a gentleman approached him and asked a very good question: “How do you make these wines so approachable at such a young age, especially the mountain fruit?”

Bob answered, it’s all about vineyard management.  Picking the fruit at the right time and to a large extent only picking the fruit.  Picking by hand, meticulously sorting out stems and substandard fruit, and also harvesting at the right time.

Currently the 2009 Affinity is at select Costco’s or you can order it online at RobertCraigWine.com

Visit Garage Wine & Tap, it’s a nice venue for tasting wine and its built inside of an old garage in central Phoenix

Tarbell’s wine experience

Most fine dining establishments will have someone on staff to answer specific wine questions.  Some places will even have a Society of Wine Educators (CWE) “Certified Specialist of Wine” or a Court of Master Sommeliers “Level 1” on hand to help customers with their wine choices.  On a recent Wine about Town trip I learned of a Phoenix based restaurant that is sending ALL of its wait staff to the CWE “Certified Specialist of Wine” training.  A couple of years ago I was invited to the CWE exams held  in Phoenix and I got a first hand look at how difficult the certification process is.  Lets just say that if you pass, you’ll know more than enough to get you through dinner rush at most fine dining establishments.

wine decanter photo

Proper decanting is essential to the enjoyment of wine

The restaurant I am talking about is non other than Phoenix acclaimed Tarbell’s.  Located at 32 street and Camelback in the heart of the Biltmore district, Tarbell’s has been serving customers for over 18 years.  Which is quite an achievement in and of itself.
Owner and chef, Mark Tarbell joined us at the dinner table and we seized the opportunity to pick his brain a little.  One of the foundational elements of his restaurant concept is to provide an opportunity to explore wine and food, together.  Tarbell’s wine list is not the biggest in town, its not large magical leather bound book.  Rather, it is an opportunity to excite the palate, without overwhelming the decision making process.
Chef Tarbell pointed out that if you look at the wine list you will see that there are several different styles of the same wine.  There will be a couple of names you recognise and then there are wines that you don’t -but should!  His carefully selected wine list allows you to experience everything that each varietal has to offer.

Tarbell's phoenix

Angus aged 35 days NY Strip with Pommes Frites

To start I decided to try something completely different.  If you’ve read my blog or this column you’ve probably noticed a tendency toward California cabernets (and a soft spot for ARIZONA wines)  So I went with an inexpensive white wine 2008 Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux Du Languedoc.  I have enjoyed reds from Languedoc in the past and thought I’d try a white. It was a nice, light and refreshing wine that went well the starter salad.  And at $7 a glass it was an exceptional value
For the dinner wine, I decided to enlist the help of General Manager, Matt Lockwood.  I explained what I’d been drinking lately, and wanted to try something a little outside the box, yet still have something that was going to pair well with the red meat we were going to order.
After several suggestions that I had already tried, he suddenly remembered something.  “You have to try this, you’ll LOVE it”

arizona wine blog

2009 Arietta “Quartet”

He suggested the 2009 Arietta “Quartet”.  This was a fantastic suggestion. The wine was different enough to be interesting, and yet still within the bounds of what I thought would be palatable with steak.  The wine is a Bordeaux style blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.  Only 1,100 cases of this wine were produced, so it was a real treat to get a chance to try it.
For dessert I had Tarbell’s “Beloved Chocolate Mouse” paired with a Taylor Fladgate port.  This was another amazing pairing, that is impossible to describe in words–you’ll just have to try it for yourself!

Arizona Wine Festival at The Farm 2012

Annual AZ Wine Festival Set for Nov. 17

PHOENIX  –  The Arizona Wine Growers Association will celebrate a year of rising national acclaim by raising a glass with the public on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2011, at The Festival at The Farm.

arizona wine tasting

Festival on the Farm

Set among the pecan groves of Phoenix’s intimate The Farm at South Mountain, the fourth-annual festival is a way to sample the best wine from across Arizona, all in one place. More than 30 local wineries are expected to attend, representing growing regions from the Verde Valley in the north, Sonoita and Elgin in the south, and Willcox in southeastern Arizona.

As a nod to Arizona wine’s rich history, the festival is an officially-sanctioned Arizona Centennial event. The festival is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and is limited to 1,000 guests. Tickets are $75 for the public (online and at the door) and $60 for AWGA members.

The festival will include:

  • A wine tasting with 31 participating Arizona wineries.
  • A picnic lunch prepared by The Farm Kitchen. There also will be tasty treats from other local Arizona favorites.
  • A high-energy live auction for great prizes.
  • Educational seminars including food & wine pairing with Chef LaPrad from Quiessence and Curt Dunham, winemaker from Lawrence Dunham Vineyards.
arizona wine maker

Curt Dunham, wine maker at Lawrence Dunham vineyards

“Whether they are a novice or an aficionado, this is a can’t miss event for wine lovers to meet the folks behind the rising Arizona wine movement,” said Peggy Fiandaca, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association. “Come sip the wine from our state’s beautiful wine regions all in one place, in one of the most wonderful settings Phoenix has to offer.”

The festival is preceded by a special event on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. The “Celebration of the Arizona Wine Growers” is an opportunity to mingle and meet winemakers from across the state. The event is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Quiessence Restaurant at The Farm at South Mountain. The winemaker celebration is open to the public but capped at 150 guests.

Arizona wine

Quiessence Restaurant

This special evening includes an awards reception followed by a specially prepared appetizers using local produce by Quiessence Executive Chef Greg LaPrad. Each of the appetizers and desserts are paired with the winning wines from the 2012 Arizona Grower’s Cup and Winemaker’s Medal competition. Each of the winning wineries will be present to discuss their wine and winemaking philosophy. The cost for this special evening is $75 per person.

The Arizona wine industry is one of the fastest growing value-added industries in the state creating jobs and wealth while preserving sustainable agriculture statewide. In 1980 there were less than 10 wineries in Arizona. Today there are more than 60 bonded wineries, with many more in the development phase. The number of vineyard acres has grown dramatically, and many new vineyards and wineries are planned. The Arizona Wine Growers Association (AWGA) represents these family businesses and supports grape growers and wineries statewide through education, representation, advocacy, and promotion of Arizona wine and sustainable grape growing.

Arizona wine has an estimated economic impact of $38 million, according to a recent study funded by the Arizona Office of Tourism and completed by Northern Arizona University. The state’s wine is surging in popularity, earning national acclaim from Wine Spectator to Sunset Magazine to USA Today. Arizona wine also has been served at James Beard House dinners and poured at the White House.

Learn more, join the AWGA or get your tickets now at www.arizonawine.org

New Wines at Flemings steakhouse

scottsdale wine bar

The from inside the wine room looking out

Every September Flemings prime steakhouse & wine bar introduces a plethora of new wines to their already robust wine list.  Flemings boasts 100 wines by glass and this year they added or changed out over 60 new wines (too many to list here).  I had the pleasure of dining at Flemings this October to re-familiarize myself with their wine list and also re-sample their fabulous Prime steak!

After a quick peruse of the menu my guest and I settled on the “wicked Cajun shrimp” appetizer which consisted of lightly breaded shrimp in a spicy creamy sauce.  Of course, the fresh baked bread and butter came along as well. We were careful not to fill up on bread because as anyone who frequents a prime steakhouse knows, you have to save space for that steak!

scottsdale wine bar

Robert Craig Winery’s “Affinity” is one of the wines you will find on the reserve wine list, one of my favorite!

I ordered the Filet Mignon.  The most tender of all steaks.  When ordering we asked our server to what extent a medium rare was medium rare.  She explained that if I normally enjoyed medium rare, then tonight I would probably enjoy medium rare plus.  I’m pretty sure if you order medium rare plus at most steak houses they’ll say “plus what? plus a baked potato?”

I have to say, and this is not because the meal was complimentary*, THIS was the best tasting steak I’d eaten all year.  And I eat a lot of steak.  Just slightly crisped on the outside, juicy pink on the inside, still on the rare side, but not blue or cool on the interior, just absolutely perfect!

To compliment the steak, I had to choose a wine.  With 100 wines by the glass to choose from this because a difficult task.  Once again our server came to the rescue and recommend a wine flight.  Any 3 of the 100 wines by the glass can be on the wine flight.  So I chose Kelly Fleming’s Napa Valley cabernet, Ladera Napa Valley and Hall Napa Valley.

Kelly Fleming, wife of Paul Fleming-founder of Flemings and PF Changs, made a really nice cabernet.  It was the ripest and smoothest of the three.  Next up was the Ladera, 2009 Napa Valley.  Ladera’s Howell Mountain Cabernet is one of my favorite and I was interested to see how their Napa Valley selection compared.  Well it stood up just fine.  Not as much of the tart rich mountain fruit as their Howell Mountain offering – much more of the ripe valley floor, and classic “napa earth”.  It’s difficult to describe this, when I’m not actually a “professional” wine writer, but it’s just something you’ll know after you’ve experienced enough Napa cabernets.  You put your nose in the glass, and you immediately know you’re in Napa.

arizona wine blogger

Me: too full to order desert

The Hall 2009 Napa Valley, was the biggest and boldest of the three.  Which by the time I was halfway through my steak and sautéed mushrooms was exactly what I needed. This wine powered through everything and excited my already overloaded palate.  Rich, smooth, intense cocoa, casis and spice, I would say this wine is a great value even at restaurant prices.

Once again, a visit to Flemings never disappoints, the only disappointing thing was not having enough room to enjoy desert!

*Disclosure: This meal was provided by Flemings

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.

Learning about wine | Christine Slomski

Christine Slomski

I recently became acquainted with Christine Slomski through the wonders of the Twitter machine and she expressed an interest in writing and learning about wine.  I decided to invite her and a friend down to my favorite little wine hangout on a Thursday night as they were having an interesting tasting featuring an all star list of Organic Wines.  First a little bit about Christine: She is a branding and marketing professional based in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a self-described “wine novice”, but is  eager to expand her knowledgebase—and her palate.  Here is her impression of the evening:

Arizona Wine Company holds wine tasting events each Thursday, and on March 10, I got my first taste of this tucked away strip mall treasure in Scottsdale. This particular event featured some fantastic California wines, soulful acoustic music, five-star food, and an overall delightful setting for intimate conversation and Wine Country exploration.

My favorite selection of the night was a smooth Dos Fincas Malbec, which tantalized my palate with subtle flavors of plum, raspberry and red spice—the magic elixir I had been waiting for all evening! To add to the experience, I ordered from Atlas Bistro, the small five-star (and Zagat-rated) restaurant hidden in the Wilshire Plaza next to Arizona Wine Company. Chefs Brandon Crouser and Joshua Riesner run the bistro and put me over the moon with a roasted quail entrée (at times I had to block out the images of the little quails I see scurrying across residential streets, but I managed), served alongside spicy mizuna greens and smoky lentils, laced with a sherry reduction sauce. To my surprise, a robust cheese board put together by Chef Joshua was brought out, displaying a variety of goat, cow, sheep and water buffalo cheeses (they say you can milk anything with nipples, right?). Being lactose intolerant my whole life, I was surprised to learn that most aged cheeses are lactose free. With this news, I of course tried every single one. True to Chef Joshua’s knowledge, I awoke the next morning with no symptoms of my allergy. I could get used this!

With wine in one hand and cheese in the other, my companions and I finished the evening listening to the acoustic guitarists gathered in the corner lounge, jamming to improvisation cover songs and original sounds. “It doesn’t get any more intimate than this,” said one of my friends. My eyes spanned the room; I took a sip of my wine; I felt the moment. And true to his point, it really didn’t get any more intimate or any more authentic than the people, the sounds, and the tastes in that room.

Christine Slomski on Twitter