Quiessence restaurant

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

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:

Arizona Wine Grower’s reception|Quiessence restaurant|2010

Every once in a while I am lucky enough to attend a truly remarkable wine event.  Not that the other events are not remarkable.

Arizona wine awards banquet 2010

Quiessence Restaurant

It’s just that some events are so special that they really give you that feeling that you are in the midst of or witness to the start of something exceptional.  The 2nd annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Awards reception 2010 was one of those events.

The banquet was held at Quiessence restaurant at The Farm at South Mountain.  First a little background about the Farm:  Originally developed by Dwight Heard of the Heard museum, in the 1920’s the 10 acre parcel was planted with over 100 pecan trees.  These trees still stand today and provide a wonderful, lush and serene setting for Quiessence restaurant which is nestled way in the back of the property. Quiessence has accumulated an impressive list of awards but even more impressive were the culinary creations of executive chef Gregory LaPrad and Chef du Cuisine Anthony Adiario that were paired with the gold medal winning wines

The food and wine pairings were set up at 7 different stations around the restaurant and out in the garden. Here is a list of the menu and wine pairings:

House Cured Meats & Salumi – Arizona Stronghold Vineyards “Dayden” 2009

Winter Squash Soup – Caduceus “Dos Ladrones” 2009

Handmade pasta: Capunti with tomato, eggplant, fennel and sardines – Caduceus “Kitsune” Sangiovese 2008

Potato & Cheese Francobolli with Black Trumpet Mushroom Cream Sauce – ASV Bonita Springs Chardonnay 2009

Housemade Boudin Blanc Sausage with “El Norte” Braised Crimson Gold Apples & Fried Sage – Dos Cabezas “El Norte” 2008

“Frito Misto” Crispy Fried Shrimp, Calamari & Alaskan Halibut – Merkin “The Diddler” 2009

Braised Beef Wellington with Roasted Vegetable Compote – Alcantara Cabernet Sauvignon 2007-Paso Robles

Desserts: Petit Fours, Truffles & Confections – Sonoita Sparkles Peach

Quiessence Restaurant phoenix

Chef du Cuisine Anthony Adiario

Also out in the garden were a cellist and a violinist playing contemporary music accompanied by an Macbook back up band which really added a nice touch to the ambience.

I was introduced to a man named Bob Webb, who founded the first winery in Arizona back in 1980.  I had a very interesting discussion with Mr. Webb.  One of my dreams is to buy some land and plant a vineyard and start a winery, which is quite unlike any other wine bloggers dreams!   Mr Webb was actually retired out of the wine business but recently came out of retirement when he decided to plant vines in the spring of 2010.  He said it’s in his blood, he cant stop.  Mr Webb planted multiple varieties on 13 acres high in the Sierra Madre mountain range.  At elevations above 7,000 feet these could possibly be the highest vineyards in North America.  He says he will only make wine from those vines if the fruit is exceptional, otherwise he will just scrap the idea.  I will be writing more on this project in the future.

Later on I  met legendary Arizona wine maker Kent Callaghan (pronounced Calla Gan).  We were talking inside in a small hallway and I told him I had grown up in British Columbia and suddenly he became animated.  Kent is actually a shy and humble guy – not very comfortable with the limelight. But with the B.C. connection he became a bit more animated.  He told me that his parents had owned property on Galiano Island  and  he had learned how to grow grapes from his father there.  Then he said “Hey, you like wine? Come with me.”  This is where an event like this becomes truly interesting… we went outside and he reached under one of the tables and pulled a couple of bottles of wine out of a box.  I sat with Mr Callaghan and Todd Bostock and drank some truly remarkable wine which shall remain nameless.

This event was a very nice and  intimate conclusion to a year of hard work by the Arizona wine industry.  It was really nice to see all of the people I have interviewed and met over the past year all in one place.

Visit the Weekly Wine Journal’s Facebook page for more PHOTOS

Here is a short video of some scenes from the evening:

List of Award Winners HERE