About 25 miles south-east of downtown Phoenix, lies a hidden gem in the Sun Lakes area of Chandler.
The glass walled wine cellar
At first I was a little skeptical of the location, being that it’s not in the CenPho corridor or Old Town. But I decided to give it a whirl and I’m glad I did.
Immediately upon entering I knew that this was not just a wine place in a strip mall. The large glass wall featuring a fully functional wine cellar was one clue. Another was the wine glasses. I totally judge a restaurant by its wine glasses. The bigger the better.
Also, the wine list is all on an iPad. This is quite interesting. A few years back I would have preferred a book, but now that better interfaces have improved functionality dramatically I quite like the interactive approach. It probably makes updating the list a lot more efficient than reprinting the wine book.
Cork!’s cuisine is can be described as European. What this means to hungry Americans is that you should order a starter as well as a main dish, because the portions are reasonable, not super sized.
What you will also find is some more unusual but non the less tasty offerings such as Wild Boar, and braised rabbit, and venison.
As far as the wine list goes, I found the list to be pleasantly extensive, but not so big that it was hard to decide what to get. One wine really popped out at an exceptional value: Beaulieu Vineyards 2004 Georges DeLatour. This is a $100-$120 bottle in the grocery store.
Flourless chocolate cake
I was just in Las Vegas last week and this wine was $350 a bottle at the steak house I was eating at. At Cork! it is priced at $160. If you were celebrating a special occasion that would be a deal that’s hard to pass up.
One last interesting thing to note, and this was passed on to me by the waitress is that the sous chef is gluten intolerant (celiac) — allergic to wheat. So there are quite a few options on the menu sans gluten. Including a flourless chocolate cake for dessert which was really and I mean really yummy
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Fine wine and dining experiences come in many forms, from cozy home-like settings to fresh and fancy urban settings. Cask 63, located in Scottsdale’s Gainey Ranch district, is the later. The owners of Cask 63 American Eatery and Wine Bar purchased an existing restaurant from Fox Restaurants Concepts in late 2011, quickly reworked the menu and restaurant and had it up and running by January 2012.
The mood of the restaurant is modern and hip, and minimalist, which helps keep your attention on the amazing food created by Brian Feirstein, co owner and executive chef. During my dining experience I was visited by General Manager and Owner Jerry Tingle and we chatted for a while about how Cask 63 came to be and about what they are attempting to achieve. One of the interesting things to note, is that although the restaurant has it’s own vision and concept of what it wants to be, Jerry and Brian are very much in tune with what their customers want. Jerry can be found mingling with customers most nights, searching for suggestions on ways to improve the experience. I find it a nice touch when the owner visits your table and asks for your opinion on things.
For an appetizer I had oysters of the day paired with Perrier Jouet Champagne. For a main course I had Australian lamb chops. These were double bone-in, which gives you a much bigger juicier portion than single bone. As a fan of lamb, and all grilled meats, I have to say this was one of the best incarnations of this dish I have ever had. Although I do like ‘gamey” tasting lamb dishes, this dish was not gamey and I could have easily mistook it for beef. It was delicious. I paired this with a rather unusual wine…Vall Llach Embruix – Priorat from Spain. This was a very interesting wine. It was described to me as the perfect wine for people who like Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot. Full bodied, smooth, with dark ripe fruit and hints of spice.
As far as the wine goes at Cask 63, you will find many of the standard high end favorites that seem to be prerequisites at wine bars seeking to endear themselves to wine aficionados. You will find all the well known Napa greats like Silver Oak, Caymus, Far Niente, and Joseph Phelps Insignia. I was happy to see some of my favorite and less well known wines including Ladera Howell Mountain and Justin Isosceles. Including bubbles the wine list boasts almost 100 names varying in price from $7.50 a glass all the way up to Hundred Acre’s Kayle Morgan Vineyard for $490 a bottle.
Seasons 52 at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix, Arizona is set to open on October 25th, 2010. The Weekly Wine Journal was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the menu and wine list at a VIP event this past Saturday. Seasons 52 features an all star cast including Master Sommelier and CWE George Miliotes. Upon arriving guests were greeted with a fantastic glass of Champagne- Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, Champagne NV! A little background on this wine: Chartogne-Taillet has had vines in Champagne since 1683. They are a fairly small producer, producing only 16,000 cases of wine each year and about 7,000 cases of this particular wine. This was a nice dry champagne with fine bubbles. So right away I knew I was dealing with something out of the ordinary in Seasons 52.
The Chef's Table
I quickly joined onto a tour of the restaurant and during this tour I noticed the Mesquite grill in the kitchen. Another sign of good things to come as I have really enjoyed the Mesquite grill at FnB in Scottsdale. The rest of the tour took us through the dining area and to one of three private dining areas. The first one has full video capabilities with a screen that drops down out of the ceiling.
Private Dining Room #1
The other two private dining rooms can be joined together to make a nice big room that looks onto the Biltmore courtyard. After the tour guests congregated in the bar area while listening to pianist vocalist Rebecca De La Torre. I chatted with Master Sommelier and director of beverage and hospitality for Seasons 52, George Miliotes for a few minutes before we all were invited back to the big private dining room.
We were treated to a fantastic 5 course meal as well as in depth back ground information on the preparation, ingredients and the wine pairings.
Lump crab haas avocado
To start we had a simple Amuse-bouche of lump crab and Haas avocado paired with Aveleda Vinho Verde 2009 from Portugal. The wine was light and crisp and fermented in stainless steel.
Next up was Wild King salmon and lemongrass sea scallop roasted on a cedar plank. This was paired
Shrimp and scallop on cedar plank
with Mer Soleil 2008 Chardonnay from California’s Central Coast. I was ecstatic to see wild salmon on the menu. One thing I can’t stand ( it makes me crazy like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet ) is farmed salmon. Add salmon snob to my list of short comings or strengths, depending on how you look at it. The cedar plank was a really nice touch, it gives the food an extra level of flavor which is uncommon. George Miliotes informed us that The Mer Soleil Chardonnay was fermented in the very best oak and also aged in oak. This wine had an incredibly supple mouth-feel.
Salad in a cylinder
Next was a salad featuring Earthbound farm organic greens with oak-grilled mushrooms, toasted pistachios and truffle dressing. The salad came on a plate inside of a clear cylinder. Suddenly the servers lifted up the cylinders and the salad came out of the bottom and was spread around the plate, a very interesting touch. Everyone went “ooooo”. The salad was paired with Sinkskey Pinot Noir 2007 from Los Carneros. A very nice Pinot Noir which also happens to be organic.
Sonoma goat cheese ravioli
Continuing right along, the next dish consisted of one big ravioli. Sonoma goat cheese ravioli with roasted garlic, basil and a light tomato broth. This was amazing. Soft and creamy and the tomatoes added the perfect hint of sweetness. This was paired with Retromarcia Chianti Classico. This wine is a little “rough around the edges” as George put it, to be drunk by itself, but it is the perfect accompaniment to rich foods.
Mesquite grilled rack lamb and quail breast
The main course followed. Mesquite grilled lamb rack and Manchester farms quail breast, mashed sweet potatoes and grilled Brussell sprouts in a bourbon chili glaze. Once again, fantastic! This dish was paired with two big red wines in very different styles. First we had Markham Petite Sirah 2004 from Napa Valley. This wine has matured in the bottle quite nicely from the last time I tried it back in 2008.
It’s rich and ripe and juicy. The second wine was De Toren Fusion V from Stellenbosch South Africa. George Miliotes is a big fan of South African wines and actually helped develop Indaba Chardonnay which Robert Parker ended up calling one of the best values in French style Chardonnay out there. De Toren Fusion V is one of the best wines out of South Africa. It is an amazing Bordeaux style blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is another small production producer, only 3,600 cases of the 750ml bottles were produced for 2007.
Last but not least were the “Mini Indulgences” see this quick 10 second video for a quick rundown because it’s much better than anything I could write!
The desserts were paired with Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2006. Say that 10 times really fast! According to George and most people in the know the 2006 vintage for Germany’s dessert wines is one of the best of the last 50 years. This wine was no exception, it was the perfect pairing for the indulgences.
After lunch I managed to get a one on one interview George Miliotes in the Chateau, the place where they keep the wines. See that video on the Weekly Wine Journal’s Youtube Channel HERE.
For more photos of the event, check out the Weekly Wine Journal’s Facebook page HERE
and wine bar is recognizing breast cancer awareness month by hosting a “Women & Wine” dinner Tuesday October 19th, and on Friday October 22nd. The event is billed as “the ultimate girls night out” and features wines by Cathy Corison, Kirstin Belair and Janet Myers. These women are the wine makers at Corison, Honig and Franciscan respectively.
In addition to the premium Napa Valley wines guests will enjoy a 4 course meal created by Fleming’s executive chef Russell Skall. The price is $95 per person not including tax or gratuity, and reservations are required
participate in a market research wine tasting for a brand new and as of yet unreleased wine label called “Kind Vines”. The wine tasting was held in the private dining room at the True Food Kitchen located in Phoenix’s upscale Biltmore Fashion Park.
The private dining room at True
Tru Foods Kitchen private dining room
Food Kitchen is a room adjacent to the main dining area. It is separated by glass walls and a large Euro styled glass door, as in a large frameless sliding glass door. There is a large rectangular wooden table in the center of the room and hanging above the table are some large glass lights. The lights are in a row and resemble a Newton’s cradle. The room is light and airy with very high ceilings and a large window that looks outside. True Food Kitchen opened in 2008 and is a partnership between Fox Restaurant Concepts and best selling author Dr. Andrew Weil.
Kind Vines is the brainchild of David Williamson. David has two decades experience working in many of the major liquor distributors. Part of his job was to always be looking out for ways to save money. He eventually came to the conclusion that shipping wine in glass bottles is expensive and not very good for the environment. He noticed that bottles account for 50% of the shipping weight and volume. Secondly, David sites an EPA MSW report from 2008 which states that nearly 3 billion wine bottles end up in landfills every year.
Kind Vines is a different kind of wine company
Inside the private dining area
with a very different business model. So far the company only has plans for Arizona, but this idea could be adopted for other states. The basic idea is that the wine would be shipped in bulk to the Kind Vines facility in Flagstaff. From there it would be bottled and distributed. The really exciting part about this company is their wine bottles. They are 100% recyclable. How is that?? Well first, the label is not made of paper, its painted on and then baked on. Secondly, instead of a cork, there is a glass stopper with a rubber gasket. Thirdly, you pay a $2 or $3 deposit on each bottle and when you return the bottle to the store, you get a $2 or $3 discount off your next bottle of Kind Vines. With David’s background in liquor distribution he was able to see that using beer distributors to distribute his wine was the way to go. Why? Because beer distributors have the network in place to not only deliver product but bring back the empty kegs and wine bottles. The wine bottles are collected and washed and sanitized and refilled with wine.
So far this company is in the very early stages of planning.
Those interesting lights
Right now David and his team are determining which wines to buy. Part one of this selection process involved selecting members of the media and community and having them sit down and taste the wines and give their feed back. Kind Vines is going to have a two tiered approach to wine. Tier 1 is what we tasted and would be their more economical line of wines, typically retailing for under $10 including the deposit. We tasted wines from Red Hills Lake County, Napa Valley and Paso Robles. I found the wines to be interesting enough for that price point, though some did stand out as a little more exceptional than others.
Part 2, the part where people choose the upscale tier number two wines will be where it gets interesting. If David can get himself some bulk juice from some premium producers he might just have a winner.
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.
On Thursday, July 22nd from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, join Jim Wiskerchen aka @mywinehelper at 5th & Wine for a blind tasting of 4 of some of the best Arizona wines. There will be plenty of great food served buffet style, all for only $25.00/person. You will also have the chance to win a gift certificate to 5th & Wine if you guess all four varietal wines correctly. After the wines are revealed you will be able to purchase these wines by the glass. 5th & Wine is a great place to hang after working all day and to escape the heat. So join Jim in supporting local wines and this great local wine bar. This event is limited to 40 people so get your spot reserved HERE
5th & Wine
7051 E. 5th Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251