wine dinner

Paso Robles Grand Tasting Tour visits Arizona

Wine tasting

Guests at the Grand Tasting

This past week the Paso Robles Grand Tasting Tour visited El Chorro Lodge in Paradise Valley.  The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and their local partners put on a week long celebration of the Paso Robles wine region.  In all 34 wineries and vineyards were represented. For a list of the vineyards scroll to the bottom of the page.

The week of wine started off on Monday, February 7th with wine maker dinners at Petite Maison and Ranchot Pinot.  The very next night saw more wine maker dinners at 5th and Wine, Cowboy Ciao and Big Daddy’s BBQ.  There were some after hours events held at Kazimierz Wine Bar in Scottsdale, as well as a special “Staff Meal” at Petite Maison and a walk through wine tasting at AZ Wine Company.

Seminar scottsdale

Industry seminar

The big day for wine tasting was Wednesday February 9th.  Starting at 1pm there was an educational seminar held for about 40 local distributors, retailers and restauranteurs . Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, Stacie Jacob started out by introducing us to the wine makers and letting us know where exactly the Paso Robles AVA is.  Paso Robles is about a one hour flight and a half hour drive from San Luis Obispo.  People in the metro Phoenix area would find this to be a very convenient weekend getaway.

Stacie then handed the seminar over to the wine makers.  Ted Plemons of Cass Winery, Doug Beckett of Peach Canyon, JC Diefenderfer of Hope Family Wines and

Steve Peck

Steve Peck red wine maker for J. Lohr

Steve Peck of J. Lohr talked for about an hour.  Each wine maker talked about the uniqueness of the Paso Robles AVA and especially the value.  They really stressed the value, and Steve Peck put it succinctly stating that their neighbors to the north might say “Well if so and so is getting $50 a bottle then I should get $60, well in Paso Robles it’s not like that”.   In Paso Robles the pricing is very closely related to the direct costs rather than who has the “best” Cabernet or what other people are charging.

Peachy Canyon Wine

Doug Becket from Peachy Canyon

I sat at a table with Doug Beckett, proprietor of Peachy Canyon Winery.  Doug spoke passionately about the region and sustainable practices versus organic certification.  He received a warm round of applause when he stated boldly that organic farming “Is Crap”,  he explained why by saying “You may have heard of something called WIND. Well even if you are certified organic, if your neighbor is spraying chemicals then it blows onto your property”  He went on to explain how much more comprehensive sustainable farming is than organic certification.

wine tasting

Tasting the wines

While we were listening to each gentleman speak, we were also enjoying examples of their wines.  In all their were 8 wines to taste.  These wines were presented as value driven wines, ready to drink now, primarily for use in a restaurant setting.  There’s no use pouring a wine for a customer and then telling them that it will be great in 5 years.  It needs to be great right now.  We tasted a wide variety of styles and price points from a Viognier Marsanne blend from Cass Winery with a retail of $20 to a Cabernet Syrah blend from Hope Family Wines retailing for $50.  One of the wines that I found to be particularly good was J. Lohr Hilltop Vineyard Cabernet which is actually a blend of 80% Cabernet, 6% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  I managed to get a little interview with Steve Peck the following night at a special wine tasting at AZ Wine Company.

wine tasting outside

Sun setting on El Chorro Lodge

After the trade seminar there was a media tasting between 2 and 5pm.  Guests tasted wines from the 30+ wineries that made the trip out to Arizona.  I tasted A LOT of wine.  I carried around my own spittoon as ingesting all of this wine in the middle of the afternoon would have had a rather unpleasant result!  By four o’ clock I had overloaded my palate, but a few wines managed to stand out for me.  Derby Wine Estates Reserve Pinot Noir and Kenneth Volk Vineyards Touriga Nacional.

Scottsdale wine tasting

The evening festivities

At 6 p.m. the public event got underway.  Guests were treated to the wines and a very nice catered dinner on the patio while the sun was setting on an absolutely perfect Arizona winter day.  The next night  I attended a wine tasting at AZ Wine company featuring Justin, Opolo, J. Lohr, Ancient Peaks, L’Aventure and Sextant, see more pictures of the weeks events on Facebook.

Wineries List:

Adelaida Cellars

Alta Colina Vineyard and Winery

Ancient Peaks Winery

Caliza Winery

Cass Winery

Clavo Cellars

Clayhouse Wines

Derby Wine Estates

Eberle Winery

Grey Wolf Vineyards and Cellars

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Hansen Winery

Hearst Ranch Winery

J & J Cellars

J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines

Justin Vineyards and Winery

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

L’Aventure Winery

Le Vigne

Lone Madrone

Midnight Cellars

Niner Wine Estates

Opolo Vineyards

Peachy Canyon Winery

Robert Hall Winery

Sextant Wines

Silver Horse Winery

Thacher Winery

Treana and Hope Family Wines

Ventuex Vineyards

Victor Hugo Winery

Vina Robles

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.