Wine Tasting

Southeast Arizona Wine Festival 2012

Photo from the Festival on the Farm at South Mountain 2011

Kief-Joshua Vineyards will be hosting the Southeast Arizona wine festival this coming weekend, April 14th and 15th, 2012

Kief-Joshua Vineyard is located in Elgin, Arizona which is about an hour drive Southeast of Tucson.

The first ever Southeast Arizona Wine Festival will feature wine tastings by 17 Arizona wineries and wine makers from all regions of Arizona will be represented.  The festival will also feature two wine education seminars: a wine sensory seminar and a wine pairing seminar.  Sonoita’s Steak Out restaurant will be on hand serving up chicken wings, pulled pork and sirloin sandwiches!

Buzz and the Soulsenders will be entertaining the crowd with their blues styled music too!

Tickets are $15, gates open at 10am.  Tickets can be purchased on site.

Arizona Wine Festival on the Farm | Nov 19 2011

wine tasting farm at south mountain

Arizona Wine Festival on the Farm, held amongst the pecan groves on The Farm at South Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

The 3rd annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Festival on the Farm will be held at The Farm at South Mountain this Saturday, November 29th, 2011

The annual wine festival is THE Arizona Wine event of the year – YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT! 😉

The Arizona Wine Festival will feature 20 wineries pouring wines from Arizona’s wine producing regions of Verde Valley, Wilcox, Sonoita and Elgin.  In addition  there will be a People’s Choice wine competition and educational seminars such as Wine Pairings 101.

wine peoples choice award

Wine education seminars and people's choice awards

The Festival will culminate with an amazing auction.  Last year some of the amazing items on the block included dinner for 4 prepared in your home by FnB’s Pavle Milic and Charlene Badman, and the top auction block which fetched $8000 was dinner with Maynard Keenan prepared by Mark Tarbel.

Tickets for the event are still available here:

Taste of Howell Mountain 2011 | June 18th | St. Helena

Napa wine tastingTaste of Howell Mountain 2011
I will be attending the Taste of Howell Mountain 2011 this year as a guest of the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association.  I just received the press release on the event and have posted it below.  I will be posting a review of the event and will be tweeting live from the event. Follow The Weekly Wine Journal on Twitter for live updates
Angwin, CA – HMVGA President Frank Dotzler of Outpost Winery announced today that a special consumer wine tasting, Taste of Howell Mountain, will be held in conjunction with a charity silent and live auction on Saturday, June 18th at the Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main St. in St. Helena.  Currently available  wines will be showcased by 32 wineries who are members of the association.

Aside from being the first sub-appellation within Napa Valley to be officially recognized by the federal government, Howell Mountain is also one of the most exclusive and sometimes elusive of appellations.  Production from primarily family-owned wineries is quite small, though of notoriously high quality, and the wines are sometimes hard to find on store shelves.  That circumstance renders this once-a-year only consumer tasting even more special as guests will be able to sample current release wines from nearly all the mountain’s producers.

During the wine tasting from noon to 5 pm, there will also be a silent auction of dozens of wines and other interesting items for bid from noon to 3 pm.  This will be followed by a live auction upstairs in the Carriage House at 3 pm.  The live auction includes a line-up of 29 auction lots featuring many “wine lifestyle events” such as weekends in wine country and special, private events at member wineries, an fly fishing trip at Mammoth Lake, not one but two library vertical collections from Randy Dunn going back to 1982, a great farmer’s-market-to-table Julia/Julie day for foodies, large format wine bottles, etc.

Short List of Auction Items

Proceeds from both the silent and live auction go to the Howell Mountain Education Foundation which benefits the Howell Mountain Elementary School in Angwin where the student population has doubled in recent years.  A major renovation of this tiny school founded in 1886 was completed three years ago, only to find that enrollment filled the new school to overflowing!

Now in its 15th year, the Taste of Howell Mountain will be held in the newly remodeled historic Carriage House at the Charles Krug Winery hosted by the Peter Mondavi family.    With its sweeping lawn and gracious Carriage House building, it is a natural and enjoyable setting for this casual event which includes gourmet appetizers as well as an amazing slate of wines.  This year’s theme is Fiesta! and it promises to carry on the tradition of casual elegance, great wine, and good company.

A full list of the wineries pouring is below.  Tickets are $125 per person and are available now online at www.howellmountain.org or you can order by phone at 707-965-2665.

Wineries Pouring at 2011 Taste of Howell Mountain

Arkenstone Vienyards Black Sears Blue Hall Vineyard Beringer Wine Estate

Bremer Family Winery Cade Winery Charles Krug Winery Cimarossa Vineyards

Cornerstone Cellars D-Cubed Duckhorn Vineyards Dunn Vineyards

Haber Vineyards Highlands Winery Howell at the Moon La Jota Winery

Lamborn Family Vineyards Notre Vin Winery O’Shaughnessy Winery

Outpost Winery Pina Napa Valley Red Cap Vineyards Retro Cellars

Robert Craig Wine Robert Foley Vineyards Roberts + Rogers

Rutherford Grove Spence\ St. Clement Winery

Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery W.H. Smith Wines

White Cottage Ranch Winery

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

Blind tasting Wine | Almost as Delicious as Humble Pie

Sometimes we all need a thick slice of humble pie to chew on. If you find yourself routinely puffing your chest out or staring for long periods in the mirror at your handsome reflection, I suggest a blind tasting.

wine tasting at FnB Scottsdale

Lots of wines, no labels

Not only are they grounding, but blind tastings are also a great way to test your “wine chops”.  A while back, I attended a blind tasting at a local wine bar.   There were 4 wines, 2 whites and 2 reds.  We did not know the varietals or where they came from– known as a “Double Blind” tasting. We were given only one clue: The wines were single varietals, not blends.

When blind tasting, every part of the wine tasting process needs to be intricately analyzed. Is the wine pale in color, like water? Or is it a deep, honey golden color? When it’s swirled, how viscous does it appear – thin and watery, or cloying and thick? Are the aromas more earthy and woody, or sweet and fruity? When tasting, is the wine heavy with mouth drying tannins or more light and silky? Each identifiable characteristic will act like a piece to a puzzle, helping you more accurately label a wine a certain way.
To make it even more interesting, the wine bar was offering a $25 gift certificate to anyone who could guess all 4 wines correctly.  After all the eager contestants had arrived, we got down to business.
weekly wine journal wine blogThe first white wine was placed before us like a microorganism beneath a microscope. Guests put their noses in the glasses, taking notes, swirling and gazing into the distance searching for analogies. This was repeated several times, as gazes turned to puzzled, contorted facial expressions.
I found the first wine tasted like lemon Theraflu – not exactly appealing. The second white wine was marginally better with a sort of buttery chardonnay mixed with grassy Sauvignon Blanc taste, a somewhat confusing flavor profile for me.  Halfway through the competition and my confidence had already taken a harder beating than BP Oil.
weekly wine journal wine blogNext came the reds. The first red wine had me completely stumped.  It was unlike any red wine I had ever tasted before, and not in an amazingly good way either.  I found it to be one of the single worst tasting wines I have ever tasted and I couldn’t finish it.  The other guests finished theirs, and the girl next to me remarked that she really like it. I thought to myself, “if you like flavors of nail polish and forest fire with a muddy dirty mouth feel and very little in the way of fruit, this is right up your alley.”
The second red wine I liked a lot more; smooth, with decent fruit, light acidity and tannins. My mind went straight to Merlot. Without a doubt, no questions asked.
It turned out to be a Cabernet.  Then the moment we had all been waiting for – the results. While the $25 gift certificate would be nice, it was our pride that we were all hoping to walk away with.
The first white: Pinot Grigio. I could have sworn it was blended with Theraflu.
The second white: a Sauvignon Blanc – I was almost there!
The third of our flight turned out to be a Zinfandel (a poor excuse for Zinfandel, if you ask me).
And finally, the fourth and final wine… a Cabernet Sauvignon. I would have bet good money it had been a Merlot. Maybe they had poured me the wrong stuff?
We looked around the room to find that a few had 3 out of the 4 pegged correctly, but nobody got them all right. No cash prizes, but there were plenty of defeated wine aficionados.
Blind tasting is a learning experience to say the least. Analyzing wine without knowing the brand, varietal, or price point really puts your palate to the test and is the single most honest way to evaluate a wine.  It’s an interesting and fun way to add mystery and intrigue to a wine tasting or wine party, especially if you venture out of the more well known grape, wine regions and flavor profiles.
Have you ever put your palate to the test in a blind setting?  If so, what were the results? Were you pleasantly surprised with your wine wherewithal? Or did you leave with a bruised palate ego?
Edited by Jon Troutman

How one Napa Valley producer has found success by focusing on Quality not Quantity

wine bottleRobert Craig, one of Napa Valley’s most dynamic and hard working winemakers, recently took a small break from his busy schedule to visit the Phoenix area. I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest at a wine maker dinner he was hosting at the outstanding, newly designed restaurant, Bistro Laurent Tourondel (BLT).

BLT has built a reputation for their fabulous cellar, stocked full of top tier Napa Valley and Bordeaux, valued at a cool $100,000.  As quickly as I was let in to their cellar, I was let out… I think the manager was concerned with my wandering, awestruck eyes.  You have to be careful of those blogger types, eh?
dining room

Dining room and wine cellar

Returning to the dining room, Robert Craig entered to a warm round of applause.  Craig took us on a journey of his winery’s history and experiences before delving into an important piece of his wine making philosophy.  He critically referred to the American culture of always looking out for what’s next, always trying to get bigger and bigger and bigger, especially in business.  At this point in his life, which he jokingly refers to as “getting on in years”,  he is not concerned with producing more wine as many of his neighbors are. Instead, his focus is on quality.  It became obvious that his philosophy is taken from many smaller, boutique European producers, as he continually referenced the ideals of these overseas cohorts.

scottsdale BLT

Guests enjoying champagne before dinner

The first course was a country style duck pate with brandied cherries, pistachio and arugula paired with the 2008 Robert Craig “Durrell Vineyard” Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley.  This Chardonnay is the only wine he makes outside of Napa, and the only white wine in his entire portfolio.  Aged in a mix of 10% new French oak, 65% neutral French oak and 25% Stainless steel, it is a wine that is light on oak, focused on fruit purity and a distinct sense of the Durrell Vineyard terroir. Less than 500 total cases were produced.

This was followed by roasted pork belly, ricotta gnudi, root vegetable fricassee and crispy pork skins paired with the 2007 Robert Craig “Affinity”, a Bordeaux styled blend created specifically with “the restaurant experience in mind”, as Craig explained.  The wine should not require additional aging or decanting to be enjoyed.  Each year just under 6,000 cases of Affinity are produce and every year it sells out.  With a 96 point score from Robert Parker, it’s no wonder they have no trouble selling it.  I found the wine to be smooth and supple in the way it just seemed to glide across the palate.  It screams quintessential Napa Valley, with cassis, perfume, violet and a hint of tar.  At $48 retail, this might be the steal of the century.

I just had to take this picture!

The third course was a Grouper stew featuring lobster mushrooms, chirozo and northern beans, a great but non-traditional pairing for the 2006 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Cabernet.  A big and chewy wine with rich tannins, this is a bigger style than the Affinity, requiring a slight decant for maximum enjoyment.

The main course, a pepper-crusted NY strip with huckleberry braised beef cheek, roasted carrots and fava beans was paired with the 2006 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  With a miniscule production of  1,240 cases, this wine is simply stunning.  It is riper than the Mt. Veeder with an even longer finish. This is a serious Napa Cab with a long future ahead of it, meaning that decanting is recommended in the near future.
The fifth and final course was caramelized French butter pears with cambozola ice cream inside of a walnut crisp pastry paired with the 2007 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Zinfandel. This is where the pairings really pushed the envelope.  Cambozola ice cream tastes like ice cream made with brie and blue cheese.  However, it really worked with the sweet pears and the earthy zinfandel.  The fruit comes from the famous Black Sears vineyard on Howell Mountain, the highest vineyard on Howell Mountain. The wine is peppery with a pronounced minerality that I found to be quite interesting. Again, at only 800 cases produced, Craig’s mantra for quality and not quantity becomes evident.
Sitting next to Robert Craig throughout dinner and having deep conversation with him, you get a real feel for the winemaker.  Humble, soft spoken and gentle, but also exceptional.  More producers should take a cue from Craig and focus on their wine, not the numbers.
Edited by Jon Troutman

Riedel crystal at the Miele Gallery Scottsdale, Oct 2010

Riedel crystal of America and the Miele Gallery

Miele gallery scottsdale

The Miele Gallery, Scottdale

are teaming up for a unique wine tasting experience in Scottsdale, Arizona on Friday October 29th, 2010.

10th generation and master-glass maker

Georg Riedel

Georg Riedel will lead guests through a demonstration of the relationship between the shape of a glass and our perception and enjoyment of wines.

Tickets are $70 each and include a 4 piece Riedel “Vitis” tasting set which retails for $170!

Reception begins at 6pm and the tasting gets underway at 7pm, tickets are limited so don’t miss out.

The Miele Gallery is located at:

7550 East Greenway Road, suite 100, Scottsdale AZ

Click HERE to register (Riedel Website)

Wine tasting at the Olive Garden Restaurant

FCC Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely mine. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Olive Garden invited me to this event, offering gift certificates for my readers and me to experience the newly updated location, but that does not impact my views or opinions in any way.

Last week I was invited to attend my local Olive Garden as they showcased their new Tuscan themed makeover.  I have eaten at this particular restaurant once before about 7 or 8 years ago and cannot remember what it looked like before the makeover.  I arrived at 6pm on the day that the Phoenix metro area was pounded by severe thunderstorms and was surprised to see quite a few people inside.   The first thing I noticed was behind the greeter station there was a bistro styled bar.  Complete with high tables and chairs and a sort of circular wall around it.  The actual restaurant seating was around the corner, but I found this to be new and appealing, welcoming.  I was seated and greeted by the friendly staff and was assigned a personal server.  I’m not sure if that was because I was carrying a clip board and asked for a spit container, I doubt it.  I quickly tasted the wines and wrote down some notes.

The wines:

Sartori Family 2009 Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie Italy. Light with lemon notes, 12% alcohol and $6.65 a glass

Mandra Rossa 2008 Fiano, sicily. 13.5% alcohol, $6.35 a glass.  This wine was also light and fruity, like a light unoaked Chardonnay.  Which is interesting because typically the Fiano grape is quite intense.

Arancio Nero d’Avola, Sicily. 13.5% alcohol, $6.35 a glass.  Nero d’Avola used to be primarily a mixing component but has come into its own in more recent times.  This wine really reminded me of a lot of the Arizona wines I have tasted.  Smokey oak, almost campfire or more like your clothes smell the morning after sitting next to the campfire all night.  Mixed with a rather aggressive unripe red cherry fruit.

Rocca delle Macie, SaSyr, Tuscany.  This wine is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Syrah.  13.5% alcohol and $8.25 a glass.  This wine is full bodied and the most complex of the lot with a mix of cherry blackberry and raspberry.  At first I really liked this wine, I suppose compared to the others, so I ordered a glass with my dinner – spaghetti with meat sauce.  Unfortunately this was a bad pairing.  I could only drink half the glass.  The spaghetti itself was lacklustre I have to say.   While I was eating I perused the wine list and noticed what I would call the most infamous wine list I have ever seen including  Cavit, Woodbridge, two kinds of pink zinfandel and Riunite.  At this point I started to wonder what the new Tuscan thing was all about.  The wine snob in me was horrified.    Something else that caught my attention was the odd  wine prices. It’s not that common to see  wines by the glass for $6.65 or $6.35.  Usually wines by the glass are priced at $6, $7 or $8 or higher in nice round numbers.  On second thought, this past month I have eaten at BLT at the Marriott, Morton’s the steakhouse and FnB Scottsdale, so maybe I shouldn’t be holding a family restaurant like Olive Garden to the same standard.  That might be like someone holding me to the same standard as Wine Spectator!

However, I will say this: the staff was extremely friendly.  They really went out of their way to attend to everyone’s needs, full marks on the service.

p.s. since the winner of the $25 gift certificate failed to claim their prize it is up for grabs again…

World Wide #Cabernet Day

If you are on Twitter and enjoy wine you won’t want to miss #Cabernet on Thursday September 2nd, 2010.  With over 50 wineries and over 100 restaurants participating from all over the world this is sure to be the biggest online tasting ever.  You can participate by following the hashtag #Cabernet.  This online gathering is the brainchild of Rick Bakkas and St Supery.  Rick is a  social media expert and works for St Supery winery in California.  Rick has hosted online events like this before, but this one is definitely getting the most “buzz” pardon the pun.

Check out the Event Brite listing to see a list of participating wineries and restaurants.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area give Morton’s Steakhouse a call  (they are one of the sponsors)  They are offering BV Coastal Cabernet for $6 a glass.

Morton’s Phoenix: 602 955 9577

Morton’s Scottsdale: 480 951 4440

If you are hosting a party or event and want to promote it, please leave your info in the comment section below!  Cheers!