Wine

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Lifestyle Issue: October 2012

 

WINE BARS

phm1012 wn2 mdBrix Wine Spot
7100 E. Cave Creek Rd.,
Cave Creek, 480-575-9900
brixwinespot.com

# of wines by the glass: 13
# of wines by the bottle: 400+
Vibe: The gunslinger ambiance is clasically Cave Creek, with Stetsons hung on a pegboard coat rack near the copper bar and country musicians crooning in the background. All that’s missing is the louvered saloon doors.   
Food: Mosey on in for a heapin’ helping of cheesecake served in a mason jar (free on Fridays with two-bottle purchase), or nosh on charcuterie and cheese plates.
Events: Highlights of Brix’s daily specials include $5 wines by the glass on M, live music and tastings W, “Cigar Thursdays,” and $7 mimosas on Su.


Cave Creek Coffee Company & Wine Bar
6033 E. Cave Creek Rd.,
Cave Creek, 480-488-0603
cavecreekcoffee.com

# of wines by the glass: 24
# of wines by the bottle: 24
Vibe: Don’t let the gruff Western facade fool you: The dapper interior is sophisticated yet cozy, offering table-top seating in the homey restaurant, cushy lounge chairs near the coffee bar, and a rustic, tarp-covered patio. It’s also one of the friendliest spots in the north Valley.
Food: Their self-styled “eclectic bistro cuisine” includes sandwiches, pizzas, antipasto, cheeses, bruschetta and a spiffy signature mango chicken salad.
Events: Live music W-Sa.


Cheuvront
1326 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-307-0022
cheuvronts.com

# of wines by the glass: 32
#of wines by the bottle: 180+
Vibe: A sophisticated yet comfortable vibe complemented by a user-friendly menu with wine flavor descriptions.
Food: Every well-described cheese, scrumptious small plate and worldly entrée is vino-compatible.
Events: Happy hour 4-6 p.m. M-F. Several wine and cheese tastings are held each month; check website.


DownUnder Wines & Bistro
1422 W. Warner Rd.,
Gilbert, 480-545-4900
downunderwinebar.com

# of wines by the glass: 24
# of wines by the bottle: 27
Vibe: Wine barrel tables, floor-to-ceiling windows and a rocking patio make this Outback outpost a prime place for corker vino and late-night strine-speak with mates.
Food: Exotica like crocodile kabobs and kangaroo loin share a menu with bruschetta and cheese boards.
Events: Happy hour 3 p.m.-close Su, 4 p.m.-close M and 3-6 p.m. Tu-Sa, $5 house wine; live music F-Sa; regular wine and beer pairing dinners.


phm1012 wn3 mdphm1012 wn4 md
 D’Vine Bistro & Wine Bar


D’Vine Bistro & Wine Bar
2837 N. Power Rd.,
Mesa, 480-654-4171
dvinewine101.com
(other location: Chandler)

# of wines by the glass: 50
# of wines by the bottle: 200
Vibe: Laid-back and welcoming, with wooden tables, red industrial pipes, and sage walls decked with art.
Food: Among the East Valley's best, thanks to innovative spins on wild game, plus faves like mac ‘n’ cheese.
Events: Happy hour 2-6 p.m. M-F, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sa, $5 select glasses, 10 percent off bottles; tastings Tu ($5); wine pairing dinners last W of the month; live music nightly.


Enotria, Land of Wine
7000 E. Mayo Blvd.,
Scottsdale, 480-513-3086
landofwine.com

# of wines by the glass: 35
# of wines by the bottle: 100+
Vibe: The hallway layout showcases wine bottles and local art, while patrons chat in plush orange loungers.
Food: Sandwiches and pizza from nearby Cafepino.
Events: Board Game Night Tu; Ladies Night 6-9 p.m. W ($5 wines by the glass); Date Night F (show your dinner or movie receipt for 2-for-1 wines by the glass).  


5th & Wine
7501 E. Fifth Ave.,
Scottsdale, 480-699-8001
5thandwine.com

# of wines by the glass: 40-50
# of wines by the bottle: 105-115
Vibe: A lively dining room shares space with settle-in lounge seating, a bustling bar, and a sleek, shaded courtyard patio.
Food: Comfort dishes including fried pickles, top-notch burgers, superb salads and hearty daily specials such as chicken pot pie.
Events: Happy hour 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, $5 glasses; half off bottles W; $2 select wines on the 5th of the month; live music Th-Sa.


phm1012 wn6 mdGrapeables
12645 N. Saguaro Blvd.,
Fountain Hills, 480-816-5959
grapeableswinebar.com

# of wines by the glass: 13
# of wines by the bottle: 200
Vibe: Blue skies and bluer water on the patio overlooking Fountain Hills’ signature fountain. Inside, it's cozy tables and a jovial bar.
Food: They whip up attractive meat, cheese and fruit platters, panini and salads, or order from adjacent Euro Pizza Café.
Events: Happy hour 3-6 p.m. M-F, $5 glasses; $15 tastings Tu and first F; $15 wine classes on third Th, Oct.-Apr.; live music W, F-Sa.



phm1012 wn5 mdKazimierz World Wine Bar
7137 E. Stetson Dr.,
Scottsdale, 480-946-3004
kazbar.net

# of wines by the glass: 29
# of wines by the bottle: 2,400
Vibe: A uniquely sultry and mysterious ambiance that pairs well with the anonymous, speakeasy-style entrance.
Food: The global charm of the decor permeates the menu. Expect antipasto, Egyptian flatbreads and chocolate fondue.
Events: Daily music includes jazz, blues, soul, funk and rock.


The Living Room
2475 W. Queen Creek Rd., Chandler, 480-855-2848
livingroomwinebar.com

# of wines by the glass: 21
# of wines by the bottle: 76
Vibe: Mediterranean-seaside dreams, with a billowy-curtained patio and plush sofas, tall ceilings, and DJs pulsing beats inside.
Food: Nosh on bruschetta, antipasto, cheese plates or cheese fondue, or go for salads and sandwiches like prime rib sliders.
Events: Happy hour 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, $5 wines by the glass; monthly wine tastings, $20; live music 4-7:30 p.m. Su.


My Wine Cellar
5030 E. Warner Rd.,
Phoenix, 480-598-9463
mywinecellarphx.com

# of wines by the glass: 30
# of wines by the bottle: 100
Vibe: This Ahwatukee favorite is light and bright, with smart decor and savvy servers. The scenic back patio overlooks a golf course with views of South Mountain.
Food: The menu shows sophistication and solid sourcing – try short rib quesadillas, crisp-crust pizzas or inspired daily specials.
Events: Happy hour 3-6:30 p.m. M-Sa, $5 select glasses; wine education classes; monthly blind tastings; beer dinners and wine dinners alternate monthly; live music F-Sa.


Old Towne Wine and Beer Bar
5745 W. Glendale Ave.,
Glendale, 623-937-9463
otgwinenbeerbar.com

# of wines by the glass: 26
# of wines by the bottle: 71
Vibe: This downtown Glendale sip-spot offers sophisticated wines in a vintage sports-bar setting.
Food: The bar doesn’t have a kitchen, but patrons can order pub-style grub from the adjacent Gas Light Inn.
Events: Half off wine bottles W; $1 off wine glasses Tu and Th; live music F and Sa; open mic M.


Portland’s Restaurant & Wine Bar
105 W. Portland St.,
Phoenix, 602-795-7480
portlandsphoenix.com

# of wines by the glass: 14
# of wines by the bottle: 25
Vibe: A professional crowd favors this relaxed and sophisticated, yet colorful, alternative to the Downtown hipster scene.
Food: A strong small plates selection dominates the wine-friendly Mediterranean-meets-American fare. Don't miss the parmesan French fries.
Events: At happy hour (5-7 p.m. M-F), enjoy $2 off wines by the glass and $5 for select appetizers. Live music Sa; DJ on First Fridays.


Postino Central
5144 N. Central Ave.,
Phoenix, 602-274-5144
postinowinecafe.com

# of wines by the glass: 27
# of wines by the bottle: 87
Vibe: A wall-mounted bicycle, zesty burnt orange palette, and brick-and-wood decor add hipness to this airy Central Phoenix hotspot.
Food: Mix-and-match
bruschetta (11 choices) is the star of the Mediterranean-inspired, panini- and salad-centric menu.
Events: Happy hour (11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily), $5 glasses. Order a bottle of wine and bruschetta board for $20 from 8-11 p.m. M-Tu, and bounce along to live music on the patio. Sunday brunch is a popular scene thanks to white peach bellinis and fresh-squeezed mimosas.


Rhythm & Wine
7605 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd.,
Scottsdale, 480-478-6999
rhythmandwine.com

# of wines by glass: 26
# of wines by bottle: 73
Vibe: Photos of rock stars impart a subdued House of Blues feel. The patio hosts live music backdropped by city lights.  
Food: A selection of small plates with music-themed monikers (the “Almond Brothers” plate, the “Chaka Kahn Platter”), plus salads (“We Got the Beet”), an American-Italian section (“Dixie Chicks Marsala”), and pizza (the “Sgt. Pepper-Roni”).
Events: $3 off all wines by the glass during happy hour (3-6 p.m. M-F, 3 p.m.-close Su); live rock and jazz music F.


The Tasting Room
28465 N. Vistancia Blvd.,
Peoria, 623-455-4100
tastingroomaz.com

# of wines by the glass: 20
# of wines by the bottle: 150
Vibe: Take a seat at the marble slab bar at Peoria’s flagship wine haunt. Unpretentious yet classy, this bar trades lounge-swank for bistro-comfort.
Food: The pastrami sandwich stands out among panini, bruschetta and cheeses.
Events: Happy hour Tu-Sa (open-6 p.m., 8 p.m.-close); all-day happy hour on Tu for ladies; live music F and Sa.


phm1012 wn7 mdTerroir Wine Pub
7001 N. Scottsdale Rd.,
Scottsdale, 480-922-3470
terroirwinepub.com

# of wines by the glass: 30
# of wines by the bottle: 500
Vibe: Modern meets cozy, wine geek meets novice, and everyone gets along at this affable watering hole.
Food: Basic bites include
lavosh, cheese and meat plates, and bruschetta.
Events: Happy hour open to close daily, $7 select glasses of wine; game night Tu; open mic night W; tasting night Th (three wine samples for $10).


Uncorked
16427 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-699-9230
uncorkedwinebar.com

# of wines by glass: 45
# of wines by bottle: 58  
Vibe: “The Unpretentious Wine Bar” sets the scene with relaxed luxury and 30- and 40-somethings mingling at candlelit tables in an amber-toned space. Local acoustic musicians occasionally strum in the background.
Food: A light menu of artisanal cheese plates, flat breads, sandwiches, and salads.
Events: “Monday Madness” features half-price glasses and flights. “Hump Day '80s Night” on W, $5 off all bottles and cheese trays.


Vine Expressions
1030 S. Gilbert Rd.,
Gilbert, 480-633-0730
vineexpressions.com

# of wines by the glass: 69
# of wines by the bottle: 138
Vibe: Verde Valley winemaker John McLoughlin reconceived this former wine shop as a neighborhood bar and quaffing lounge.
Food: A tiny kitchen produces a surprising array of noshes, including bruschetta, salads, panini and flatbread pizzas.
Events: Happy hour (3-6 p.m. M-F, 1-6 p.m. Sa, all day Su) includes $2 off glasses and $3 off flights. Free tastings 5:30-7:30 p.m. W. Live music nightly.


Vintage 95
95 W. Boston St.,
Chandler, 480-855-9463
vintage95.com

# of wines by the glass: 28
# of wines by the bottle: 340
Vibe: This 1926 space oozes sumptuous ambiance, attracting City Hall suits and first daters alike. The patio is nightlife central.
Food: Impressive cheese boards and skillfully executed entrées. Lunchtime sees a superior selection of sandwiches and salads.
Events: Happy hour 4-6 p.m. Tu-Th, 4 p.m.-close W: $5 select glasses, $20 bottles; half off select bottles Su; live music W-Su.

 

 


RESTAURANTS WITH GREAT WINE LISTS

Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge
The mostly moderately priced wine list straddles the Old and New Worlds, with Italy and California taking center stage. Sink back into a cushy sofa and enjoy a wine flight with friends, or peer into your date’s eyes over a wood-fired pizza or plate of pasta – much of it house-made – and whatever you do, don’t miss the meatballs. 28234 N. Tatum Blvd., Cave Creek, 480-502-1920
amaroaz.com

# of wines by the glass: 25
# of wines by the bottle: 60
Events: Happy hour 4-6 p.m. M-Sa, $5 wines; live music W-Su; wine dinner every other month; blues dinner every other month.


Beckett’s Table
Families flock to this rustic-meets-modern neighborhood eatery that dishes kid-friendly mac ’n’ cheese and grape juice with as much flavor and class as their adult counterparts of pork osso buco and Pillsbury Roan Red. The eatery earned a Wine Spectator Award for its affordable, savvy wine list. 3717 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-954-1700
beckettstable.com

# of wines by the glass: 41
# of wines by the bottle: 100+
Events: Half-priced bottles of Arizona wine on Su and half-bottles with assorted nibbles for $25 Tu-Th.


BLT Steak
This bistro/steakhouse delivers with primo views and vino. With a chalkboard on one side and Camelback mountain on the other, the Laurent Tourondel-conceived restaurant offers an elevated dining experience complemented by nearly 600 wines. 5402 E. Lincoln Drive (Camelback Inn), Scottsdale, 480-905-7971
bltscottsdale.com

# of wines by the glass: 30
# of wines by the bottle: 500+
Events: Happy hour daily (5-7 p.m.) includes six wines for $5; monthly wine dinner series.
    

Bourbon Steak
The duck fat fries and striking decor – think FLW-esque geometry in a sleek black and taupe palette – are reason enough to visit Bourbon Steak. But the wine list is as decadent as Chef Michael Mina’s carnivore-godsend menu. 7575 E. Princess Drive (Fairmont Scottsdale Princess), Scottsdale, 480-513-6002
scottsdaleprincess.com

# of wines by the glass: 25
# of wines by the bottle: 480
Events: Happy hour daily (5-7 p.m.) includes select $5 glasses; reverse happy hour (9 p.m.-close) includes select $5 dessert wines.


Caffe Boa
Thanks to the owners’ Eastern European heritage and commitment to locavorism, the wine list is an intriguing blend of Croatian and Slovenian selections; boutique producers of sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines; and the usual vino suspects. The food is nearly as eclectic, with a nod toward Italian, Mediterranean, Cajun and Asian. 398 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-968-9112
cafeboa.com

# of wines by the glass: 30
# of wines by the bottle: 200
Events: Happy hour 4-7 p.m. daily, half off wines by the glass $10 or less; monthly wine events (tastings or dinners).


The Capital Grille
This Wine Spectator Award-winner not only offers more than 450 wines perfectly calibrated to pair with their dry-aged steaks, caramelized fresh lobster and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired environs, it also comes complete with personalized wine lockers that guests can lease annually to store their stellar collections. 16489 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-348-1700
thecapitalgrille.com

# of wines by the glass: 36
# of wines by the bottle: 450+
Events: In summer, the Generous Pour event offers unlimited pours of nine master sommelier-selected wines for a mere $25.


Cartwright’s
Savvy sommeliers (sweet, never surly) help guests navigate the wine list, which cherry-picks the best from Arizona to New Zealand, and propose perfect pairings with top-notch all-natural steaks, ranch-style entrées, and sustainable seafood. Decor is upscale Western, and clientele is a cross-section of kicked-back Cave Creekers and day-tripping city slickers. 6710 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-488-8031
cartwrightssonoranranchhouse.com

# of wines by the glass: 26
# of wines by the bottle: 150
Events: Happy hour 4:30-6:30 p.m. daily, $5 select wines.


Christopher’s and Crush Lounge
Francophiles, take heart. Christopher’s has your back. The menu and wine list have an undeniably French accent, but patrons who crave central European sweets or a jammy tempranillo will feel catered to, too. The space smacks of early 20th century bistro – stylish and sophisticated – but with a modern and comfortable touch. 2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-522-2344,
christophersaz.com

# of wines by the glass: 49
# of wines by the bottle: 300+
Events: Happy hour (3-6 p.m. daily) features half off glasses. Seven-course wine dinners are offered frequently, and the annual Bastille Day menu is a treat for anyone’s inner revolutionary.


Cork
Wines here veer toward classic favorites, predominantly from the Western U.S. and Europe, with a few fun and fancy ones for good measure. Imaginatively crafted fine dining dishes hold their own, and the peaceful, neutral-toned dining room is almost as soothing as the vino. 4991 S. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 480-883-3773
corkrestaurant.net

# of wines by the glass: 19
# of wines by the bottle: 377
Events: Happy hour 5-6:30 p.m. Tu-F, $4 house wines; four-course chef’s tasting menu the last Sunday of the month, $35 plus $15 for three wine pairings.


Different Pointe of View
You know the wine list is serious when the French section is separated into “Left Bank” and “Right Bank.” That’s to be expected from a winner of the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence (a higher honor than the basic Award of Excellence) for more than 20 years. Guests dig into decadent dishes from 1,800 feet up Lookout Mountain, with an expansive view of the Valley below. 11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-866-6350
tapatiocliffshilton.com

# of wines by the glass: 25-35
# of wines by the bottle: About 700
Events: Monthly “Insider’s View” dinners (except December and summer) feature small groups with chef preparations tableside and guest winemakers ($99 per person).


Duck & Decanter
If Tolkien’s Middle Earth had an upscale deli, it would look a lot like Duck & Decanter. The rustic atmosphere is one reason Phoenicians have supported this sandwich-centric eatery for nearly four decades. The wine bar, with its Old World charm, features mainstream and obscure offerings, and upon request, the staff will order wines they do not regularly carry. 1651 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-274-5429
duckanddecanter.com

# of wines by the glass: 15
# of wines by the bottle: 300+
Events: Happy hour (4-7 p.m. M-F) offers $3 house wine glasses. Live music is a weekend staple between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Watch for Duck & Decanter’s 40th birthday celebration at the end of November.


Durant’s
With its dimly-lit dining room, kitchen entrance, and intriguing history, Durant’s is the kind of place politicians and sports figures go to be seen – or not to be seen. The wine list spans $6 glasses of chardonnay to $1,500 bottles of cabernet sauvignon, all of which are hand-picked to pair with steaks or seafood and cater to a local clientele that owner Carol McElroy describes as “very wine knowledgeable.” 2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-264-5967
durantsaz.com

# of wines by the glass: 26
# of wines by the bottle: 350+
Events: Private events only.


FnB
When FnB hit the Old Town Scottsdale scene, it made major news for its Arizona-dominated wine list. The menu is equally state-centric, spotlighting a seasonally changing array of local veggies and simple yet robustly flavorful meats characterized by a dash of whimsy. 7133 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, 480-425-9463
fnbrestaurant.com

# of wines by the glass: 10
# of wines by the bottle: 32
Events: FnB’s “Meet the Winemaker” series begins in October. Brunch for 10 also includes visits with a local vintner and farmer. And adventurous patrons can jet to a private island at Roosevelt Lake for a unique meal and an audience with the featured winemaker.


Ground Control
This West Valley hangout just relocated to larger digs in Litchfield Park, and with 450-plus bottles, it’ll need the space. Order a draft wine and wood-fired pizza in the cafe-like lounge. 4860 N. Litchfield Rd., Litchfield Park, 623-535-9066
groundxcontrol.com

# of wines by the glass: 40
# of wines by the bottle: 450+
Events: Live music F (8 p.m.-close); wine tastings Tu (6-8 p.m.) and Sa (7 p.m.-close); happy hour (4-6 p.m. daily) includes $2 off glasses.


House of Tricks
Lauded for its lush alfresco ambiance, cute-as-a-button dual bungalows, patio bar built around ash and chinaberry trees, and impeccably sourced seasonal dishes, HoT also has a first-rate wine list. It’s like taking a wine tour of the world, from Finger Lakes, New York to Marlborough, New Zealand – and that’s just by the glass. 114 E. Seventh St., Tempe, 480-968-1114
houseoftricks.com

# of wines by the glass: About 30
# of wines by the bottle: About 300
Events: Happy hour (4-6 p.m. M-Sa) offers $2 off wines by the glass; wine tastings the last Tu of the month.


Il Vinaio
Selections here lean toward domestic but not typical. Robust reds from Paso Robles, Napa and Washington are show-stoppers on the reds list, while palate-coating, lush viognier and chardonnay star on the whites. All stand up well to hearty pastas and homey entrées, or nosh on bruschetta or flatbread before a Mesa Arts Center show. 270 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-649-6476
ilvinaio.com

# of wines by the glass: 37
# of wines by the bottle: 80
Events: Happy hour (2-6 p.m. Tu-Su) offers $2 off wines by the glass; two-for-one glasses of wine Tu and noon-4 p.m. W-F; monthly wine pairing dinners; live music Sa, sometimes Th-F.


Il Terrazzo
With Arizona’s first master sommelier, Greg Tresner, at the beverage helm, it’s no surprise this opulent restaurant boasts a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence – one step above its Award of Excellence. Italian wines take pride of place to complement the contemporary Italian-American cuisine, but selections span the globe, including several of Arizona’s best. 6000 E. Camelback Rd. (The Phoenician), Scottsdale, 480-423-2425
thephoenician.com

# of wines by the glass: 23
# of wines by the bottle: About 2,500
Events: The Grape & Grain store at the Phoenician offers a complimentary Wine Infusion & Cheese Tasting, plus an Arizona wine tasting ($10) and other tastings ($15-$20) daily.


J&G Steakhouse
J&G departs from the supper-club-style steakhouse norm with a glittering, modern restaurant framed by expansive views. That avant-garde streak extends to the wine list, with its canny blend of on-the-rise vintners and blue-chip labels, plus a handful of Arizona wines. Naturally, the Jean-Georges Vongerichten-helmed restaurant’s food will knock your gastronomic socks off. 6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-214-8000
jgsteakhousescottsdale.com

# of wines by the glass: 23
# of wines by the bottle: 368
Events: Happy hour and live music Th (4-7 p.m.), $6 glasses.


Lon’s at the Hermosa
Wine Spectator magazine has given the wine program at Lon’s an Award of Excellence every year since 1996. In addition to housing endless bottles of wines hailing everywhere from Arizona to South Africa, the sexy subterranean wine cellar provides a cool, candlelit setting for a romantic vino-paired dinner. Cowboy upscale! 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-7878
hermosainn.com/lons

# of wines by the glass: 23
# of wines by the bottle: 500+
Events: Wine & Tapas 5-7 p.m. W ($10-$20 flights)


phm1012 wn9 mdMaizie’s Café & Bistro
Long before locavorism had a name, Phoenicians flocked to this sunny eatery for to-die-for wingless buffalo dip and burgers. Highlights of the small but affordable wine selection include a peachy white sangria and a “buy five glasses, get one free” Wine of the Month program. Bottles can be purchased for $10-$15 and gift wrapped for that friend’s birthday you (almost) forgot. 4750 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-2828
maiziescafe.com

# of wines by the glass: 16+
# of wines by the bottle: 35+
Events: Happy hour (2-6 p.m. M-Sa, 2-4 p.m. Su) offers $2-$3 glasses; $10 off bottles of wine on M.


Mastro’s Restaurants
Mastro’s is your father’s steakhouse: a lush, patrician setting where diners can graze on perfectly-executed steaks, seafood and libations. The three Scottsdale locations of this local brand gone national have each won Wine Spectator awards. Mastro’s Steakhouse: 8852 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Scottsdale, 480-585-9500; Mastro’s City Hall: 6991 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-941-4700; Mastro’s Ocean Club: 15045 N. Kierland Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-443-8555
mastrosrestaurants.com

# of wines by the glass: 55
# of wines by the bottle: 400


phm1012 wn8 mdRancho Pinot
Rancho Pinot is a welcome destination for oenophiles who appreciate the Southwestern aesthetic. The pliant, leather-bound menus hint at the sophisticated yet relaxed vibe throughout. The wine list does right by California, but Europe is well-represented, and don’t miss the six handcrafted tap wines. The fare is all about fresh, seasonal flavors that fairly leap off the plate. 6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-367-8030
ranchopinot.com

# of wines by the glass: 20
# of wines by the bottle: 100+
Events: Half off select bottles W. Occasional wine dinners and tastings.


Sassi
If Sassi’s replicated villa doesn’t conjure Tuscany, its strictly Italian wine list surely will. Though it’s always earned praise for its romantic ambiance and Southern Italian fare, the four-diamond restaurant can now add another accolade to its wall – Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the third consecutive year. 10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Parkway, Scottsdale, 480-502-9095
sassi.biz

# of wines by the glass: 10
# of wines by the bottle: 300
Events: Happy hour (5-7 p.m. Tu-Th) includes $7 glasses.


Seasons 52
Master sommelier George Miliotes developed this concise but satisfying list, which ranges from stalwarts to a good-value section called “Drink Them Before They Become Famous.” The modern interior features numerous rooms – including a piano bar – and every dish on the seasonal, contemporary menu is 475 calories or less. 2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-840-5252
seasons52.com

# of wines by the glass: 52
# of wines by the bottle: 100
Events: Live music nightly.


Tarbell’s
This Camelback Corridor mainstay found its stride early on and never lost pace, thanks to a refined but comfortable ambiance that makes it a mainstay for casual dinners, special occasions and after-work drinks alike. The expansive wine list guides oenophiles on a precise tour of California, France and Italy, with forays into more foreign lands. Don’t skip the shishito pepper or black chickpea appetizers. 3213 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-955-8100
tarbells.com

# of wines by the glass: 36
# of wines by the bottle: 450-550
Events: Tarbell’s is a special spot for themed meals, such as farm-to-table dinners, winemaker dinners and dinners for the arts.


Va Bene
Italy takes the spotlight here, naturalmente, with an especially fine cross-section of pinot grigio, chianti and amarone, but California is represented with a lineup of loveable standards. Even the “vino della casa,” or house wines, are respectable. All complement classic pasta, meat and seafood dishes that make this an Ahwatukee fave. 4647 E. Chandler Blvd., Phoenix, 480-706-4070
vabeneaz.com

# of wines by the glass: 40
# of wines by the bottle: 130
Events: Happy hour (4-7 p.m. daily) features $1 off house wines; live entertainment 9 p.m.-1 a.m. F-Sa.


Vincent on Camelback
Vincent’s Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning wine list is so long it needs a Table of Contents. The red wines of Bordeaux alone take up six pages. French wines are the focus of the international list, all the better to marry with the French-kissed-Southwestern fare like rack of lamb with thyme, rosemary, garlic and spicy pepper jelly. 3930 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-224-0225
vincentsoncamelback.com

# of wines by the glass: 22
# of wines by the bottle: About 650
Events: Happy hour in the sumptuous, cerulean Bleu Room (3-6:30 p.m. M-F) features half-price wines by the glass and trios of sliders and salads for $8 and $4.50, respectively.

    

WINE STORES

AZ Wine Company
AZ Wine Co. pours oenological dynamite at its weekly tastings. You can count on General Manager Robert Lindeman for a top-notch education on six generous pours, and the store carries more than 350 bottles, including some “tasting room only” specialties. 2515 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-423-9305
azwineco.com
Tastings: Every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., $15


phm1012 wn13 mdAZ Wine Merchants
AZ Wine Merchants is a showroom for Arizona wines, but it feels more like a cozy attic that happens to be stocked by local winemakers. The shop features 30 different labels, each accompanied by a brief description inscribed nearby on the chalkboard wall. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-588-7489
fnbrestaurant.com
Tastings: Periodic tastings are elaborate affairs. Featured vintners pour their wines and chat with patrons before everyone adjourns to neighboring restaurant Baratin for a multi-course dinner.


Magnum’s Cigars-Wine-Spirits
A few years ago, this tobacconist and wine purveyor added a lounge where customers can relax in baroque Old World luxury while sipping one of 300 wines, 300 bottled beers, 250 Scotches, 170 tequilas, 90 vodkas and more. Since we’re talking numbers, the walk-in humidor offers more than 1,100 cigars. 731 E. Union Hills Drive, Phoenix, 602-493-8977
magnumscigarwineliquor.com
Tastings: Held every 2-3 months; price varies.


The Reserve Room
Located adjacent to DownUnder Wine Bar and Bistro, this boutique wine shop stocks more than 30 wines for tasting by the glass, and also offers flights (whites, pinot noir, reds, and Bordeaux blends). The sommelier has more than 40 years’ experience and will happily suggest pairings. 1422 W. Warner Rd., Gilbert, 480-582-6868
reserveroomaz.com
Tastings: Daily flights (four wines, 3-ounce pours), $16-$24.


Village Wine Center
The friendly and experienced proprietors of this Gainey Village vino retailer zealously keep the thermostat at a cellar-like 64 degrees to preserve the integrity of their stash. They specialize in high-end wines but do offer a pocketbook-friendly special: Buy one featured wine at a Friday tasting, and the second bottle costs $1. 8877 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-556-8989
vwcaz.com
Tastings: Every F from 1 to 7 p.m., free.


Vino 100
This bright, modern boutique carries more than 100 wines, most of which will set you back less than $25 a bottle. Offerings rotate frequently, but owner Laura McCormack regularly stocks two favorites: an Italo Cescon pinot grigio and Silver Palm’s Sonoma cabernet sauvignon, a robust red with an oaky vanilla finish. To ease the wine-choosing experience, bottles are arranged by flavor and body style rather than grape or appellation, so you can pick a vino based on your taste preference.  30835 N. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-502-8466
vino100phoenix.com
Tastings: Daily flights highlighting 3-4 wines ($15-18).

 

phm1012 wn10 lgGreg Tresner
Master Sommelier
Il Terrazzo
The Phoenician

“What’s most impressive about today’s Arizona wine industry are the creative blends that our winemakers are producing, with excellent results and great variety,” says Tresner, one of about 120 master sommeliers in the country. “Here are a dozen wines that I’ve tasted that I can recommend, some light-bodied, some fuller-bodied, some enjoyable now and some that will benefit from a few years of cellaring.”

Malvasia Bianca
Caduceus Cellars: Dos Ladrones, Cochise County, 2009
(50% malvasia bianca, 50% chardonnay)
Clean, fresh ripe lemon, balanced acidity, medium body, quite dry with flavors of lemon peel on the lingering finish.

Sand-Reckoner Vineyards: Malvasia Bianca, Cochise County, 2010
(100% malvasia bianca)
Green tints highlight this pale straw wine with aromas of wildflowers, arugula, menthol and lemon. There is a round texture here with finishing flavors of peaches, honey and apricots. Moderately dry.

Viognier
Callaghan Vineyards: Lisa’s, Sonoita, 2009
(viognier, riesling, malvasia bianca, roussanne, marsanne)
A bright straw color. Round, balanced, with a touch of herb oil, green melon, and white peach. Lingering fruit on the light, crisp finish.

Page Springs Cellars: La Serrana, Cochise County, 2010
(50% viognier, 50% roussanne)
Medium body, ripe melon, hints of crème brûlée toasted sugar, and tangy lemon, while finishing crisp and dry.

White Blend
Pillsbury Wine Company: Wild Child White, Cochise County, 2009
(pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, malvasia, muscat, roussanne)
Fresh, light, dry, smooth, complex aromatics mixed with skin tannin for body with balanced acidity, alcohol and flavors. Many green notes reminiscent of chrysanthemum and dandelion, wildflower honey aromas and lemon flavors – lemon oil for a smooth body and tart lemon for the finish.

Rosé
Arizona Stronghold: Dayden, Graham County, 2010
(89% zinfandel, 9% sangiovese, 2% petite sirah)
Light raspberry color and flavor, with cherry, strawberry and pleasant beeswax aromas. Zesty and dry with the red fruits returning on the finish.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Arizona Stronghold: Lozen, Verde Valley, 2010
(35% cabernet sauvignon, 31% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 14% malbec)
Supple oak, ripe black raspberry and currant fruit. Medium body and a very good marriage of flavors. Dry. Needs cellaring but will taste great now with mesquite-grilled meats.

Caduceus Cellars: Nagual de la Naga, Cochise County, 2010
(46% cabernet sauvignon, 23% merlot,
23% sangiovese, 8% tempranillo)
Youthful with red berry and currant aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, dry with balanced acidity. Delicious now after aeration but will cellar well.

Red Blend
Sand-Reckoner Vineyards: “2,” Cochise County, 2010
(70% sangiovese, 30% syrah)
Dry, medium body with some bitter cherry, tobacco, and tilled earth aromas. The tannins will need some cellaring to soften, but it’s enjoyable now after decanting as a contrast to a ripe tomato and pepperoncini sauce with pasta.

Dos Cabezas Wineworks: El Campo, Elgin, 2009
(mostly mourvèdre, tempranillo, with petit verdot, grenache, syrah, aglianico
and roussanne)
Dark cherry and currant, earth, tobacco and chocolate aromas with a medium texture. Smooth, balanced acidity, very flavorful now after breathing, with sweet cherries on the finish.

Rhône Red Blend
Page Springs Cellars: SGMp, Arizona, 2010
(47% syrah, 13% grenache, 31% mourvèdre, 9% petite sirah)
Medium to full body, dark cherry with strong aromas. Young with chewy tannins.
I would like this after several years of bottle age.

Arizona Stronghold: Nachise,
Cochise County, 2010
(47% syrah, 19% grenache, 15% mourvèdre, 14% petite sirah, 5% counoise)
Black fruits and a touch of earth, smoke and tobacco aromatics. On the light side of medium body, balanced acidity, mild tannins and some blackberry flavor at the finish.

 

 

phm1012 wn11 lgEric Glomski
Page Springs Cellars


How did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?
I’m writing a book right now and it’s largely about one of my mentors. He was on battleships in Korea, he’s a gourmand, he’s a weaver, and he hangs out by himself in Prescott. I was teaching at Prescott College, and one day I’m walking through the parking lot, and this little elf-like guy comes up to me and he has the most beautiful apple in his hand. He goes, “You’re Eric Glomski, right?” And I said, “Yup.” And he says, “I’m Dick Landis, try this.” So I bit into this apple, and it was the most amazing apple I’ve ever had in my life. As I got to know him, I started trying wines he was making from fruits. Meanwhile, I got a research project to describe the condition of rivers in Prescott National Forest, and I would come across old heirloom apple trees, so I started backpacking out apples and we’d make wines out of them. The moment I became a winemaker, I had made a wine from apples from this orchard near Prescott in upper Granite Creek. I remember vividly closing my eyes and putting my nose in the glass, and it transported me back to that place. It wasn’t just those apples. I could smell the decaying leaves on the ground, there was this little brook babbling by, there were these ponderosas, which smell like butterscotch at certain times when the sun shines on them. And I realized that wines are artistic expressions of landscape. They are liquid landscapes. Monet paints a landscape, you look at it and you get a feel for what that place is like. Well, I make wines, and I hope people will get to the point that we can see that these wines really do express these places. That’s what that apple wine did for me, and after that, I was possessed.

How does Arizona’s terroir affect the taste of the wine?
Arizona is a place of contrast for me. So when I taste our wines, there’s kind of that schism or disparity between the day and the night. There’s a lot of complexity. I think our wines force you to think a little and pay attention. They’re a little elusive.

What’s next for Page Springs Cellars?
I’m aging wine in Arizona oak. I’m hoping to start a little industry and supply Arizona wineries with Arizona oak. It always struck me as odd that I’m bringing in barrels from France. They’re great barrels, just like the grapes I bring from California are great, but does that really connect me and speak to my soul? Imagine now if I could say, “Hey, try this. If you go over to this forest, you can see these oaks.” To me, that’s just profound.
—Interviewed by Keridwen Cornelius

 

phm1012 wn12 lgArizona's Terroir
[ter-wahr]


Translating roughly as “of the soil,” terroir is invoked by wine enthusiasts to express the special flavor and texture characteristics that geography, geology and climate impart on wine. (As in: “This sangiovese really reeks of Tuscan terroir.”) 

With its clay-like, loamy soil and “great drainage,” Arizona wine country offers an excellent facsimile of the terroir in Spain, according to Arizona Stronghold Vineyards winemaker Tim White: “Spanish varietals like tempranillo are starting to do really well here.” Other insiders liken Arizona wine country to the Rhône region in southern France. Rhône-style grapes – syrah, petite sirah, mourvèdre and grenache, to name a few – account for the majority of Arizona’s most acclaimed wines. 

Terroir is not absolute. It can change from vineyard to vineyard – a concept known as “micro-terroir.” However, White and Arizona Stronghold vigneron Maynard James Keenan isolated several flavor components as distinctly Arizonan: “Toasted aromatic herbs and dried spice... roasty characteristics.”

Though uninitiated folk associate Arizona terroir with extreme heat and aridness, often the opposite is true. “We actually get a lot of late-season frost and monsoon rains in the high desert,” White says. “We also have extreme diurnal temperature shifts from day to night – about 50 degrees.” These climatic vagaries can be a deal-breaker. When Arizona’s wine industry was getting underway in the ’80s and ’90s, several neophyte winemakers dabbled in pinot noir – a grape mastered in the Burgundy region of France, where it adapted to brisk, chilly winds and Burgundy’s comparatively well-irrigated soil. Needless to say, most pinot noir plantings failed miserably here. In short, the terroir was wrong.

Terroir as a winemaking philosophy is hotly debated, as techniques such as oaking and chaptalization (adding sugar) can all but erase terroir nuances. That’s why White prefers neutral oak and natural methods: “It should be just a little nudge here and there. You want the grape to speak loudest of all.”



phm1012 wn14 lgKief Manning
Kief-Joshua Vineyards
Sonoita


It’s almost time for “bird tape.” Kief Manning saunters down a grassy knoll between rows of leafy vines, glancing up at the occasional feathered forager eying his pubescent pinot noir crops. The tape, he explains, is a long, red and silver paper flag he’ll tie to the vine posts. When the flags flail in the wind, they scare the birds off. This breezy version of a scarecrow is “surprisingly relatively effective,” he says. And so is Manning’s airy management style.

At 29, Manning has the easygoing demeanor of a retiree indulging a lifelong hobby. Though he has a formal education in the finer points of biodynamic winemaking from the University of Melbourne in Australia – where he earned an undergraduate degree in wine technology and marketing, and a master’s degree in oenology and viticulture – the Scottsdale-raised vintner repeatedly says, “I’m not in this to make money.”

The prices in his tasting room at Kief-Joshua Vineyards in Elgin reflect that: six tastings in a souvenir glass for five bucks. Bottles generally run $22 to $30. Watching Manning pour zinfandel in his T-shirt, shorts, and baseball cap, smiling between his auburn pork chop sideburns while an old basset hound named Jerry snoozes at his feet, you get the sense that this 60-acre, three-person operation (Manning, mom and dad) is really just a way to make a living crafting and drinking wine at home (he lives upstairs) and hanging out with people who share his passion.

But the work’s not easy. The vineyard produces around 2,800 cases of wine every year and grows 10 different varietals; at harvest time, Manning gets up at 3 a.m. to start hand-picking everything before the sun warms the fruit, which could affect flavor. And since he subscribes to sustainable farming, he takes no shortcuts. He shuns herbicides because they can kill bacteria in the soil that help recycle organic nutrients. He also set up several rain wells throughout the vineyards to collect and deliver water to the vines. “So we have to irrigate as little as possible,” he says.

Manning’s only regret is that, economically, he can’t afford to age his wines longer than two years before putting them on the market. “Most of our wines will age nicely, especially our reds,” he says. “We haven’t had anything go over the hill.”
—Niki D’Andrea

In the Tasting Room at Kief-Joshua Vineyards
2010 chardonnay: A light white with aromas and flavors of oak and lemon
2010 viognier: A honeysuckle-scented white with a citrus palate
2011 pinot gris: A crisp white with tones of orange, peach and pear
2011 chenin blanc: A rosy-nosed white with hints of melon
2010 pinot noir: A slightly peppery red rich with cherry and tomato leaf flavor
2009 Magdalena: A subtly earthy red blend of barbera and cabernet franc