The Wild Vine Uncorked
The wild, wide-open spaces of far-flung Chandler Heights are reflected in the spaciousness of this wine bar, which is also a tapas bar. Unlike at many wine bars, you can eat heartily here – entrees ranging from grilled rib-eye to sea bass to pasta are available. But in the spirit of wine bar grub, I stuck with the finger foods. From the tapas menu, the three Angus beef sliders ($13) – roughly adding up, in volume, to a whole regular-size burger – were entirely serviceable but not spectacular. Far more intriguing was the choice of four varieties of bruschetta ($12). I went with Puerco (chorizo with a fruity corn relish and cheese), the Mediterranean (hummus, artichoke, olives, etc.), the Verde (asparagus, pesto, pine nuts, cheese) and – maybe best of all – the fig and prosciutto, a pretty high-class take on bread and jam.
Must try: The jammy, blackberry profile of the Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva 2013 from Chile is ideal for washing down burgers and bruschetta.
4920 S. Gilbert Rd., Chandler, 480-883-3492, thewildvineuncorked.com
No false advertising here: This wine shop is right on Central Avenue, across the sidewalk from The Clever Koi, just south of George & Dragon. Despite the location, it’s not Grand Central Station; the lounge is a peaceful haven from bustle. There are no booths and the tables are low, so it’s more like being in a living room than a restaurant – great for chatting with a friend; less amenable for reading or computer work solo. The food menu is short and nibbly, but unless you’re in a buffet sort of mood, the meat and cheese board ($16) won’t leave you hungry, even if you share it. The members of the board vary from week to week, but on any given visit you could enjoy cold cuts ranging from mustard-seed salami to Spanish chorizo to bison salami, served alongside goat cheese or sheep’s milk cheese or a spicy cow’s milk cheese, with crusty toasted Noble Bread or crackers, whole grain mustard, sour cherry spread, nuts and yummy candied kiwis. Adding candied jalapeños or chutney spread costs an extra buck apiece; I recommend the $2 investment.
Must try: Was the Broadside Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 specifically designed to pair with bison salami and candied kiwis? Perhaps not, but it tastes like it was.
4236 N. Central Ave., Ste 101, 602-812-7343, centralwinephx.com
We Olive & Wine Bar
As you’ll notice from the name, even wine is second-billed to the olives and artisanal olive oil and vinegar that are peddled at the only Arizona location of this California-based franchise. I was given a tasting selection of the impressive oils while I waited for my food. Said food was a charcuterie board ($20), including uncured fermented Italian salami and a dark, crimson-brown, iron-tinged duck salami. Fruits on the plate include figs and Peppadews, spicy, invigorating pickled peppers from South Africa, while the dairy group is represented by some knockout cheeses, including Holey Cow, a Cali variation on Swiss, Italian Bianchina and Vintage Grand Ewe from Holland, aged more than a year.
Must try: A white, the Tangent Edna Valley Albariño 2014, cleanly offsets the salty and sweet flavors of the charcuterie board.
1721 N. Dysart Rd., Avondale, 623-207-1216, weolive.com
Scapegoat Beer and Wine
The food menu at a wine bar is perhaps a little like the plot in a Fred Astaire movie: It serves a purpose, gives some structure to the experience, but it’s a supporting player. Still, the cheese and meat boards and little sandwiches ought to be tempting, even if you’re a teetotaler. The goodies at this sleek Scottsdale nook, identified on the menu simply as “Bites,” certainly fit the description – especially the Croque Monsieur ($11), so scarfable with its blankets of béchamel and luscious Gruyère, it hardly needs the ham. Also worth the stomach space is the gougére, a cheese-filled pastry with a side of Romesco sauce ($7). Neat stacks of Jenga blocks decorate some of the tables, but nobody attempted a game while I was there; it seemed a rather nerve-jangling pastime for a wine bar. But if your stack fell, you could always blame it on the titular mammal, a cheeky metal sculpture of a goat’s head that gazes down from the wall.
Must try: My server suggested a Sean Minor Sonoma Pinot Noir to pair with my cheesy choices.
7150 E. Fifth Ave., Ste. 100, Scottsdale,
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