The Roosevelt Row location of Keith Shanks and Patty Gii’s Uptown Phoenix wine bar Rott n’ Grapes is a dreamy urban bistro: cool exposed brick walls, antique-y mirrors, non-cheesy wine bottle displays, chic low-top tables and chairs abutting plush magenta seating running the length of the restaurant, an open-window bar, a second-story loft and even a subterranean “speakeasy.” Fleetwood Mac, The Mamas and the Papas, Wings and Billy Joel play on the sound system. It feels comfortable and casually sophisticated – nice, but not so nice that you feel like a hobo who’s wandered into an episode of Frasier. Similarly, the staff is knowledgeable, but casual. They’ll geek out about barrel fermentation and appellations with you if you want, but if you just want “something white that isn’t Chardonnay,” they’ll deliver a great recommendation sans snobbery. The clientele is also pretty chill: urban professionals winding down after a hard day of work Downtown, a few couples on first dates, some regulars haunting the bar.
Shanks and Gii have given chef Christopher Newstrom pretty much free rein with the menu, which skews Italian with pizza, panini and pasta dishes. During my visit, a woman at a nearby table raves about the pizza to our server. “This is like the pizza I grew up with in Illinois,” she says. “I have to bring my parents here and show them that they have good pizza in Phoenix.” Try it yourself on Mondays and Tuesdays, when you can take advantage of the Beerizza special (a pitcher of beer and a pizza for $25) or the Bottle-Schetta special (a bottle of wine and bruschetta for $25) all day. On Wednesdays, there’s W.O.W. (Wacked Out Wednesday), where you get two specialty entrées and two drinks (wine, beer or cocktails) for $49. Food isn’t discounted for happy hour, but you can make a snacky spread of bruschetta (four for $15) and veggie starters ($9-$11). At my media tasting, I devour the a bruschetta board; Brussels sprouts with smoked bacon, grana Padano and sweet onion agrodolce; and the whole roasted cauliflower with paprika and a trio of sauces (romesco, eggplant purée, Controne pepper), a steak knife planted menacingly/hilariously in the head of cauliflower like The Sword in the Stone.
You’re here to drink, and that’s good, because that’s what is discounted during happy hour. From open-6:30 p.m., you get $2 off all drinks on the menu – beer, wine and cocktails. Our server, Parker, recommends a lovely Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc ($8 during happy hour) from the Marlborough wine region of New Zealand. It’s a tropical waterfall of flavors – passionfruit, guava, lime, lemon and melon cascade over each other through the finish. I sample two lovely cocktails, the wonderfully named Giggle Water (tequila, Tio Pepe Sherry Fino, fresh lime, simple syrup, cucumber and sparkling rosé) and the Flower Garden (gin, Italicus, Lillet Rose and orange). Finally, I pick up a bottle of Cavicchioli 1928 Lambrusco from the grab-and-go refrigerated case – stocked with a dazzling array of craft beers, ciders and wines – because bottles to go are $10 off. I’ll take a $15 bottle of sparkling red any day.
THE INSIDER SECRET
The events! Monday is trivia night and every other Wednesday there’s live comedy, along with the aforementioned specials. Both Rott n’ Grapes locations host monthly wine tastings with complimentary hors d’oeuvres. The speakeasy is fun and cool – literally, since it feels about 20 degrees cooler down there. I foresee it being packed during the summer. Another way to feel like an insider: Join the Rott n’ Grapes wine club and get monthly bottles, wine tastings and discounts (varying memberships; range from $40/month to $75/month).
Happy hour runs from open-6:30 p.m.