Best of the Valley 2022 Spotlight on Beer, Wine & Bars

Editorial StaffJuly 2, 2022
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Best Wine Cellar 

Wrigley Mansion

When COVID walloped the restaurant industry in 2020, most buying managers pulled back the reins. Not Wrigley Mansion wine wrangler Paola Embry. With the blessing of Wrigley owner Jamie Hormel, Embry sought to double the property’s already massive wine inventory, reasoning they would get bargains and support struggling businesses in the process. Embry bought from small distributors and wineries everywhere, amassing roughly 18,000 bottles and giving Wrigley the biggest, most diverse wine cellar in the state.

The cellar is a triumph of imagination for Embry, who got her start buying wine for star chef Christopher Gross in the early ’90s. Upon joining Wrigley in 2010, her first initiative was moving the wine collection – only 450 bottles at the time – from a hot, doorless kitchen pantry to a larger room originally purposed as servants’ quarters. Over the years, she nurtured and transformed the space into the soothing, library-like retreat it is today, with custom-built wine bins and a wooden standing table for intimate wine tastings. With the opening of Gross’ eponymous restaurant at Wrigley in 2021, the cellar is enjoying a new swell of notoriety, and not just for the pairing options it offers diners. Kept at 48 blessed degrees, it might be the Valley’s premier summertime chill-out spot.

2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix, 602-955-4079, wrigleymansion.com

Best Gay Bar

Charlie’s

For nearly 40 years, DJs have spun awesome tracks in the Valley’s largest gay bar, featuring go-go dancers and a bevy of drag queens hosting events. Sinful Studs (5:30 p.m. Sundays) is wild fun, and tacos and “2-4-1” drinks enliven Thursdays.

727 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-265-0224, charliesphoenix.com

Best Wine Club

Postino Wine Cult

When you join the Postino Wine Cult, you’ll receive four bottles of wine each quarter hand-picked by Postino’s beverage director and advanced sommelier Brent Karlicek. Join the cult, pick up your box at Postino and take advantage of member perks like 20 percent off the wine café’s bottle collection to go and educational materials about each wine. $220 annual fee. postinowinecult.com

Best Brewery Cuisine

Superstition Downtown

Named a Top 100 brewer in the world by RateBeer.com, Prescott-based Superstition Meadery is such a shoe-in for “Best Mead” we blush bringing it up. It’s less-obvious claim to fame: a dining program built around wood-fired meats and globally inspired small bites that’s faintingly good. And that’s not just the mead talking.

1110 Washington St., Phoenix, 602-368-3257, superstitionmeadery.com

Best Amaro Selection

Virtù Honest Craft

Chef-owner Gio Osso credits his barkeeps Fernando Bambaren and Jeremy Key for curating Virtù’s awesome collection of 160-plus amari, including many apéritif styles and 18 different fernet brands. Sitting at the bar for post-prandial sipping and listening to these walking encyclopedias expound on the subject is a treat.

3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-946-3477, virtuhonestcraft.com

Best Use of Local Citrus

Huss Brewing Co. CenPho Citrus IPA

Every year, Huss brewers put out a call to residents in Windsor Square and other neighborhoods in Central Phoenix, asking locals to donate their backyard lemons, limes and grapefruit, all of which go into the hyper-local CenPho IPA. Available on draft only at the Uptown taproom. 100 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-441-4677, hussbrewing.com

Photo courtesy Huss Brewing Co.
Photo courtesy Huss Brewing Co.

Best Way to Drink Wine in Old Town Scottsdale

Scottsdale Wine Trail

If you’re curious about Arizona wines, check out the Scottsdale Wine Trail’s self-guided walking tour. Buy a $5 Scottsdale Wine Trail Passport at any of the five participating wineries and get $2 off a wine tasting at each location. Visit Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Carlson Creek, LDV Winery, Merkin Vineyards and Salvatore Vineyards any time, but Aridus Wine Co. requires a reservation. scottsdalewinetrail.com

Best Dive Bar Food

Cheese Curds at Gracie’s Tax Bar

Hipster dive bars are not necessarily known for their vittles, but Gracie’s Tax Bar – one of the coolest drinking establishments in Phoenix – ain’t your Aunt Betty’s booze hole. Sure, the drinks are cheap, the bar’s long enough to seat a small circus, and the place doesn’t really get poppin’ till midnight. But when it comes to comestibles, how can you beat the coronary-challenging greasy goodness of fried cheese curds? Cheese curds are a Wisconsin treat that are bad enough for you without any prep. But served sizzling from the fryer and washed back by a chilly Miller High Life? Crikey, that’s curd heaven, son. 711 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-366-011, graciesphx.com

Photo courtesy Gracie's Tax Bar
Photo courtesy Gracie's Tax Bar

Best New Wineshop

Spin the Bottle

As a former wine buyer for Whole Foods, Mahfam Moeeni Alarcon knows a thing or two about vino. So, it made sense when she expanded Mingle + Graze, the downtown Chandler cheese shop/café she runs with husband Cristobal Alarcon, to include a micro-wine shop. Find natural wines, obscure global picks and Arizona vintages, starting at $14 a bottle. 48 S. San Marcos Pl., Chandler, 480-726-2264, spinthebottleaz.com

Best Spot to Wait for a Table at Glai Baan

Rewined Beer and Wine Bar

We’ll happily wait an hour to dine at Glai Baan, but we don’t always want to hover awkwardly by the door. Thank goodness the restaurant struck up a friendly symbiosis with the bar around the corner. Put your name in at Glai, then walk to Rewined for a drink. The host at Glai Baan will phone Rewined when your table is ready. 3308 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-429-9660, rewinedbeerandwinebar.com

Best Brewery

Simple Machine Brewing Co.

Not a lot of bells and/or whistles in this clean, pseudo-industrial taproom/production hybrid, and the patio appeal in its North Phoenix neighborhood is scant. But it does have one, monstrously persuasive virtue: the beer. Once aligned with Borderlands Brewing in Tucson, the brewers are stars in the making, so drive to Deer Valley and discover them before the rest of America does. 701 W. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, 623-469-9199, simplemachinebrewing.com

BEST HIDDEN BAR

Rough Rider
1001 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-675-0439, roughrideraz.com

  • An alley-side, glass-walled entrance to a Roosevelt Row office tower is actually the portal to this swanky resto.
  • Then there’s the security guard. Smile and nod as you *confidently* stride by.
  • Now. Three elevators. Which one will ferry you to your downstairs destination? (We’ll skip the suspense, it’s the middle one.)

Bar 1912
4130 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-612-2961, 1912phx.com

  • This secret watering hole earns cred for being a true hideaway thanks to its snug location behind the restaurant kitchen of Valentine.
  • Easy(ish) entrance: Slip through the nondescript side door on the north side of the parking lot.
  • Trickier entrance: During dinner at Valentine, schmooze your server into acting as your personal escort – behind the counter, down a hallway and through a narrow doorway to emerge into the moody, low-lit lounge.