Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some thoughts on organic wines...


Organic wines have been available for quite some time and it's only recently that people have become more aware of them. Organic wines need to be certified "organic" by USDA to be labeled organic. Organic in a nutshell means that the grapes used are not treated with pesticides, fertilizers. 100% Organic means " that all grapes used are certified organic & no sulfites added". Organic means "95% of ingredients are certified organic & may a little sufites added". Made with organic grapes means "at least 70% of grapes are certified organic & may contain sulfites". Some organic wines are even vegan. Organic is not be confused with Eco friendly(although most organic producers are) or sustainable. Eco friendly can be used when using recycled glass for bottle, paper for labels, no run off into streams that may hurt environment & solar power. Most retailers have organic wines but Whole Foods seems to have the best selection. Some names to look for when buying organic wines.....

Organic Vinters (Vegan)

Badger Mountain

Stellar Organics (Vegan)

Nuevo Mondo

Vida Organica

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wines for the Holiday Season

As the holiday season starts one of the hardest decisions people are going to make is "What wine should we drink with.....". This post will give you a quick ides of what to look for at your favorite wine retailer.

Pinot Noirs is a versatile grape that will go well with turkey, ham and and all the fixings. Oregon, California or the Burgundy region of France are the ones to look for. You'll want a well balanced Pinot that can stand up to all you will be enjoying them with. Expect to pay about $20 for a good, solid Pinot Noir.

Beaujolais is another red wine that works well with holiday meals. Made from the Gamay grape from the Burgundy region of France, Beaujolais is lighter and fruitier than Pinot Noir. Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the 3rd Thursday of November and is from the most recent harvest and is a celebration of the harvest. Beaujolais should run less than $20 and Nouveau should be less than $12.

For the white wine drinkers at the table a Riesling works well. A Riesling from Australia, California or Germany would drink well. The crisp acidity & the mild fruit offer a great combination and should compliment your meal. Again find one that is well balanced. You can find a good Riesling for less than $18

Monday, November 8, 2010

Robert Craig Winery

Robert Craig has been in the wine industry for over three decades having been General Manager of Hess Collection Winery and helping to emphasis the the unique qualities that mountain fruit can have when making wine. Mountain fruit is better structured, concentrated than valley fruit & can age better. He's helped develop hundreds of acres on Mt. Veeder & when he started his own winery in 1992 he wanted to use fruit from both Mt. Veeder in southern Napa Valley & Howell Mtn. further north and across the valley. He also makes a limited wine from Spring Mountain. Known for their big style Cabernet Sauvignons Robert Craig Winery has garnered not only some great press over the years, but also a cult like following. I had the chance to see Robert once again when he was in town and taste some recent releases. I also had a chance to chat with him and he is looking forward to the 2010 vintage and says production could be lower than previous vintages.

Here is what I tasted with Robert and my thoughts....

The 2009 Durell Vyd. Chardonnay Sonoma Valley was just released and I was one of the 1st people to taste it. Lively and soft I found it very well balanced with good fruit, oak & mineral characters. Only 588 cases produced.

The 2007 Howell Mtn. Cabernet Sauvignon had big tannins, a good fruit character and nice long finish. Built to last (like all his Cabs.) this shows the depth of how mountain(2,300 ft up) fruit differs from valley fruit. He recommends decanting. 1,488 cases produced.

The 2007 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon has softer tannins, bigger concentration of fruit combined with good acidity and see's almost 2 years in french oak barrels. One of his most age worthy wines and patience will be rewarded. 1,480 cases produced.

The 2008 Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon is considered by many to be his flagship wine. A Bordeaux blend of mostly Cabernet, followed by Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Malbec offers some unique flavors thanks to the mix of grapes and changes from year to year. Currants and spice are prevalent along with a medium body make the 4,780 cases produced always a winner with the consumer and the press.

He also makes small amounts of Zinfandel and a Mt. George Cuvee. His wines are not found everywhere, but they're well worth the search. So next time you're looking for a big Napa Valley Cabernet or if you're a collector Robert Craig wines needs to be in your collection. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse's Memorable Meal for 2 & Fall Prix Fixe Menu

I recently had the pleasure of joining about 12 other lucky souls who had the chance to taste 2 of Fleming's Steakhouse new programs and their new release of their own wine 46 Diamonds. We were hosted by Scottsdale's Operating Partner Michael Head who guided us through our experience. Here is what Flemings has to offer.

We were greeted with a new cocktail just in time for the holidays The Merry Maker's is made with Maker's Mark bourbon and Chambord then shaken with orange, pomegranate & cranberry juices. Quite a tasty cocktail and as one guest said "I don't like bourbon, but I really like this".

We then proceeded to sample the Fall Prix Fixe menu which consists of
Your choice of Oysters Rockefeller or Autumn Salad for appetizer then for an entree your choice of Veal Osso Bucco or Cioppino. For dessert you get a slice of Dark Chocolate Cheesecake. All were very good and everybody enjoyed what was tasted so far. I really enjoyed the Oysters Rockefeller. The Prix Fixe menu costs $39.95 per person and runs through Jan. 3 2011.

We then moved on to The Memorable Meal for Two which is The Cellar Master's Filet & Maine Lobster Tail. You start with a Caesar Salad with a King Crab Crostini followed by Filet Mignon & Maine Lobster Tail and a side of Maple roasted baby carrots. For dessert you're served Carrot Cake with Dark Rum Caramel. I'm not a big carrot cake fan, but this may have changed my mind. All for $99 for 2 dinners. This runs through Dec. 15 2010 so hurry and reserve this soon.

We were also treated to the new release of Fleming's own wine Forty Six 46 Diamonds. This years bottling is a collaboration with Fleming's Director of Wine Marian Jansen op de Haar & Schug winery team of Sonoma County. This Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot & Malbec from very reputable vineyards in the Sonoma Valley.It is medium bodied with with good tannins and fruit and showed a very elegant, long finish. A nice compliment to any meal you may be enjoying. Only 388 cases were made of this and can be had by the glass for $16.50 or $65 for a bottle.

Make reservations soon for these limited time specials and even more limited wine.
There are 4 Phoenix are locations and several more throughout the country. 905 North 54th Street, Chandler, AZ 85226 480-940-1900
20753 North Pima Road, North Scottsdale, AZ 85255 480-538-8000
9712 West Northern Avenue, Peoria, AZ 85345 623-772-9463
6333 North Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85250 480-596-8265

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Where I've been, what I've seen & what I've heard.......

Where I've been...
- Seasons 52, new at Biltmore Fashion Park featuring a seasonal menu of nothing over 425 calories. Great wine list.
- The River Palm Steakhouse in Edgewater N.J. great steaks and seafood frequented by many VIPs in NY/NJ area. Considered one of the best in the area.
-The Local in Saratoga Springs N.Y. some tasty English pub grub in small town upstate N.Y. They do a great Sunday brunch too!
- Amura Sushi in Orlando Fla.(Sand Lake Rd.) surrounded by chain restaurants this place is a favorite among locals. go next door for a pre or post meal cigar.
- Sushi & Thai Cafe in Boca Raton Fla. 1 of 4 locations in area w/ extensive menu for Thai and sushi. great for the vegans in your life. always a must for me when in the area.
- Via Della Pace in NYC's east Village. Homemade pasta is the specialty.
-Maialino in NYC's in Gramercy Park Hotel. Authentic Italian restaurant that was hoping on a Mon. in Sept. interesting Italian wine list too.
-The Upper Deck @ Boston's on the beach in Delray Beach Fla. Good lobstah bisque and broiled lobstah. Sports bar downstairs do good bar food.
-La Grande Orange's Cubano sandwich is really good.
- Bobby' Burger Palace in Paramus N.J. Bobby Flay's quick casual burger joint. Only a few out there so far. Good burgers at reasonable prices. Please come to Phx.
-Ronnie's Hot Bagels & Cafe in Hillsdale N.J. one of the best Italian sandwiches I've had in a while.
-Wandering Horse Buffet @ Casino Az.'s Talking Stick Resort. One of the best deals around for lunch buffet($12.95)
- Tweetups at Switch located on Central & Virginia in Phx. and the new location of Los Taquitos, a family owned Mexican taco's, burritos and margaritas featured on The Food Networks "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" Original location at 48th st& Elliot in Phx. and the new one at 16th st. & Glendale in Phx.
- To many burgers to mention. See reviews.

What I've seen...
-R.E.D w/ Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman & John Malkovich. Retired CIA agents coming out of retirement who are up to some old tricks to catch some bad guys. Entertaining.
-Harrison Montgomery w/ Martin Landau about the goings on in apartment building in SF's Tenderloin district. Very limited release. Gotta search for this one.
- Stone w/ Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton & Milla Jovonovich. retiring prison counselor(DeNiro) debating to parole prisoner(Norton) and being influenced by prisoners wife(Jovonovich). Good performances, a tad bit slow drama.

What I hear.....
-Justin Becketts new Becketts Table opened last night and the Twitteratti seems to like it.
-Oregano's relocating old town Scottsdale location to the old SugarDaddy's down the street in near future.
-As Tweeted a while back Patsy Grimaldis's is opening a burger joint called "Coal Burger" at Scottsdale Quarter.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Change of seasons & change in your wine?

Does the change in color of the leaves and temperatures mean you should be changing your wine preferences? I've never entirely believed in that rule, as there really are no rules with wine drinking. "Drink what you like, when you like is" my motto and as the holidays approach & temps. take a dive is it time to start drinking big reds & put away the whites wine? No I say. I've always keep an open mind to wine drinking(and so should you!) but if I drink wine I usually will let the food dictate my wine selection, not the weather. People usually think of pinot noirs as a common pairing for holiday fixings, but a riesling from Australia or Alsace will compliment the meal also. Why wait for New Years Eve for the bubbles, the cool, crisp bubbles still taste really good watching the kids trick or treating on Halloween. What goes better with apple or pumpkin pie, than a late harvest riesling or dessert wine. So as we change seasons twice a year, don't feel as if you have to change your drinking habits or play "by the rules". Remember the motto "Drink what you like, when you like"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the set of "Sedona....The Motion Picture"

As I've delve into the wonderful world of film making I am finding new experiences and new things to learn around almost every corner. Having only a zero budget film(Love(less)) under my belt and 1 or 2 others in development, I've been curious to get on a set of a big budget feature film. I had that opportunity in late July for 2 days as I was invited on the set of "Sedona.. The Motion Picture" starring Frances Fisher, Christopher Atkins, Beth Grant, Barry Corbin & Seth Peterson.Just because these people are cast in the film does not mean they are always on set at the same time. During a 5 or 6 week shoot some actors may appear for a day or 2 depending upon the length of their scenes and schedule. Having met Tracey, one of the producers, we planned on me shadowing producer/1st asst. director Jeremy.
Most people think movie sets are like what they may see on "Entourage" big spread of food, trailers of actors and actress's,etc.,etc. What really happens on a set is nothing less than controlled chaos. Especially when you are dealing with a public street that has everyday traffic moving through, pedestrians and tourists looking on in uptown Sedona. If you're lucky you can have the street closed during off hours.If it's a private setting you may have to deal with un-cooperative weather, talent that may want to have it done there way, etc.,etc. Not that you can't have these same difficulties in a more public setting as well. What I saw was a very talented cast and crew dealing with those issues and then some. Like waiting for the clouds to provide shade for a scene, setting up different scenes w/ the camera, actors rehearsing and several different takes until the director see's what he likes. Many people running around contributing to their given responsibilities and in an effort to make each days scenes be filmed just right. Most days on set can be 12-14 hour days. It was just a peek of what's to come in my aspiring movie career. Thanks to Tracey and cast and crew for allowing me to join them for a couple of days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cornish Pasty Co.

In a town that's is full of sushi bars, pizzerias, burger joints and Mexican food it's refreshing to find some uniqueness every now and then. And when I say unique I don't mean expensive, chef driven uber cuisine. In this case I'm thinking of something that dates back to 1200s and from southwest England, Cornwall to be exact. I'm thinking of Cornish Pasty Co. w/ locations in Tempe and Mesa. Pastys are dough that is stuffed with meats, cheese & vegetables that are then folded and crimped closed and baked. Think English version of a calzone, but not as big. They were made by the wives, mothers and daughters of men sent into the tin mines of SW England. They are made with traditional ingredients of steak, potato, onions and rutabaga(Swede). At Cornish Pasty they make The Oggie($6.50) which is the traditional kind and 36 other signature,premium and vegetarian pastys. No pasty is more than $9.00 there are some unique fillings including The Lamb Vindaloo if you're looking for a curry and spicy taste or how about one of the newer pastys The Royale with Cheese($7.50). Hamburger meat w/ French fries, grilled onions, mushrooms, bacon and a cheddar Swiss blend. Being that we are a lot closer to Mexico than England There is also The Mexican($8.00) & Carne Adovada($8.50). Can't find a good Reuben in Mesa, there is one menu sans the rye bread for $8.00. For those that are watching their carb intake Cornish Pasty has 6 salads to choose from all at or under $8 unless you add chicken, lamb or salmon. 4 soups made from scratch are available served with homemade bread & butter. They also have 12 sides including Mushy peas($2.25), British style oven chips($2.25) potato chips baked and seasoned with cracked pepper and sea salt are just to name a couple. If you have a sweet tooth and can find some room there are 6 desserts available. Banoffee Pie($5.00) sounds delicious w/ its graham cracker crust,caramel, whipped cream and banana. As does Shirley Temples Pudding($6.00) which is a sticky toffee pudding w/ cream anglaise. Yum!! Several wine and beers are available and are featured as daily specials. We enjoyed our Mickey's malt liquor for $1 or $2. So if you're cruising University Dr. in Tempe and want something different or in the Dobson & Guadalupe area in Mesa stop in for pasty. You'll be glad you did as I was and will continue to be. Tempe location is at 960 W. University(NE of University & Hardy)480-894-6261 and in Mesa at 1941 W. Guadalupe (SE corner of Dobson & Guadalupe)480-838-3586.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Thoughts on "The Other Guys"

I wasn't sure what to think before seeing "The Other Guys" the other night, but the pairing of Mark Wahlberg & Will Ferrell had me wondering how an action/ drama guy like Wahlberg would play with Ferrells kind of humor. It turns out they make quite the pairing. In this cops and robbers film where Gamble(Ferrell), a forensic accountant turned cop who does'nt want to leave his desk and computer gets paired with street smart, gun toting Hoitz(Wahlberg) who gets desk duty for an accidental shooting. As Hoitz gets his itch to get back on the street, 2 hot shot cops(Samuel L. Jackson & Dwayne Johnson) meet an untimely death. With there opening to get back on the street and some persuading by Hoitz they decide to track some Wall St. fraud. Not to mention 2 other very competitve cops who are always trying to beat them to the punch. The two opposites decide to bond over dinner at Gambles house and meet his wife Dr. Sheila Gamble(Eve Mendes). Throughout the movie Hoitz is always wondering how Gamble married such a beautiful woman and has been able to attract other beautiful women since college. That pulls back another layer as Hoitzs alter ego from his college days makes a re-appearance and helps in the partner bonding. Throw in some Chechen rebels and angry Nigerian investors you've got a film that's more than the expected comedy. Some typical Ferrell humor comes into play but Wahlberg shows his humorous side by bouncing back the humor. Bring in Michael Keaton as their Captain at work, who moonlights at Bed, Bath & Beyond and you've got a pretty funny movie with a timely story line. Some good chase scenes turns this comedy into a bit of an action film as the guys run the streets of NYC. In the end you should be happy you saw this film as I was as it hits most cylinders. I recommend staying through the credits as there are rolling statistics from the economy's meltdown of the last few years are shown. There is also a blooper from the film at the very end of credits worth watching. 4 corks out of 5.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Batlle of the under $10 Pinot Noirs

As I was cruising the aisles at Trader Joe's last weekend, I found myself looking at some wines and wondering "Russian River pinot noir for $8.99, really". Yes, I know there's a grape glut and the economy has gone south, so grapes and juice can be bought for less than a gallon of milk, but I had to wonder, is it any good? Under normal circumstances(good economy & balance of supply and demand for grapes) conventional wisdom says that pinots noirs under $12 usually aren't very good. Why you ask, well pinot noir grapes are thin skinned and need to be handled w/ care and it's a very finicky grape and a bit harder to turn into wine. Why that is I don't know, ask a winemaker. So a friend and I doubled back and picked up a couple of bottles to see if it we could do a price to quality comparison.

1st wine we tasted was the 06 Mission Point from Central Coast. Probably one of, if not the oldest of pinots on the shelf this pinot seemed like the vines were to young or harvested to early. Stemy and green on the palate, the fruit component was dry and there was to much wood. This wine was out of balance and actually got returned for something else. 1 cork of out 5.

Then we tasted the 08 Hamilton -Stevens Russian River which had a good nose, soft & spicy on the palate, it had good fruit. A well balanced wine and hard to beat for $9.
3 1/2 corks out of 5.

Both wines cost is $8.99. So in the end it's buyer beware, sometimes you do need to spend a bit more for certain quality expectations or if you're looking for a easy drinking $9 they are possible to find, but you may have to taste a few to find them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blind tasting

Recently I had the opportunity to taste some AZ. wines blind with some fellow wine drinkers. What do I mean by blind... well just that. You don't see what you are tasting other than what's in your glass. Bottles are covered up or are not even present. Most wines rated by critics are tasted blind. Why you may ask, well let me tell you. By not knowing what you are tasting is the best way to give a un biased opinion. When one see's a name of a winery, price or review of wine they unconsciously assume they will like it or dislike it. Ever hear "this bottle is $50 so it's got to be good" from a friend or think that since this magazine gave it 92 pts. you will like it. Well you may very well like it, but you will have already made most of your decision whether to like or dislike it and you have not even tasted the wine.
Blind tasting can be very humbling. Wines you have liked before, you may see in a different light, if you don't know what you are tasting until the wine is revealed.
As I tasted 2 whites and 2 red the other evening, I kept going back and forth on each wine. "Is it this or is it that", "it tastes oaky, therefore a chardonnay, right" back and forth, second guessing myself, finally going with my 1st impression and gut instincts.
Usually blind tasting have 1 person who is responsible for covering(bagging) the wines so that know one knows what they are drinking and keeping the wines organized for the reveal. Blind tastings can be fun, you learn a lot about your palate and what actual flavors & styles you like. You may learn you don't really like that jammy, big zin you always go for or you may realize you really do like New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Nowadays there are even darkened wine glass's so you don't know if you're drinking a red or white wine until you taste it.
Have fun with a group of friends, see what you may learn about yourself and your tasting habits. Have a blind tasting, make it fun, enjoy.
I guess you're wondering how I did with the AZ. wines I tasted the other night, well I got 1 out of 4 correct. The 3 I did not get correct were'nt even my 2nd choice.
Like I said, blind tastings can be very humbling!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Usually wine is on the agenda here, but as we are smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer(no coincidence their is a dog on almost every label) an invite to a beer tasting sounded quite refreshing, so I grabbed my pen and pad and texted my drinking partner. It was a great chance to revisit some beers(and try some new ones) that I have not had in a few years, since I sold them around town. We tasted with Lauren, who came to town from San Diego on behalf of Lagunitas at Sportsmans, Phoenix location.
Lagunitas has been around since 1993 and is brewed in Petaluma, Ca.

First up was "Little Sumpin" Sumpin Ale- it's Lagunitas, limited release summer wheat ale. It's a hazy ale made with 50% wheat and offers a hoppy, smooth, profile. Nice finish. 4 bottle tops out of 5.

Next up came the "Hop Stoopid" Ale(22oz.), a big hop and malt style, a bitter flavor and richness that includes 7 different hops with 1 being extracted. Very aromatic on the nose. 3 1/2 bottle tops out of 5.

We then went on to the "Lucky 13 Mondo Large" Red Ale which is Lagunitas 13th anniversary brew, that gets made every years because it's a staff fave. Using darker malts 13 has a smoky, big flavor. 4 bottle tops out of 5.

The finally was the "Maximus" IPA(22oz.)which is bigger style which includes more hops, more alcohol and more body. For those who like their IPAs with a spicier, fuller bodied taste this is the one. 3 1/2 bottle tops out of 5.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana is molto bene(very good)!!

Every so often a restaurant comes along that's all the rage. Usually it has a celebrity chef in the kitchen, some unique concept or cuisine or delicacies. They tend to be trends for a year or two until the next one comes along. Rarely is all the rage about something simple say.... pizza. Yes, pizza. Dough, tomato, cheese & sometimes toppings. Phoenix has a lot of really good pizza establishments, some award winning and some just really good. Most have their claim to fame of wood burning oven, coal burning oven, ingredients direct from Italy, locally grown ingredients, etc, etc.

Along comes Pomo the most recent entry into the Phoenix pizza scene. It was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who does not like pizza because he remembers his days studying in Italy and the pizza he had there. Phoenix has never had the traditional very thin crust that needs to be eaten with a fork and knife. He's been there no less than 10 times and I've been there 3, but who's counting. And Pomo has only been around for less than 3 months.

Located at The Borgata in Scottsdale(Scottsdale Rd. & Rose Ln.) in a spot that has been a revolving door of restaurants in years past, Pomo is sure to see that the revolving door has stopped revolving. The generous menu of antipasti, insalate(salads), panini(sandwich) and pizza's. 14 pizza's with sauce and various toppings and 6 Pizze Bianche(white pizza)and something you don't see very often, fried pizza.

Owned by native Italian, Stefano who had a desire for true authentic pizza of his homeland. So authentic so it's certified by Vera Pizza Napoletana Assoc. following there guidelines and that of Italian government and European Union. Do they take there pizza seriously or what in Italy! Pizzas take only 60-90 seconds in the 950 degree wood burning oven. Most of the ingredients...flour, tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil & Parmigiano Reggiano are imported from their respected regions in Italy.

Upon my visits we've had for starters caprese(mozzarella ,tomatoes & basil), bruschetta(homemade bread,tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and even tried a frita(fried pizza). The thin crust and quick frying really gives this a unique taste and way to eat folded dough, cheese & sauce.
As for pizza's on one visit we kept it simple with Regina Margherita($11.95) San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and Parmigiano Reggiano. we also enjoyed Bufala($16.95) using the same ingredients as the Margherita except the mozzarella come from buffalo milk, not cow's milk. and yes you can taste the difference. On another visit we chose the Donna Rosa($15.95) a white pizza using homemade pesto sauce and topped with roasted shrimp. mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. On of my favorites is the Capricciosa($14.95) which is topped with artichoke hearts,prosciutto sauteed mushrooms,cotto(ham)and Gaeta olives. Molto bene, molto bene!!

On 2 occasion we saved room for dessert and we tried tiramisu($7.95) an Italian classic that is light, fluffy and soaked in espresso. I would also recommend the Croccante($7.95) a nut basket filled with mascarpone cream and topped with fresh, seasonal fruit. It reminded me of a toasted almond bar that I loved as a youth.
Pomo also has a diverse, mostly Italian wine and beer list and some mostly Italian spirits.

So sometimes all the rage can be targeted at something so simple and easy that it gets often overlooked. It's a good thing Pomo is opened 7 days a week from 11am-9pm Sun.-Thurs and until 10pm on Fri. and Sat. Pomo is located at 6166 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale 480-998-1366.
4.5 corks out of 5 corks!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Where I've been, what I've seen & what I've heard.......

I've been to
-Pomo Pizzeria several times and it's one of the most authentic Neapolitan pizza around, so much so it has been certified that by Vera Pizza Napoletana Assoc. and backed by the Italian government and the E.U. Located at The Borgata in Scottsdale (Scottsdale Rd.& Rose Lane)it's opened 7 days a week from 11am-9pm Sun thru Thurs. and 11am-10pm Fri. & Sat. Various selections of pizzas, salads, paninis and desserts. A nice selection of mostly Italian wines and beers. Review coming soon!
-Best Hong Kong Dining- SW corner of Dobson & Southern in Mesa. Good selection of Cantonese & Mandarin Cuisine.
-Niccoli's Deli & Pizza is a mom and pop Italian deli tucked back in a small strip mall on 16th st. north of Bethany Home. Peppy & Joe have been doing it their way since 1955 and have been doing it right. Delicious sandwiches and fresh baked bread and rolls.
-Cafe Zuzu at The Valley Ho. Good comfort food, but somewhat pricey for burgers $12.00 and a $4.00 iced tea w/ mint & simple syrup. Still 4 bucks for an Iced Tea, come on now.

I've seen....
- "The Kids Are All Right"(2010).It's getting some buzz. See review and it's worth the search. Not widely released.
- The Boondock Saints"(1999) I caught this on IFC the other night. The Irish mob, meets the Italian & Russian mob in Boston. One of Willem Dafoe's best as a somewhat flamboyant FBI agent tracking some killers. A rare non XXX appearance by Ron Jeremy. Look for it on DVD or cable.
-"Public Enemies" (2009). Johnny Depps portrayal of John Dillinger & Christian Bale as FBI agent tracking him. Good solid gangster movie about Dillinger and his escapades w/ Pretty Boy Floyd & Baby Face Nelson. A very good performance by Marion Cotillard as Dillingers girl.
-"Get Him to the Greek"(2010). A comedy with Jonah Hill, Sean Combs & Russell Brand reprising his role from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" as a high maintenance singer that Jonah Hill's character must get from to LA from London and the wild life of a rock singer that ensues.
-"Solitary Man"(2009)- a great performance by Michael Douglas as a womanizing, former car dealer who's life starts to slowly spiral back out of control and how he tries to find out who he is. In limited release, but well worth finding it at a theatre near you. An Oscar nomination worthy performance for Douglas. Good supporting cast with Susan Sarandon, Jenna Fisher, Mary Loise Parker & Danny Devito.

I've heard...
Not much, it's the dog days of summer here in Phoenix.
-Nobu is getting ready to open his new restaurant downtown in Heritage Square.
-The Grind at 40th St. & Camelback seems to be always busy.

Stay tuned and keep cool Phoenix!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You’re not into wine if……….

Over the years as I’ve been a wine professional I’ve been introduced to plenty of people who when they found out that I am in the wine business their first reaction was “cool”, followed by “I am so into wine”. Whether it was the film “Sideways” that influenced them or the fact that wine drinking has become main stream, wine consumption has surpassed beer consumption, just because you drink wine does not mean you are “into” wine. The same way one is not “into” photography if they buy a disposable camera every time they go on vacation.
So I’ve come up with several criteria to let those people who think they are “into” wine know that they are not into wine. If your attitude toward wine fits this criteria then, sorry, “you’re not into wine” you’re just a wine drinker.

If you can’t pronounce or know the difference between…..If you emphasize the ”t” at the end of merlot or the “s” at the end of pinot gris when asking for a glass not knowing they are silent. If you don’t know that pinot grigio & pinot gris are the same grape or that syrah & shiraz are also the same grape just called differently based on where they come from, you’re not into wine. I don’t know how many times people have said to me that they love shiraz, but don’t like syrah and are amazed to find out that it’s the same grape.
If you buy your wine based on “critter” labels or funky names……. You know what I am talking about, those cute little animals on the label that don’t even exist or a funny name of a wine with a sexual innuendo(Menage a trois) or a description of your ex-husband(Fat Bastard). Things that have nothing to do with the wine itself, just marketing 101. Its not about what’s on the bottle, but what’s in the bottle. If this is you, you’re not into wine, you’re into marketing.
This can also be said for people who by their wines based on “ratings” that some wines get. People who buy only wines rated ”90”points and above. Keep in mind that the people who rated these wines are only a few and like everything else nowadays, politics come into play. Can you say “pay to play”. There are plenty of great wines that don’t rate 90 points or above that drink real well.
If you are married to a wine…… Anytime I try to introduce people to a new wine, say chardonnay, I tend to hear “It’s my favorite” or “I’ll stick to what I like” referring to the chardonnay they ALWAYS drink. I tell them its OK to “cheat” on your favorite, it will never know. Its OK to have a favorite, we all do, our favorite pizza place, flavor of ice cream or even beer,(anybody see a food or drink trend here) but it’s always fun to find a new favorite & have old stand by that will always be there for us in our time of need. If you’re into wine you should be open to trying new wines is my point.
This also includes those that like to “play it safe”, jeez! it’s a wine recommendation not a stock recommendation.
If you buy your wine at a supermarket or big box retailer…….I know, I know some of these places have a better selection than they did 10 years ago but unless they have a wine savvy person working in the wine dept., this does not mean shelf stockers, you are better off going to a wine shop, or at least a place that specializes in wine & spirits. Most of the big box retailers stock the mass marketed wines from big companies who use marketing to influence buyers(see criteria #2). At the wines shops you can speak w/ a person who actually makes the decision to stock these wines, not a corporate buyer in an office wondering if we sell 20,000 cases will I get to go to Hawaii again this year. The wine shops and specialty retailers actually have knowledgeable people work there & who enjoy wines themselves. You may be able to taste the wine before you buy, plus how else would you find out about that cool new pinot noir from Oregon that only 750 cases were made or that Napa cab that all your friends that are into wine are drinking and talking about. If you were into photography would’nt you visit the local camera shop to see the latest and greatest camera’s, lenses’s & equipment, not to mention chat w/ the owner and employees to show the picture of that beautiful sunset you took in Turks and Caicos.
If you don’t drink a certain varietal……If you only drink red wine and swear off whites’s for no apparent reason then you are only into red wines. I understand you can’t like everything, I don’t, but not to drink white wine or certain varietals completely insane. I particularly don’t care for chards that are too oaky, but that does’nt mean I won’t try others when the opportunity presents itself. Saying red wine is better for you so you don’t whites is really missing the boat, especially when certain white wines pair well with certain foods.
If you spend 20 minutes………walking the wine aisle’s reading the descriptions and end up with the same wine you always buy. In this “I’m so busy” world we live in nowadays to spend that much time window shopping, knowing you’re going to play it safe does not show a real open mindedness to being into wine.

The moral of this story is that nowadays there is an ocean of wine out there. Hundred’s of different varietals coming from all over the world, not to mention the wines and places we have not seen yet. China, Israel and other countries we don’t associate w/ grape growing and wine making will soon be exporting in years to come. Wine is a ‘want”, not a “need” and despite what you hear there really are no rules with wine drinking, just drink what you want and what you like. I only ask that you keep an open mind as a consumer and not be afraid to try something new when its offered. Obviously if its more money than you are willing to spend, I understand. That reminds me of a guy I was talking to about a exceptional $11 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon the other day when he said “ I have to do my research”, I chuckled and I proceeded to give him a bottle thinking he meant take it home and drink it. What he really meant was to go home and research it on the Internet. I was thinking it’s not a car or big ticket item, it’s an $11 bottle of wine.
So if you really are into wine, great happy drinking, but if you think you are “into” wine and only drink wine quit pretending. If you just drink wine and don’t take it too seriously, cool! No harm, no foul maybe some day you will expand your horizons and you will see what the wonderful world of wine has to offer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My thoughts on "The Kids Are All Right"

What happens when Jules(Julieanne Moore) and Nic(Annette Bening) meet Paul(Mark Ruffalo), the sperm donor they used 18 & 15 years earlier. Sought after by there kids Joni(Mia Wasikowska) and Laser(Josh Hutcherson) and there curiosity about who there father is, Paul enters there life much to the reluctance of of Jules and Nic. After several meetings he almost becomes part of the family bringing his independent, school's not for me dynamic. This dramedy takes a serious turn when trust is betrayed and were not sure who will end up where. There is also some sub text of of "is Laser gay" and the entering of adulthood & independence for Joni.
All performances are very good, if not excellent with Nic being the dominant doctor, who likes her wine, to Jules' free wheeling entrepreneurial spirit. This story of 21st century lifestyle show's that all can co habitate in unfamiliar territory. Ruffalo's performance is also very good as a free spirited restaurateur. Quite a bit of humor and one liners from all parties makes this film a almost must see for everyone except the kids as there is nudity and sexual behavior.
I give this film 4 out of 5 corks. You may have to search this one out in theatres, but well worth it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's a wine dinner amongst friends!

In life you tend to gather with people you have certain things in common. Since we all have to eat and drink to survive, I tend to gather with people who like to eat and drink(wine & spirits that is). It also happens that these same people used to be or are still in the wine biz, that's how we all met.
About once a month we all gather for a night of indulgence and strolling down memory lane. These dinners have gone on in many incarnations for over 10 years. There usually simple to put together(unless there is a miscommunication), everybody plays a role from hosting to someone responsible for the wine and everybody else for a particular course of the meal. We try to co-ordinate pairings(pinot noirs & salmon), themes(Spanish wine w/ Paella, flan,etc) and a date & place convenient to all.
Occasionally there are some hiccups over responsibilities, reading of recipe ingredients and measurements (1/4 of tablespoon of salt vs. 1/4 cup of salt). Guess who?? Know you know why I try to write as oppose to cook, but I digress. Usually the entrees are provided by our 2 culinary school grads, so you know the bar is going to be set high for the rest of us. Being that some of us have or had a wine collection the wines tend to be vintages from early 1990's right on up to some recent vintages. That being said sometimes the wine bottles get emptied and some times they don't. Conversations revolve around everything ranging from the nights menu to politics(gourmet burgers on Election night Nov. 2008) to the music we're listening to. You get the picture, anything goes. It's a night of food, friends and wine, simply put there are no rules.

Last night we met for our 2nd dinner of June(occasionally we do them more frequently i.e. birthdays, holiday dinner). With the dog days of summer upon us we decided not to cook(too hot) & this time to let the wines be the star. So we opted for a simple dinner of chilled cucumber soup, homemade roast beef and assorted, mostly Italian pork products for sandwiches w/ coleslaw being the only side dish. Normally we'd have some dessert, but we opted to drink dessert this night. Most of the wines paired were to be some lighter wines(Alsace), but a last minute invitee brought some reds that needed to be drank from his cellar. BTW we also tasted the Rodney Strong wines mentioned in a previous post as the guest arrived. They're still going..Strong(pun intended) 6 days after being opened. Moral of the story......enjoy your food, wine & friends because we need all 3 in order to survive!

Here's my thoughts on 2 of the wines, with my thoughts on the others in future posts.

01 Marc Kreydenweiss "Clos Rebberg" Pinot Gris- Alsace, France
The hit of the night. Good fruit, crisp with nice acidity. Hints of apples and minerals. Yum!!
05 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso- California nice blend of 48% Zin, 27% Syrah and 25% Cab. Sauv. which made for a soft, easy drinking, fruit forward wine with a nice finish.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My thoughts on some Rodney Strong wines.

In the past few days I've had the opportunity to taste 3 wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards. First a brief history of Rodney Strong Vineyards. Rodney was former dancer who in 1959 retired from dancing and set off on a new career in winemaking. He was one of the 1st to plant vineyards in Sonoma County and its sub appellations of Russian River, Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley. Prior to that most of Sonoma was planted to fruit orchards. In 1970 Rodney started to build his winery in Sonoma County and in 1979 he hired Rick Sayre as winemaker, and to this day Rick still makes the wines. Fast forward to 1989 when Tom Klein purchases the winery from Rodney and expands the winery and starts to put the winery on a path to going green and sustainable winemaking practices. Rodney stayed on with the winery after he sold it and passed away in 2006 at age 78. I had the opportunity to meet and join Rodney for lunch early in my wine career when he was in town, a memorable experience. Now to wines.

2009 Estate Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc- Sonoma County
Named after Rodney's wife this wine offers a delightful combination of crisp acidity and fruit structure. A lighter style wine it has a beautiful nose and seems to get better after it's been opened for a day or two. Nice hint of minerals on the finish. Perfect to compliment a salad or sandwich or by itself on a hot summer afternoon. $9-$11. 4 out of 5 corks!

2007 Estate Chalk Hill Chardonnay- Sonoma County
A medium bodied chardonnay, this wine offers a balance of toasty oak and a buttery finish. A French oak presence is noticeable with a hint of vanilla along with some apple. A great wine for someone who is not a big fan of chardonnay's(me). $16 3.5 out of 5 corks!

2007 Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon- Sonoma Valley
This medium bodied cabernet is blended with a little bit of merlot, malbec and hint of syrah. It offers a nice mix of tannins and good dark fruit. A mix of French and American oak is used giving it the satying power to be drank over the next few years. $18 3.5 out 5 corks!

All wines were tasted over a few days and seem to get better after being opened for a day or 2.
So look for Rodney Strong wines and see what a winemaking pioneer's philosophy can do with some of the lands great appellations and the grapes the land gives him.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Knight & Day" or "MI4"- It's your call!

I was'nt quite sure what to expect from the new Tom Cruise & Cameron Diaz action flick "Knight & Day". What I got was typical action adventure which could have been easily the next installment of the Mission Imposssible(MI) series. Throw in some of Cameron's sass and sexy appeal, plus her and Tom's whimiscal banter and you get an entertaining action film w/ a sprinkling of a romantic comedy on the side. Typical MO in Hollywood these days.

Tom plays"Roy Miller", a susposedly rogue agent trying to protect an infinte battery and it's inventor "Simon"(Paul Dano) while being chased by the agency and real rogue agent(Peter Sarsgard) . Enter Tom's mule June(Cameron Diaz) just trying to get her sisters wedding in Boston.
After surviving a plane crash the two travel the world trying not to get caught. Plenty of shoot outs and chases to keep you interested. With June not knowing whom to believe or trust she starts to have feelings for Roy. Ya think its' coming to an end and then the grand finale and payoff.

Entertaining yet predictable, this should be the summer blockbuster their studios expecting it to be.
3.5 out of 5 corks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why it's good to be a wine consumer now in 2010.

With more wine on the market than ever before it's good to be wine consumer. Figure that not just is there more wine being imported from all over the world, all 50 states have bonded and licensed wineries. Keep in mind you're going to see more and more wine hitting our shores from countries you least expect i.e. China, eastern Europe, etc then take into consideration the economy you have lots of supply & growing demand= lower prices. Prices are lower than they have been in previous years, high end wineries are either dropping prices or selling of wine to "negociants" like Cameron Hughes, Heron wines & Castle Rock, just to name a few. Big box store and small retailers are having private labels bottled for them or "exclusives" as we say.
There is no better time to try a new varietal(cabernet franc, grenache)you've always been curious about. Or how about something from a part of the world you've be hesitant to buy(South Africa, Portugal). Quality of wines are far above where they were thanks to new technology, colleges offering course in wine making and winemakers and grape growers experimenting and pushing the boundaries.

At some point the economy will do a 180 and things will be good again, wineries will increase their prices when inventories level level off & demand comes back. But will prices go back up to where they were? Who knows, if consumer will pay that high prices again after seeing that they can pay significantly less for the same wine. It's only a good time time to be a wine consumer if you take advantage of it. Playing it safe and drinking the same wine will generate the same result, but trying new wines at this time should generate new experiences & new found favorites.

So take advantage of the wine economy 2010 and don't let these opportunities pass you by and leaving you wondering "what if".


I know what you're thinking "uhhh! not another blog about food, wine & restaurants, etc". That has been my reluctance to do a blog. But after being in wine and spirts industry for over 17 years, I figure "hey, why not an insiders perspective". So in addition to food, wine & the Phoenix dining scene I will also feature some current events & something new I've been involved in of the last few years... film producing. So come and join the party, agree or disagree with me, let me know what you think.