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.

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!!
Ciao!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.