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.

“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.

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”.