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.
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
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. https://www.examiner.com/burgers-in-scottsdale
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.
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”
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.
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.
www.cornishpastyco.com 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.
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.
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.
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!