Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

An Update on AZ Wines

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember this post about our visit to Page Springs Winery. We loved our trip there, and we really love the direction that the Arizona wine industry is headed, so this weekend we decided to venture down to Wilcox, AZ.

Willcox is the largest producer of grapes in Arizona, and they are working at becoming a designated AVA.

Neither Matt or I had ever been that far south, and it was a drive (3.5 hours), but it was definitely worth it!


On your way into Willcox, the first winery that you will run into is Golden Rule Vineyards, a wonderful property owned by Jim an Ruth Graham. Jim has been a farmer his whole life, and not only does he do a great job with grapes, they make some wonderful pistachios as well! They are spactacular people and it was a pleasure getting to know them and taste their wines.

I especially like their take on the golden rule – “pour for others as you would pour for yourself.”

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After this stop, we took a 30 minute drive into downtown Willcox, where there are several tasting rooms within walking distance.

First, we visited Flying Leap which is owned by retired Air Force pilots, hence the name. They are making some very interesting wines, and I am curious to see how they evolve over the next few years. Their vineyards are actually in Elgin, AZ, but they have quite a few choices at their Willcox tasting room as well.

flying leap building flying leap

Next on the list was the Keeling Schaefer tasting room. The wines here are also very good. They have a bold fruit forward approach, and tend to be high in alcohol. The style is somewhat unique for Arizona wines, which are often compared to the Rhone Valley.

The Keeling Schaefer tasting room is an amazing building! I didn’t get very good pictures of it, but it is definitely worth checking out. It used to be a bank in the 1800s, and has a very interesting ceiling, original floors and the original door!

keeling shafer

Another tasting room open in downtown is Aridus, which has a state-of the-art custom crush facility in Willcox. Several of the vineyards in the area are using Aridus to make and bottle their wines. Unfortunately, they were not open yesterday, but we are excited to check them out in the future!


Our last stop of the day was Pillsbury Wine Company, owned by Sam Pillsbury. Sam was not at the vineyard yesterday, but Bonnie Lewis was. Bonnie is a very knowledgeable wine blogger for the Tucson Citizen – Pour Me Some Grapes. She is a wonderful advocate of the Arizona wine industry and we had a delightful conversation with her over a tasting. 

brush drive to pilsbury pilsbury sign

There are several other vineyards and tasting rooms in Willcox which we would LOVE to visit, but we just didn’t have enough time in one day. It was a really great experience though, and we will definitely be going back. We’d love to take some people with us next time as well, so let me know if you are interested!

… and of course the day would not have been complete without a beautiful Arizona Sunset.



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Our 4th of July

The 4th of July has always been my favorite holiday! I like it more than Christmas, Thanksgiving and my birthday combined. The problem however, is that the weather is usually miserable this time of year.

So, when we realized that there was a pretty good chance of rain on the 4th, Matt and I decided to buy a new patio set and have a “picnic” at home.

We aren’t ready to commit to a patio collection yet, because we haven’t finished the back yard, but we thought a small set would make our outdoor space  much more useable for now,  so we headed to Target.

They are currently having a sale on patio furniture, and from what I can tell, the prices are even better in the store than they are online.

Here is the set that we chose:

We were very impressed with the quality, and it matches the Pottery Barn Hampstead Teak Collection nicely, so we plan to add more pieces when we finish the landscaping in the back yard. (More on that later.)

We also stopped by home depot and picked up this fun friend.

What is that you ask?… A bug zapper? A light? A bird feeder?

No. It’s an outdoor wireless speaker… and boy does it have good sound!

If you’re interested – the company that makes it is called Acoustic Research and the main selling point for us was that we can hook it up to our Sonos system and control everything from our ipads… Lol we could even have a war between the ipads if we disagreed on a song. 🙂

To complete our evening, we selected the 2008 Federalist Dry Creek Zinfandel and Matt made a motion using Roberts Rules of Order (of course!) to adopt it as the official 4th of July wine of the Wharton household. Umm… yes… We are MAJOR nerds. Don’t judge.

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This weekend, Matt and I took a day trip to Jerome and Page Springs. Unfortunately, we left the camera in the car when we were walking around Jerome, but I do have some pictures of Page Springs Cellars to share with you!


We learned that rose bushes are planted at the ends of vine rows to signal potential problems such as fungus, pests etc. Roses will catch most diseases before the grape vines, so it’s a good way to find out if there is a problem before it becomes a serious threat to the crops.

Netting is placed over many of the vines to deter birds.

Page Springs does all of their bottling in the back of this semi-truck. Once the process is finished, the equipment is hauled away, making more room for other vineyard activities. You will also see a glimpse of Eric Glomski in this picture. He is the owner/ head wine maker at the vineyard, and was also featured in Blood Into Wine (a movie I would highly recommend if you are interested in the process of wine making.)

Can you believe we found lily pads in Arizona!

Also, here are the wines for the weekly wine post!

For Keeps:

CASTELLO BANFI Brunello di Montalcino 2004

Editor’s Note: Has fabulous aromas of blackberry, black cherry and raspberry. Full-bodied, with wonderfully integrated tannins, fresh mushrooms and milk chocolate. Chewy in the end. We will see if this is better than the 2001 with age. Best after 2010. 45,800 cases made.–JS

93 Points (WS)

BUEHLER Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Estate 2008

Editor’s Note: Firm, tight, dense and concentrated, with a mix of loamy earth, dried berry, sage, cedar, mineral and floral scents. Full-bodied, ending with chewy, rustic tannins. Best from 2012 through 2022. 1,800 cases made.–JL

91 Points (WS)

ELK COVE Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Mount Richmond 2008

Editor’s Note: Smooth and silky, delivering a root beer-like sassafras and anise character weaving through the blackberry, cherry and spice flavors with transparency and vibrancy. Picks up some cream and tobacco as the finish lingers. Best from 2012 through 2018. 894 cases made.–HS

94 Points (WS)

We drank:

Domaine Sercene – Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley – Yamhill Cuvee – 2006

My Review: Beautifully airomatic, extremely complex, with focused tannins, a hint of spice and a long finish. Hints of blueberry pie, cinnamon, and plum.

Kirkland Signature-  Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Cuvée de Nalys – 2009

Never in my life would I have ever purchased a Kirkland wine if it didn’t come highly recommended… It has a certain stigma for me. However, after reading a couple of reviews, I figured I couldn’t beat a Chateaunef-du-Pape for $20. We haven’t had much from this appellation, and I figured it would be a great way to get to know the varietals… and boy was I right!

My review: Silky, lengthy core with a medium length finish. Medium bodied with flavors of tea, spice, and black cherry. This one could be cellared for a few years.

Chateau Bonnet – Entre-Du-Mers – 2009

My review: Bright, zesty and crisp with lemon and herb notes. Mush less grassy than expected for a wine that was mostly Sauvignon Blanc. (This was our first White Bordeaux… and we will be coming back for more.)

Woop Woop – Shiraz – South Eastern Austrailia – 2009

My Review: Lighter bodied for a Shiraz, but still very fruit forward. Almond and vanilla flavors brought a lot of excitement, but were a bit of a let down in the finish.

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I feel as though my blog has been a little oenocentric lately… that’s right, I made up a word.

Oenophile– a lover or connoisseur of wines

I am an oenophile, and therefore, I think my blog has been a little oenocentric lately.

Anyways, the point is that I’m going to relegate my wine-talk to one post per week. (For those of you who may not be here to talk about wine.)

Matt and I are working on building our collection. We’re not talking about $1k plus bottles that you can only find at auction. We may get there some day… but for now, we’re working at acquiring a few hundred bottles that we intend to age for at least a few years before drinking. So, this new section of posts will consist of a list of our weekly wine purchases as well as the wines we consume that week, followed by a personal review.

Here are the wines that we purchased to save last week, as well as the Wine Spectator review of each bottle:

ARGYLE Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Nuthouse 2008

Light and distinctive for its slightly candied currant and guava flavors, picking up an attractive lime blossom note as the finish lingers effortlessly. Drink now through 2018. 3,200 cases made.–HS

92 Points (WS)

PENFOLDS Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia Bin 407 2008

Editor’s Note: This elegant red has a beguiling purity to its currant, plum and cedar flavors, hinting at mint and bay leaf as the finish persists against finely polished tannins. Best from 2013 through 2020. 2,900 cases imported.–HS

90 Points (WS)

Also last week, we purchased the following wines to drink:

Cline –Zinfandel – 2009

My review: Juicy dark berry flavors with a smooth finish. Bold with some spice and a bit of oak.

Hogue -Cabernet Sauvignon – Columbia Valley  2007

My Review: (Not my favorite of the bunch, though I’m not the biggest Cabernet fan.) Light and tangy, smooth tannins which lacked complexity. Blackberry and cherry. Would go well with pasta.

McWilliams – Shiraz – South Easter Australia; Hanwood Estate – 2009

My Review: Plum and raspberry notes with a hint of mint. I enjoyed the complexity of this wine. Very refreshing.

Red Knot – Shiraz – South Australia – 2008

My Review: Firm with notes of light oak and hints of vanilla and spice. Very smooth finish big bodied.

It’s funny how they say your palate will change over time. While I used to be much more tolerant of Cabs, I’m now finding anything less than a Schrader or Screaming Eagle to be a dull waste of time. Surprisingly, I am now drawn more and more to Shiraz, and of course Pinot Noir.

Have you noticed any changes in your palate over the years?

Oh, and I also scored some more free glasses at the opening of Total Wine – Goodyear last week:

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This wine exhibited dark cherry flavors, some earth, a hint of strawberry with a bland finish. It left much to be desired. It was drinkable, but lacked complexity. Overall, I was rather disappointed.

On the other hand, here’s a sneak peak of the laundry room. I have a few things left to do before I can give you a full review (like putting the washer and dryer back in the room.)

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For at least a month now, Matt and I have been eagerly awaiting the grand opening of the Total Wine in our neighborhood. Previously, we had to drive at least 20 minutes to get to either the Arrowhead or Phoenix location, and honestly if you’re only picking up one bottle, it wasn’t worth the drive.

There are other options in our area… WineStyles, BevMo, and AJ’s to name a few, however, the selection and value just never seem to beat total wine… (except when AJ’s has their annual summer wine sale.) On top of that, I have always had the best customer service at Total Wine, and we really enjoy the employee picks and the top ten ratings for each varietal.  I can’t believe I am giving such an amazing endorsement to a chain, but these people really seem to get it right.

Now, even though the grand opening of the Goodyear store is not until tomorrow, they have been unofficially open for the past two weeks, and I have already managed to make a few trips down.

On one such trip, I spotted this flyer:

Learn with Riedel
Glassware and Premium Wine Class
Hosted by owner Georg Riedel

Join us for this very special class, led by the owner of Riedel Crystal, Georg Riedel.

This class will feature four glasses from the Riedel collection plus premium wines to pair with each glass. 

All attendees will receive a Riedel set of glasses, including:

Sommelier Bordeaux Glass
Sommelier Burgundy Glass
Sommelier Montrachet Glass
Plus a bonus glass
($250 value)

Featured wines
Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Belle Glos Pinot Noir Clark and Telephone 2008 – Wine Spectator 91
Mer Soleil Chardonnay 2008
Plus a bonus Syrah
Seating is limited for this event, and can be reserved by calling the store at (623) 547-2109. 


The Caymus is a 99 pt wine, the Bell Glos 91, Georg Riedel as the instructor, and free glassware to boot! Oh, and not just any glassware. The Sommelier collection is like the Rolex, Choppard, or Cartier of glassware – Praised by Robert Parker as ‘The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.”

I had to get into this class!

Well, as luck would have it, we were a little late… as in “We’d be happy to put you on the waiting list, but you’re numbers 8 and 9” kind of late…  Oh boy was I disappointed.

However, we decided not to let it ruin our evening,  and we made plans to go to the new olive oil store at Park West called The Olive Gourmet. It’s a very small mom and pop shop, but we loved it! Afterall, how much space do you really need to sell olive oil? I picked up a medium california olive oil, a Tuscan herb infused olive oil, as well as a Sicilian lemon infused white balsamic vinegar. The shop owners were very nice, and allowed us to sample anything we were interested in. (I would recommend the chipotle oil, peach vinegar, or avocado oil if you’re looking for something different)… and then, we hurried over to Total Wine to see if maybe, perhaps, by chance (keep your fingers crossed) someone wouldn’t show up and we would get into the class.

Well, we were AMAZINGLY lucky and they were able to fit us in! We had a wonderful time, and I felt honored to be in Mr. Riedel’s presence. It really was my wine tasting dream come true… for now anyways.

They wouldn’t allow us to take pictures of the seminar, but here are some photos of the wines. We also picked up a bottle of french Pinot Noir which we’ve never tried before to take home with our new glasses… review to follow.

I also have a house project update coming very soon!

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Wine Clubs

Last night, after browsing through the Williams – Sonoma catalog (apparently this is what I do now… look at catalogs,) I suggested to Matt that we join their wine club. They have three tiers, and I figured we would discuss the merits of each, and then select one that suits our interests.

Well, not only did we not choose a tier, Matt thought we should go another direction entirely… The NRA wine club. Umm… Really?

Their website reads:

“Begin Supporting the NRA with your wine purchases today!

Join the NRA Wine Club today and for every bottle of wine that is purchased, a payment is made to the NRA on your behalf.

As a member, you will enjoy your choice of wines, as low as just $12-$15 per bottles PLUS a FREE 9-piece Custom NRA Engraved Wine Box, a $45.99 value, PLUS, as an NRA member, you are entitled to receive FREE shipping on your first American Cellars Wine Club shipment when you enroll today!”

Now, compare that to the sales pitch at Williams – Sonoma:

“Join us for a unique experience in the enjoyment of wine and food. Our wine experts will introduce you to hand-selected wines from boutique wineries around the world. Working with our advisory board of sommeliers and chefs, we’ve paired each wine with a Williams-Sonoma recipe to create a remarkable harmony of flavors. We take the guesswork out of selecting the right wine and guarantee your complete satisfaction.”
Needless to say, I think we’re on very different pages. Not to mention, I don’t really like to think about hunting deer, or even guns for that matter while I’m drinking wine.
On another note Williams-Sonoma has also paired with several well-known farms to create a line called “butcher shop.”

Has anyone tried it? What did you think?

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