Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mystery Bottle

  So in the rush to unpack bottles from their boxes and arrange them on the back table at the WineFest, an accidentally unlabeled bottle got removed from it's box and added to the back stock without notice. While packing up to leave on Sunday, I found it. It was for sure either a bottle of Ray's Red or Freitas 08 Merlot, but nobody could figure out which. Lisa Pender, the Pillsbury Room's manager said "guess you better take it home and find out what it is".

So how to do that?  I have a labeled bottle of Ray's Red, but not a bottle of Merlot. If I had a bottle of Merlot, I could shine a bright light thru both bottles and note the difference in color, compare them each to the "shiner" and decide what it is that way. I don't want to open both bottles for obvious reasons. I try to stay on the no more than two drinks a day plan and the wines would go off before they'd get finished. Using the flashlight technique I shined light thru both bottles:
  Both bottles appear to have the same color. There's a considerable difference between the Red and the Merlot. The Merlot is more opaque and a deeper Burgundy color. The Red, probably due to it's San Giovese grapes, has a lighter and somewhat browner, more leathery color. I'm thinking this is a bottle of Ray's Red.

  So I open the shiner. Sure enough, the wine presents as very clear, with a leathery color as opposed to the grapey burgundy color of the Merlot, and as soon as the cork comes out I can smell the Ray's Red. It went real nice with some Dreamfield's Pasta topped with oil and a little Pecorino Romano and a sprinkle of Salish smoked sea salt. Thoughtful readers are thinking "this dipstick spent an entire weekend selling Ray's Red and Freitas Merlot, why didn't he just open the freaking bottle, pour himself a glass and he'd have known in a heartbeat what it was." Yeah, I coulda done that, but what fun would THAT have been?

Suzy Q Market and Local Wines

  Just a quick note to let everyone know that Suzy Q Market in Cottonwood has a pretty spiffy selection of Arizona Wines. They've recently added a shelf of Verde Valley and other AZ. wines as an experiment. SQ has been my go-to place for it's great beer selection for a long time. I noted Freitas, Javelina Leap, Oak Creek Vineyards, Caduceus, Arizona Stronghold, Kokopelli and maybe one or two others. Great prices too. Suzy-Q's price on Ray's Red, for example, is 4 bucks cheaper than you'll pay at the Pillsbury Tasting Room. Granted, you can't taste it first at Suzy-Q but since I've told you over and over how good Ray's Red is, you don't need to sample it anyhow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No news is good news

  Nothing to report today. I got sidetracked by one of my pals out in the pasture and have to do some repairs and get a load of hay. Stay tuned, coming is a report on Harry's Hideaway and my research into a mystery "shiner" bottle of wine I brought home from the WineFest. It's either Freitas Merlot or Ray's Red, but with no label, how to tell? I have a labeled bottle of Ray's Red, I'd hate to have to open them both and compare to solve the mystery. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wine Fest Photo Finish

  Ok, so I got spanked for downplaying the quality of my pics. I really do wish they were better and more varied, but at least I got a few.  My pal Johnny told me how to put up a slide show the other day and of course I promptly forgot and so am having to figure it out my ownself. There wasn't a whole lot of time away from our booth all weekend so most of the shots are taken from there when I had a spare minute to pick up the camera and take a quick snap. It'll give you some sense of the place and the crowd.

  I learned more than I expected this past weekend. The Verde Valley wine industry is the real deal. What most impressed me is the way all these winemakers appear to be helping each other out and encouraging each others' successes and commiserating on each others' flops. A rising tide floats all boats I guess, at least for the present. I saw lots of personal trades going on among the various owners. "I love your XXXX, I'll give you a case of my YYYY for one of yours". Deals like that all the time. I wish I'd been able to taste more wine, but we were under essentially bartender's rules as servers. I did get to sample some Caduceus selections, which I found uniformly good. Often in-your-face, ballsy wines that were begging for a salty rare steak, a smoky pork roast or rack of lamb. Wines for carnivores I'd call them. Not for the faint of heart, plenty big enough to wash down tasty hunks of flesh, but with true depth and interest for anyone wanting to drink slowly and explore the levels of flavor and nuance too. Mr. Keenan isn't just copying what he learned at Page Springs, he's really coming into his own and knows what he's after.
  As for the show itself, the organizers, at least from my sort of peripheral perspective did a great job and made sure the vendors had what they needed. At the end of the show they settled up with everyone quickly. The show ended Sunday at 5 and we were packed and out of there by 5:15.
  As for the food.....I'll admit to somewhat of a prejudice against Dahl and Deluca, one of the show sponsors and one of two food providers. I didn't try their food. I've been to their restaurant, fancy and pretentious Italian fare. I once had the worst plate of linguine and clams anyone has ever eaten there and swore off their food forever. I've had dirty socks that tasted better than the eight clams that came on top of that plate of soggy pasta and insipid, bland cheese. I've mopped my kitchen floor with less ammonia than those nasty bivalves contained. Thank goodness my wife had a gift certificate the last time. So I didn't try her offerings. The Grill At Shadow Rock, where I HAVE had a couple of good meals had the other food booth. Too bad their chef and sous chef spent most of their time, along with a lot of other Hilton Sedona employees all wearing name tags identifying them as Hilton employees, wandering around the wine tables trying to schmooze free wine samples instead of looking after their tired looking and refrigerator flavored offerings. Considering all the outstanding wine at this show, it's too bad the food wasn't a better match. I hope they'll do better next year. Let's cut out the foo-foo and get some good substantial food in there.
  The next show I'm going to get to work will be October 16th in Cottonwood. Forgive me if I mentioned that already. What I'm most excited about now is coming up this weekend, a visit to Freitas Vineyard to get a personal glimpse of the place where Ray works her magic.
  That's all for now....GH

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just a vignette from the WineFest...

  So there comes to our tasting table this very handsome pair of ladies. Clearly a mother-daughter duo. Dressed to the nines in "Santa Fe" style. Long flowy dresses, big custom 30's style cowboy hats, seriously valuable concho belts and POUNDS of antique indian jewelry. Shod in custom made multi-colored cowboy boots worth more than any vehicle I own. Mama is shy, I'd guess about 75, long black locks going to grey. Daughter does all the talking. Pays her ticket and discribes Mama's tastes in wine. I suggest Ray's Red. I always suggest Ray's Red, everybody likes it. Hija samples it, pays another ticket and samples in again. Mama does not indulge. Consultations in Spanish ensue and a bottle is to be purchased. I pack the bottle. Thirty dollars and 90 cents I say. Daughter opens her Louis Vuitton wallet and pulls a hundred off a stack of the same that was AT LEAST 2 inches thick and hands it to me. I make her change and we exchange pleasantries and they're off. Two incredibly gracious and friendly women.
  Bet you thought I was gonna say they told me to keep the change. Nope, this is better. About an hour later, I took a break and went to use the Port-O-San out in the parking lot. As I was walking back the two ladies came out of the tent heading to their car, which, as I couldn't resist sneaking a peak after them, turned out to be one of these, sure enough with NM plates. They both got in the car and started it, but didn't leave. I got tired of pretending to look for something under my driver's seat and went back inside. About a half hour later, daughter comes back in without Mama. She wants to buy another bottle of Ray's Red. "My Mom LOVES it!!" She says.
  The image of a septagenarian doyen of Old Santa Fe swilling Ray's Red in the parking lot in her new Mercedes kept me smiling all afternoon.

What exactly IS a "winery" anyhow?

  I guess for most of us, myself formerly included, "winery" means a place where wine is made. Only...ummm...maybe, maybe not. At the Sedona Winefest this past weekend, I learned that "winery" can mean many things. I'm not going to mention any labels here in the interest of remaining as neutral as possible.  Verde Valley wines, it turns out, run the gamut from estate bottled wines that are grown and produced completely locally all the way down to at least one so-called winery which is buying what are termed "shiners". Shiners are pre-bottled wines. You want a nice Cabernet? How 'bout a Shiraz? Merlot? Gotcha covered. Wholesale prices by the case, slap your own label on and you're set to go. How does a "winery" go from scratch to over 30 bottled wines in just a few years? Easy. Buy your wine from somebody else who sells in bulk, label it and call it your own. You can tell people anything you want about your grapes and where they come from. Who's gonna go to Wilcox, Elgin, Sonoita or anyplace else and check out your story? Certainly not the casual tourist or even the average serious wine buyer as long as the wine is passably good and comes with a good story. I think if somebody is truly interested in Verde Valley wines, they'd do well to check things out pretty well.
  The big hurdle in truly local wines here seems to be the price of land. We've got perfect soil and perfect weather here, but even with the downturn land is still prohibitively expensive for winemakers without extremely deep pockets to go out and buy and put vines on. A vineyard planted today won't make any significant amount of wine for three to five years, meantime, you've got to pay to water, weed, feed, prune, protect and nurture that young stock. There are lots of new grapes in our area, and some winemakers are making a sincere effort to eventually produce all their wines from grapes grown right here. Meantime, like any business, they've gotta have cash flow. So they source their grapes from California, or hopefully, and more often than not, from the Wilcox area of the state. They make their wines here for the most part. This is perfectly understandable in an industry as young as this one. The phonies, on the other hand, can only hope to scam the tourists so long. Eventually, this valley will grow AND produce enough quality wine to make their "shiners" glow-in-the-dark-obvious.

Sedona WineFest Day 2 bits and pieces

   I'm going to break this up into shorter posts over the next few days as there's so much to talk about that it's kind of a categorical nightmare. How to organize it all so it doesn't take pages and pages to tell? Sunday was a much more relaxed day all in all. Fewer people than Saturday and a lot more locals, which necessarily meant slower bottle sales. I had the extreme pleasure of spending the day with Ray Freitas, the owner of Freitas Vineyards, whose wine I was selling. I got to be her bottle monkey most of the day, pouring samples while she did the talking.

  Most of us have known a person or two in our lives who is a true master at something. These folks, no matter what it is they do, share some characteristics:
  Their craft, whatever it is, often borders on obsession.
  Their path in pursuing this obsession has often been fraught with serious obstacles.
  They're not "dabblers", but are usually single-minded perfectionists
  Their path is not monetarily driven, in fact it's often costly; a labor of love.

  Ray Freitas is now on my very short list of those people. She and her husband started their vineyard on 5 acres in Cottonwood 12 years ago. This makes her vines the oldest in the valley. She's now a widow, works a full time job in health care in order to continue her real passion, which is making wine. Her wines were arguably the ONLY truly estate wines at this show. Virtually every other winery present was using at least some grapes sourced from someplace else. Not Ray. A question that often came from the samplers who came by the table "where do you source your grapes?" was easily answered by her, "My back yard".
Here's a picture of Ray and two tasters from yesterday. Ray's on the left.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sedona WineFest Day 1

  Yesterday was the first day of the much anticipated Sedona WineFest. This post will be fairly short as I'm behind in my chores out in the pasture and gotta get out there pretty soon. I've been to quite a few of these to-do's as a customer but this was my first opportunity to work one. If today's crowd at the 'Fest is HALF what yesterday's was the whole thing is going to be proclaimed an enormous success. It was slated to begin at 11 a.m. I met my boss, Lisa Pender from the Pillsbury Wine Co.'s tasting room at 10 to unload many cases of wine. There were already customers lined up at the ticket desk to get in!! Imagine, grown up, normal, successful looking people who couldn't WAIT to drink wine at 10 in the morning! By the time we got to the last hand truck full of wine cases I looked down the hill and could see what looked like a line of cars backed up half way down Airport Road.
  For those who've never been to one of these deals,  here's how it works. You pay your entry fee, and you get a spiffy wine glass and usually 6 tickets, which will get you some tastes at the various winemaker's booths. Some winemakers charge a flat rate: one ticket for one one ounce taste, while others tier their charges depending on their per bottle costs. A less expensive wine may be one ticket whereas a 65 dollar bottle may be 3 or 4 tickets. Six tickets won't get you a lot of tastes, and so you can go to the ticket table and buy more for a buck apiece. Individual winemakers get paid back a half dollar for each ticket by the show organizers, which in most cases doesn't even cover the wholesale price of the wines they're sampling.
So the show is really all about selling bottles, cases and the PR that comes with being there.

  The crowd was easy to handle. In recent years I've become really wary of crowds and being in places where there are more than a few people I don't know really well. I'm a bit agoraphobic and was concerned about having one of my famous panic attacks and so took an extra pocketfull of Xanax just in case. I'm happy to report I didn't need any. A wine tasting crowd is a HAPPY crowd! I was hoping to meet at least a few snooty snobs who I could goof on and have writing material for this blog, but to my chagrin didn't meet a single one. While about 90 percent white, this was otherwise a crowd of regular folks, regular folks surprisingly knowledgeable about wine. Uniformly inquisitive, polite and happy as can be.
  I'll report more tomorrow and post some pics, but now have to get going with chores before getting the "buck perfume" washed off myself and heading out.

  One wine I want to mention now before I forget. Javelina Leap Winery in Page Springs has a fortified, Port-like Zinfandel in pretty short supply. If you're a Port or Sherry drinker ( I know, most Port drinkers have long since shed their satin smoking jackets, put out their cigars and quietly crumbled to dust) you really ought to see if you can get ahold of a bottle of this stuff. A bit too much alcohol on the finish but it's very interesting otherwise. 30 bucks for a split sized bottle. Personally, I think it would have been even more successful if they had a brandy to fortify it with rather than the grain alcohol they used, but I guess you can't do that unless you've got your own brandy to use, and distilling is a whole other deal. It went a long way towards getting rid of the made-yesterday-and-stored-in-the-reach-in-uncovered taste of the Three Flatbread offering from the Hilton Sedona that I had for lunch. Awesome wines at this fest. Food? Not so much.
  More tomorrow, thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Merkin V and O Cafe page

I've made a separate page to keep track of the progress on the Merkin V and O Cafe project. As I mentioned in a previous post, Maynard James Keenan ( I sure wish that guy had an easier name to type. I'm going to have to make a text file that I can just copy/paste) recently received a license to serve liquor at a Cornville location. I made it into a separate page that you'll see in the very upper left of this page. I meant to get over there today and take some pics of the bare lot as a starting point, but the goats got the better of me and I had to spend several hours repairing my breeding buck's pen. He's in full rut and the girls are teasing the poor guy mercilessly. He's nearly destroyed his pen trying to get to them. But I digress. Look for pics in a day or two. I'm working tomorrow and also will be at the Sedona Winefest Saturday and Sunday so there may not be anything new for a few days. Have a great weekend and buy some local wine if you can wherever you are....remember, no kangaroos, geckos, giant roosters etc. I just took a sip of my wife's glass of herding cats and it may have mellowed a bit since being opened two days ago, but it's still not a bargain.

I used to hate homework

 Not anymore.... I spent some time yesterday at the Pillsbury Wine Co. tasting room in Cottonwood doing homework. Studying up on Freitas Vineyard's wines, which will be available at the upcoming Sedona WineFest this weekend. Her Ray's Red, Merlot and San Giovese will be available and  you're going to be pleasantly surprised if you're not familiar with this small, family run estate operation from Cottonwood. If you're suffering Merlot overload, and they're all sorta beginning to taste the same, try the Freitas take on it! Thanks to Veronica at the tasting room for walking me through the Freitas wines, her depth of knowledge is impressive and her easy going manner sure evens out the learning curve.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You Heard it Here First

Maynard James Keenan, leader of the alternative (or something) rock  band Tool, philanthropist, winemaker extraordinaire and all around renaissance guy has just been approved by the Powers That Be for a liquor license at the location (read: bare lot) of the old Maxwell's Produce stand on the corner of Cornville and Loy Roads. To be called "Merkin V and O Cafe", presumably after his remarkable Merkin Vineyard wines.
One can only wonder if the boys at the Yavapai Board of Supervisors know what a Merkin is. I betcha dollars to donuts they thought he meant 'Merican. 
As I came past the place on my way home just a while ago, there was a team of guys busily digging up the pigweed and clearing the lot. 
Thanks again to Johnny Montezuma for bothering to call the county and schmooze some nice lady into looking up the permit. More to come on this one I'm sure.

Wines with animals on the label...Off topic post warning

After the wine tasting on Saturday at Casey's Corner I was gabbing with the owner Mike about local produce. I mentioned my French Climbing Zuccini and was extolling it's virtues. "Bring me some" he said, "I'll buy it or trade you for it". So I ran home to get some. This squash is the best tasting and most hardy and prolific squash I've ever grown. You can look it up if you want more information about it. Anyhow I came back with ten pounds. "How much do you want for it?" Mike said. I allowed as how I had no idea what it was worth but threw him 50 cents a pound and he said sure. I decided I'd trade him for one of his cheap wines. I shoulda taken a 6 pack of Budweiser instead. I have a general rule of never buying a wine with an animal on the label. Wine marketers near and far have discovered two really important things. First, as most wines are sold at grocery stores and women still make up the bulk of family grocery shoppers, women buy more bottles of wine than men do. They've also discovered that women almost exclusively shop LABELS when buying wine, and animals are a big hit with the ladies apparently. Geckos, goats, giant roosters, bucking broncs, you name the critter, you can find it on a wine label. Mike's biggest seller is a South African "Merlot/Pinotage" (whatever that is) called "Herding Cats". Cute name, cute tigers on the label, 5 dollars and sixty American cents, what's not to like? I'll tell you what's not to like, THE WINE. Not that it isn't drinkable, but there are plenty of American cheapies out there that are far less expensive and more palatable than this stuff. For 10 bucks and change you can buy a GALLON of Carlo Rossi Paisano. Without going into great detail, when Carlo Rossi emigrated to the U.S. long ago he sought to produce an affordable quality table wine like he remembered from Italy. He succeeded. My fondness for Paisano goes back 30 or more years. Spending several months in Europe and a good deal of that in Italy, every town has these little hole in the wall shops big enough to hold a barrel of wine with a pump on it and a kid to fill your container for a few lira. Old men women, kids and smartly dressed hot shots all stop by to get the day's wine for the table. It's a commodity, a necessity not some fancy luxury. Paisano tastes EXACTLY like that wine and even though the Evil Gallo Brothers now own Carlo Rossi, the taste and the legend continues, the wine hasn't changed. The moral of the story, cutesy labels do NOT make good wine. Nuff said.
Notice the very hip lower case title

You Might Be A Redneck.....

  If you go to a wine tasting in Cornville. There, I just had to get the Cornville Redneck joke taken care of first. Last Saturday I decided to go give Casey's Corner Store's wine tasting a try. The owners there have completely changed the place. While I'm usually not a fan of "gentrification" or whatever you call it, the old Casey's Corner was a dump, plain and simple. Cigs, cheap beer, soda pop, fishing bait and gas. True, you could get wine there, if your tastes ran to MD 20/20.

The store has gradually undergone a complete metamorphosis. The gas pumps are gone. A local artist has completely muralized the outside walls of the place in a kind of Cactus Wren-Coyote-Saguaro-Magical Desert motif that's quite nicely done and just kitschy enough to be cool. I haven't inspected the entire building but no kokopellis jumped out at me, and that's a GOOD thing. Inside, you'll find lots of natural and organic edibles, local produce, eggs and even grass fed beef raised about a half mile away. But the wine's the thing here. They've gone to great lengths to stock a very impressive selection of wine considering the size and location of the store. Obviously, they can't buy in Costco quantities and so you're gonna pay a bit more per bottle, but if you show up for their Saturday wine tastings, you not only get to keep the glass but all the wines in the store are 10 percent off.

That Jeep is no countrified decoration, there's a guy with a hammer under it.

Each weekend they feature one or two different wines. A six wine tasting costs 7 dollars, including the cutesy tasting sized glass. This is less than half the going rate for flights at any of the other tasting venues in the valley and is a great deal. You're limited though, as they bring in a distributor's rep to conduct the tasting of only those brands being featured. Big deal. If you go to Caduceus or Page Springs or Pillsbury's rooms or any of the others, you're limited to their wines by default.

Saturday's tasting featured Kokopelli WineryKeeling-Schaefer Vineyards, and Canelo Hills Winery. Wouldn't you know it, the first wines I'm going to talk about here are technically not "Verde Valley Wines", but lest you get all huffy, all three are Arizona Wineries. Kokopelli I believe is sort of a Bistro-cum-winery. They don't actually grow grapes, but buy bulk product and make their wines in Chandler. Keeling-Schaefer on the other hand is a full Pearce, AZ estate vineyard and winery and Canelo Hills is a small family estate styled vineyard and winery in Sonoita.  I tasted 6 wines, Kokopelli's white zinfandel, cabernet, pinot grigio, Keeling-Schaefer's Three Sisters Syrah, their cabernet, and Canelo Hills' Sunrise.
All these selections ran in the 14 to 17 dollar range give or take.
Kokopelli's Pinot Grigio is very nearly clear. You could fill up an old Mountain Spring water liter bottle with it and take it to work and sip on it all day and nobody'd be the wiser until you face-planted your keyboard. More fruit than you'd expect from a P-G without sacrificing that nice grassy-ness. I've often described Pinot Grigio as wine for people who don't like wine, but this one was fairly interesting. Their White Zinfandel, on the other hand, struck me as downright sweet, although the information sheet's residual sugar doesn't hint at that. "It's very fruity" said the rep. Yeah, like a fruit roll-up is fruity. The color put me off too. The info sheet says "Peach", or something. If you're old enough to remember dying easter eggs with those little color pills you put into a cup of hot water and vinegar, you'll remember the orange color. That's the FIRST thing I thought of when I held up the glass. Their Cab had a thinnish mouth feel but a beautifully clear dark color and nice peppery oak flavors, without excessive tannin.

I enjoyed Keeling-Schaefer's Cabernet, but their real winner was the 2007 3 Sisters Syrah. Almost opaque, it had berries, tobacco and a slightly fruity finish. It has won several blind tastings against prestigious California and French varieties. I didn't care for the Canelo Hills offering. Too much tannin and a kind of brownish hue that didn't appeal. It might be a wine that takes more than a one ounce serving to appreciate, I'll give it that.
Ultimately, I bought a bottle of the Three Sisters. The 2006 is sold out completely and I'll bet the 07 does too. We enjoyed it on Sunday, with a slow roasted pork shoulder pot roast bathed in apple cider vinegar, apples, celery, onion and garlic and I've forgotten what spices. My son, the budding cook, has recently learned to make Gnocchi, and his rosemary and parmesan gnocchi tossed in extra virgin olive oil made the perfect accompaniment to the roast and a salad. Perfect birthday supper for yours truly. Be sure to come out on Saturdays and give Casey's wine tasting a try. Shoot, you can't stay HOME for 7 bucks these days.
Gnocchi, a serious carbohydrate sin

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Verde Valley Wine Consortium

Last Wednesday I attended the monthly meeting of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium. This is a group composed of many of the movers and shakers in the valley's wine industry. I hate to call it an industry. It's not, clearly, and hopefully never will be. We've got enough industrial wine in this country. Anyhow, on the recommendation of Lisa Pender, manager of the Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room in Cottonwood, I went. The meetings are open to the public and very interesting. Anyone who thinks the valley's wine thing is some bunch of hippies trying to grow grapes instead of weed or a poorly funded flash in the pan that's doomed to failure will quickly have their eyes opened to exactly the opposite. It's not my place to publish their meeting minutes, but here are a few quick tidbits that I found quite amazing.

A representative from Yavapai College was present. Yavapai college has jumped on wine full force. They've planted a vineyard, albeit a demonstration siezed one at present, are offering viticulture and wine appreciation courses, and plan a full blown curriculum in winemaking and even hope to one day bottle their own wine! They have a very interesting painted wine barrel project ongoing wherein barrels are painted by local artists and placed at local wine businesses for a time. At the end of the project they'll be auctioned off, I suspect for big dollars, to help support the viticulture program. This endeavor is being heavily promoted by the wine trail discussed below. Here's a PDF that explains the program. Quite a few noted local artists are jumping on board and you can expect to see their barrels ultimately go for big bucks.

I think it's generally understood that the Chamber of Commerce is and has always been essentially an arm of the Republican party. I make no judgments in that regard, it's just how it is. As such, they're traditionally a very conservative bunch who do not eagerly embrace the newest business craze until they're sure it's got serious dollar potential and long legs. They are ALL OVER Verde Valley wines. I'd love to have been at the members only C of C meeting sometime in the recent past where they all slapped themselves in the forehead and realized "holy crap, tourists are actually COMING HERE FOR WINE!! WE GOTTA JUMP ON THIS!!" Well god bless 'em they have. Check out The Verde Valley Wine Trail homepage.

The First Crush

  No, not the first crush like that girl in first grade. The first crush like the first pressing of grapes in a new season after the harvest. This blog is going to be a journal of sorts. I have recently found myself with the time to pursue a lifelong interest: wine.
  I've had a sort of peripheral association with wine for many years. God knows I've consumed enough. I've also served a lot as a bartender and waiter, and I've cooked my share of it into recipes as a chef many years ago and as the family cook at home. What I've never really had the time to do is just explore and learn about it. Being in the middle of a region literally exploding with grapes and wineries and tasting rooms and having finally the time, I figured it's now or never. Many thanks to my pal John for pushing me into chronicling this venture on a blog. I decided in this first post that maybe I oughta let any readers out there know what they may and may not expect to see on this page. So here we go.

My intention here is to journalize a personal exploration into the growing wine business in the Verde Valley. Not all the wines I'll be talking about will be completely local wines. Most will be Arizona wines and wineries. Many of the wineries in the Verde Valley are using grapes grown in the Wilcox Arizona area, which produces 80% of the wine grapes grown in the state, and some are still using California grapes. As vineyards in the Verde continue to expand and mature, that percentage of grapes from someplace else will naturally go down.

I'll try to post daily, but no promises. When the muse leaves me I can't even remember how to type.

You can expect irreverence. Sorry, it's just me. Here, I'm guessing a lot of that irreverence will be directed towards wine snobs, who deserve to be derided and made fun of at every opportunity. Anyone who's ever described me as jaded and snarky wasn't entirely mistaken!

You'll see lots of opinions and reviews posted, but you'd be well advised to take them all with a large grain of salt. I'm no expert. If I tell you in some tipsy writing session to run out and buy a particular wine and it turns out to be swill, don't say I didn't warn you. Remember, you are taking advice from a palate heavily influenced for decades by cheap beer, chile peppers and chewing tobacco. Hey, it's Cornville!!

I'll be talking about pretty much anything that's remotely related to wines in the Verde, but might ramble off into left field at times. For example, I adore beer. Beer's  a food group. I'll make every effort to keep beer on the fringes of this blog, but it may sneak in from time to time.
Enough introductions, here we go. If anyone's actually reading this, thanks. Your feedback is welcome!