Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leftover Omelets

  Thanksgiving went well. We were joined by Kate's dad Bob and her brother Michael. It was the first time we'd seem Michael out and about in a long time and it was great to have him over.
  A simple dinner of Turkey and all the go-withs followed by good pie and Rye Whisky laced whipped cream and cups of Bob's latest find, Mayan Winds "Native Sun", a single farm, organic fair trade coffee from Mexico. Great, guilt free coffee that's not blown all out of proportion in price. It looks to be a great company doing good works.
  Our wines ended up being the aforementioned Pillsbury Wildchild White and a little Nachise when the white ran out. They both went very well with the multi-layered flavors of Thanksgiving. Nachise will probably end up back on the table with the Christmas roast. Wish I'd had a little bottle of Keeling-Schaefer's dessert Zin, but sadly it's all gone.
  Now we're getting rid of leftovers. This morning's stab at emptying out the fridge was to take the remaining green beans, tiny roasted baby Yukon Gold potatoes and a dab of gravy and heat it all up together to be used as an omelet filling....perfect, and I managed to clear out 3 bowls from the ice box, making more room for beer.
  Johnny called my attention to the Giganticus Headicus (no relation to Biggus Dickus) this morning. How I, a native of this fair state, could have spent some better than a half century here and not know about this popular destination is pretty disturbing. Heck, even Zippy The Pinhead knows about Giganticus Headicus. Salud!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wines for Thanksgiving

  Many years ago, I rented a house in the barrio of East Flagstaff on 3rd Street. Having a spare bedroom, I decided to rent it out. My takers were a Romanian couple who had recently moved to the U.S. Vlad was an electrical engineer who'd been hired by some firm or other, and Corina, his wife, stayed home to do whatever she did all day.

  Vlad and his bride were eager to become acculturated into mainstream American society. Old habits die hard though, and the quaint Romanian custom of standing in line for a week to get a loaf of bread was so ingrained in them that every time they went to the nearby Safeway and found something that caught their eye, they bought ALL of it. As a result, they had an entire 3 door overhead cabinet in the kitchen stuffed full of Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, Ho-Ho's, Hoo-Hoo's, Ring-a-Dings and Ding-Dongs. I tried to impress upon them the fact that it wasn't necessary to hoard Hostess pastries. "There'll be more tomorrow, I PROMISE." Vlad and Corina were unconvinced, and continued to buy out the Spoil-Proof Forever-Pastry rack every time they visited the store. If you've ever wondered how many Ding-Dongs will fit in a 5 x 3 x 2 foot cabinet, I can tell you: A LOT, that's how many.

  Apparently, the only reliable, consistently available foodstuff available in Romania was cabbage. Did you know that cabbage turns a lovely mahogany brown color when it's boiled vigorously for HOURS? Corina was a master at bringing home enormous hunks of pork, which she would cut into rough chunks and place into a large enameled tamale style pot. The kind that holds like 10 gallons of water. To this pork soup she would add several quartered cabbages, put the lid on, light the fire, and proceed to boil the be-jeezus out of it, all day long. Hours upon hours would pass. It's  amazing how synthetic furniture upholstery, draperies and carpeting ; impervious to the effects of such serious pollutants as cat urine, dog upchuck, human sweat and other nasty fragrances fairly SUCKS up, apparently forever, the delicate aroma of overcooked cabbage. My plastic shower curtain stank of cabbage. The clothes in my closet would have gone unnoticed in a wardrobe in Bucarest. Nobody would have said "hey, whose clothes are dese? Dey are not stinking!!"

  Don't get me wrong. Vlad and Corina were genuinely nice people, in spite of their constantly aromatic condition.

  In those days, I always headed to Phoenix for Thanksgiving at my mother's house. My mother, like yours, was the world's greatest cook. Vlad and Corina decided that they wanted to invite me to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them, as they had no one else with whom to share in this new American holiday they couldn't wait to adopt.
  Corina, apparently taking advice from her Romanian Bride Magazine's "How to Cook Everything" cookbook, went to Safeway and bought the biggest turkey she could find that would fit in her giant pot and still leave room for the required cabbages. Into this pot she placed her intact turkey, the cabbages, and topped the whole thing up with water and boiled it for several days. It was frozen, after all. I'll leave the results of this culinary summit to your imagination.We feasted the day before Thanksgiving, so I could still make it to Phoenix to be with my mom and family.

  Served with the turkey was a traditional Balkan liquor called Slivovitz . Slivovitz, it turns out, is Plum Brandy. Plums, yummy. Brandy, what's not to like about brandy? Sounded good to me. Unfortunately, this stuff doesn't taste anything like plums, and even LESS like brandy. Since taste is actually at least 60% olfactory, Slivovitz tastes just about like what you smell on the runway of a busy airport when you get off a plane. Jet fuel. Brake fluid. Mechanical parts cleaner. The only thing that eclipses it's deadly aftertaste is the incomparable headache it leaves behind. It took ALL of one of my mom's pumpkin-praline pies the next day to bring me back to some level of physical normalcy.

  In honor of Vlad and Corina, it's time to talk about what to drink with Thanksgiving dinner. This is problematic. Lots of folks will decide "turkey is white, so we'll have white wine." Not so fast. The mish mash of savory, salty and cloyingly sweet tastes that come with this meal demand a bit more thought.
  Some ideas: First, forget about only white wine with white meat. What's needed here is lightness, acidity, and fruit. The tastes of Thanksgiving won't go with great big reds like Cabernet and Merlot. Lots of oak and tannin are not your friends today, save them for the Christmas prime rib. Consider serving reds as well as whites.

  I was gabbing about the Thanksgiving wine conundrum recently with a young lady who's with Pillsbury. Wise beyond her years, she said "the best way to pick Thanksgiving wine is to imagine what a smoothie made out of turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans and cranberries would taste like. Pick your wine for the combination of tastes, trying to match a wine to a particular item on the menu will make you crazy." She's right if you think about it. It's not about the turkey by itself, or the sweet potatoes, it's about the combination of flavors on your groaningly full plate as all the component parts get blended together. So here are some suggestions. I intentionally left out the pricier stuff, because I can't afford it and don't know it well. Most of these wines are in the 15-30 dollar range.

Whites: Skip the heavily oaked California Chardonnays. These wines are best skipped anyway. The wood notes in them chops off the top notes off grass, hay and herbs that Chardonnay naturally has. It's always been a wonderment to me why someone in California somewhere along the line decided that Chardonnay would be a good wine to put into heavy oak casks. Most european Chardonnays never see any wood; finishing their finishing in stainless steel. If Chardonnay is to your taste, consider Arizona Stronghold's Site Archive Chardonnay, if you can find any. There were only 80 some cases produced, but it isn't sold out as of this writing. It's seen oak, but the barrels were neutral oak, and it isn't noticeable. I don't like Chardonnay as a rule, but this one shines. Grassy and herbal, bright and slightly acidic. Good luck finding it. I don't even have a link.

  Another white to consider is Arizona Stronghold 's Tazi. A blend of Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Malvasia Bianca, this wine is reasonably priced and has the unique combination of acidity, roundness and floral bouquet necessary for such disparate tastes as those that come from turkey, gravy, cranberries and sweet potatoes.

  Page Springs Cellars has their unfortunately named but tasty Vino del Barrio Blanca . A nice fruity white blend. A bargain at 15 dollars retail. Go a notch up on the price list and their Vino de la Familia Blanca ("Wine of the white family"?) is a good buy at 18 bucks. It's 100% Malvasia Bianca and while it might not be the first choice for know-it-alls at Thanksgiving, I think it'd be an interesting choice.

  Pillsbury's Wildchild White , aka "Crop Circles" will fill the bill nicely. It's a field blend of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia and Roussanne grapes. Fragrant on the nose and finishes crisp and clean. It's 18 dollars. The crop circles nickname is a funny story. A guy down in Wilcox, where Pillsbury grows their grapes, got the brilliant idea of planting his vines in circles rather than rows. He eventually got bored or ran out of money or something and abandoned his vineyard. His vines survivied however and the Pillsbury crew decided to hop the fence and harvest the weed infested field. The Wildchild wines were the result.

  Merkin Vineyards, owned by He Who Must Not Be Named, has Lei Li Rose', a pink blend of Cab Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Grenache. It's 23 dollars. Described as a light summertime wine, I think it'd be interesting with Thanksgiving dinner.

  A really interesting rose, which might fit the bill if only one wine is to be served, is the Stronghold's Dayden . Dayden is Apache for "little girl". This isn't your usual sweet, slightly fizzy rose. It's a blend of Zin, Grenache, San Giovese, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. Crisply acidic and floral, it will back up your feast quite well.

  Pillsbury's Rose, nicknamed "One Night Stand", comes from another neglected field of unknown grapes that were harvested and then pulled up, hence the name. It's a one time vintage. At 20 dollars, pretty interesting but maybe not for a one wine dinner.

Reds: Like I said, you want lightness, acidity and fruit here, not oak and tannins.

  On that note, I'll recommend first Pillsbury's Wildchild Red. I'm pretty sure it's going to be on the table here.

  Arizona Stronghold's Mangus, named after another Apache person, is a Tuscan style blend of Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot. Eric Glomski describes it as "food friendly" and I agree. It's 20 dollars. At the same price is their Nachise, one I've had several glasses of and is still on the shopping list this weekend. I'll let Glomski's words from their website describe it:

 "This wine has beautiful aromas of concentrated dark fruits, mocha, tar, sweet cigar smoke, hints of black tea, star anise and pumpkin spice. The palate is immediately full and textured, with alluring crushed blackberry, plumb, raspberry jam and hints of stone fruits, transitioning to plenty of mid palate grip and underlying nuances of dried rosemary and bittersweet cocoa; leading to a very balanced and multi-layered finish."

  Merkin's Chupacabra, which I've mentioned before, is currently on sale for 20 dollars, and a great buy at that price. You'd have a hard time going wrong with this one. Besides, it's called Chupacabra. Leave it to M.J.K. to come up with a name like "goat sucker".

  There are many more local wines to choose for this holiday and Christmas as well. Page Springs has a bunch of Rhone style reds and blushes in this price range, and I haven't even touched on Freitas, Keeling-Schaefer, Alcantara, and others.

 I sure hope Vlad and Corina are by this time well acculturated and have learned the skill of roasting their turkey, and wish everybody a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crop Circles on Main Street

  I worked the Walkin on Main celebration in Old Town Cottonwood yesterday. It was a special celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the town's incorporation. What a pleasant day. Temperatures in the high 60's, no wind and plenty of sun.

  Old Town has really come to life and is the happenin' place to be for the hip, artsy folks. Great music all day, quite a bit of art which I didn't have time to look at, and lots of enthusiastic wine tasters and buyers. They had blocked Main Street off through the Old Town section and it really turned into an old fashioned kind of street fair. All the shops and restaurants were crowded and doing land office business from the looks of things. With the very successful anchor businesses of Orion Bakery, Nick's, The Tavern and our two destination tasting rooms, Old Town is no longer a bunch of starving hippies trying to make weed money selling macrame plant hangers to each other.

  We had it real easy this time. We had our booth set up just a stone's throw from the Pillsbury tasting room, and so anyone who wanted to buy a bottle was directed there. Without having to mess with running credit card transactions or making change and writing receipts, there was more time to chat with the samplers. I met at least a half dozen folks who had driven up from Phoenix specifically for the wine who I remembered from the Festival at The Farm. In addition, there were quite a few initially smug Californicators who'd driven over to satisfy themselves that their wine is still the best and had their hats handed to them after tasting Verde Valley's offerings. Wine prejudice is a real issue, but is perhaps the easiest to dispel.

  One couple from Seattle opined that they couldn't understand how the desert could grow good reds, being that it's soil is so different from the rich, acidic soils of the Northwest. I reminded them, with a smile of course, that the bulk of their grapes are grown in eastern Washington, which is in fact pretty much a desert, with similar soil profiles. "Don't be hoping to taste Washington" I told them as I handed them their samples, "Get ready to taste Arizona". They were suitably impressed.

  During a sit down break, I made friends with Pillsbury's new Wild Child Red, which may end up on the table at Thanksgiving. It seems some genius down in Wilcox decided to plant his vines IN CIRCLES rather than rows, got bored or ran out of money or something and anyway abandoned his vineyard. The Pillsbury crew basically jumped the fence and harvested the weedy, overgrown vines that were still bearing heavy fruit. It's a blend of (I'm not making this up) Syrah, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet and Zinfandel. It has been given the nickname "Crop Circles". A steal at 18 bucks.

  Unfortunately, I got bogged down with the goats by myself before leaving for Cottonwood and blasted out of the house without taking my camera. I'm sure the Verde Independent will have a good slide show up on their page this coming week and I'll post a link to it as soon as it's up. All things considered, it was a very nice day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Let's Get It Out Of The Way, The Thanksgiving Rant

  I'm going to write about Thanksgiving and wine, but that's a tricky subject, and I'll actually have to put some thought into it, which requires some working up to. Thinking isn't easy you know. Ask anybody who thinks about stuff and they'll tell you it's hard. Food is easier to write about.

  Ignoring the absurd, absolutely wrong pilgrim-indian nicey nice story we seem to STILL teach our children, Thanksgiving is still a valid holiday. It's all about being thankful and counting our blessings and spending the day with loved ones. What better reason for a holiday? Well, there IS the food. It's a memory kind of holiday, mostly about remembered tastes and smells of special foods from our childhood.

 Curiously, instead of honoring these foods by carefully and lovingly preparing them in a way that preserves the essence of each of the key dishes in a Thanksgiving feast, today they're mostly done like an elaborate fast food buffet, with lots of short cuts and ready made ingredients. Here are my rules for Thanksgiving dinner. There aren't many, but they are inviolable.
Non-food Rules:
1. There is only one non-food rule. The television should be off. All day, until everybody goes home. Tivo is your friend.

Food Rules:
1. Regarding sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes or yams, take your pick, are tasty and healthful and need minimal preparation. What's done to them on Thanksgiving should be at least a misdemeanor offense. Marshmallows do not belong on real food. The best thing to do with a marshmallow is throw it INTO the campfire. The little ones make amusing cat toys. Canned pineapple rings are useful for making upside down cake and NOTHING else. Sweet taters should be fresh, not canned, and steamed and skinned, then mashed or sliced and dressed minimally with a bit of brown sugar, salt and pepper, butter and a splash of orange juice and baked. Toasted pecans or a few ounces of bourbon can dress them up a bit but are not required.

2. Regarding green beans. "Green bean casserole" reminds me of tuna surprise. You're surprised you're actually eating it. It's like people want to fix green beans so they don't actually taste like green beans. Canned mushroom soup tastes like school glue, don't ask me how I know. Open a can of those nasty fried onions people put on top of their casseroles and taste one by itself, essence of stale, salty grease vaguely onion flavored. Buy real green beans, string them. Fry good cut up bacon and diced onion in the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, cook until done. Add fresh ground pepper during cooking. Tiny redskin potatoes can be added but are not necessary.

3. Regarding cranberries. Use real cranberries, please. It's not hard. Ever go to somebody's house for Thanksgiving and have a CAN SHAPED lump of "cranberries" passed to you? mmmmmm!

4. On bread. Real bread should be served at Thanksgiving. The best thing to do with Parker House Rolls is save them for the post-prandial food fight if your family still practices that ancient custom. Hoarding them in your lap is allowed.

5. On gravy. Making gravy is not rocket science and I'm not going to give lessons here. Ersatz gravy mixes and jarred gravy concentrates might save 10 minutes on the day's food prep, but they are nasty tasting, expensive and contain unpronounceable ingredients. No thanks.

6. On dessert. Real pie is made by real people, not machines. Real pie does not come from a box. Pumpkin pie made from real pumpkins is best, but is not for the faint of heart and leaves much room for failure. Canned pumpkin, believe it or not, is consistently good and simple to use. Buy the unseasoned kind and be creative. It's pure pumpkin, nothing else added. Most pre-made crusts come out of the oven like cardboard. Marie Callender's is one possible exception if you don't overcook it, but even those crusts don't hold up to the long baking time required for pumpkin pie. Make your own crust. Use lard. If you hadn't noticed, lard is now officially good for you, or at least it's not officially bad for you. The noble pig is redeemed. And there was much rejoicing....
Sub Rule 6a: On whipped cream. Whipped cream is made by putting very cold cream, sugar, vanilla and a slop of bourbon or brandy into a bowl that's been in the freezer and whipping it with a hand mixer to a desired firmness. It does NOT come from cans, or worse: axle grease tubs of "non dairy whipped topping". The inventor of Cool Whip should be tied to a chair and force-fed his nasty grease like a goose is force-fed corn to make it's liver nice and fat. After that, we'll go get the guys who invented spray can "cheese" and Miracle Whip.....

7. Regarding turkey. There are two reasons why turkey is hard to cook without drying out. First, modern turkeys have been bred to have enormous breasts. It was discovered that we couldn't legally do that for our women folks, and so we decided to do it to our turkeys instead. If you think for one second that I used the phrase "enormous breasts" hoping to attract web searchers to this blog you're absolutely right, er, wrong.

 Somewhere along the line the factory meat producers got the notion that Americans wanted mostly white meat, and so they started developing mutant birds that have now become what most people picture when they think of turkeys. White meat is naturally lower in fat than the dark portions, so it dries out quicker.

  This changes the cooking paradigm. There are many ways to correctly cook a turkey. Dunking it in boiling oil "cajun" style is not one of those. It comes out tasting like gigantic fried chicken. Why not just fry chicken and reduce the risk of setting your garage or children on fire when the grease boils over or explodes?
  The best way to keep modern poultry moist is to avoid overcooking it, use a good digital thermometer with a temperature alarm on it, and brine it overnight first. Brining a big turkey requires a giant pot, lots of ice or a spare refrigerator and 12-18 hours. No big deal. There are lots of instructions out there. Google is your friend. It's worth the trouble.

  The second reason it's hard to end up with moist turkey is for some unfathomable reason, Americans don't mind spending hundreds of dollars on Thanksgiving side dishes, but want to get their main course FREE. We've all fallen for the grocery store ads; "Spend a hundred bucks and get your turkey for 49 cents a pound! Spend TWO hundred and get one FREE!!" Don't people realize that all the sides they're buying are overpriced, and ultimately they're paying for a "free" turkey that was slaughtered over a year ago?

  "They want almost three dollars a pound for fresh turkeys, IMAGINE!!" You've heard this, you may have even said it yourself. Admit it. Every day of the year, people pay 2 bucks a pound for ground "beef" that comes in 10 pound sausage shaped chubbies that you can't see through. They happily feed this fetid slurry to their kids, patting themselves on the back for the bargain they got. Meat made from worn out dairy cows who can't stand up anymore. Meat that has from time to time poisoned hundreds. Come on, it's Thanksgiving, get a good, fresh turkey that hasn't been frozen since last year. Look for a local producer, maybe someone who raises heirloom breeds. You'll still spend enough and get the free one, which you can use for interesting science experiments at home.

8. Regarding vegans, dieters, the "lactose intolerant" and those with "food allergies". These people are often petulant and self-absorbed. Unless they are beloved friends and relatives whose absence will seriously detract from your day, they should eat someplace else. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Festival at The Farm

I've been curious about The Farm At South Mountain for a long time. Back in the 1920's Dwight B. Heard, most well known as the benefactor of the Heard Museum , bought and then split up a large tract of land between Southern Avenue and Baseline Road in south central Phoenix. Heard was more than just a rich land baron. He had the crazy notion that people could live self-sufficiently on a couple of acres of desert. Projects to bring cheap water to the valley were going gangbusters in those days, the nearby Salt River was still an actual river with real water in it, and with your purchase of 2 acres for about 1100 bucks, old Dwight threw in a cow and fifty chickens to sweeten the deal.

Many of these properties still exist in the area. It's pretty neat to be a few minutes from downtown Phoenix and be able to drive down shady streets and see well tended pastures with big gardens and livestock. Kinda makes you feel like all's not lost after all.

  A retired cow puncher named Skeeter Coverdale got hold of 10 of these acres somewhere along the line and planted them in Pecan trees. He took care of that grove for 40 years or so and then decided watching trees grow and picking pee-cons once a year was just too much work and what he really wanted to do was re-retire to Punkin Center where he could "swat flies and drink beer". I think I woulda liked old Skeeter. Anyhow, he sold the place to a guy named A. Wayne Smith.

  I don't generally trust people whose first name is an initial, but Mr. Smith has really got a good thing going with The Farm. He's preserved the grove, Skeeter's cabin, the original buildings, and added several businesses that are under separate proprietorships. There are several restaurants, including Quiessence , where you'll pay a minimum of 75 bucks a head before drinks, dessert and gratuity for the privilege of having an entirely local, seasonal, organic feast prepared by chef Greg La Prad. This place has won numerous awards, including a very prestigious Zagat top 5 restaurants in Arizona.

  The Farm also has a breakfast place, a place to grab a sandwich, an onsite artisan bakery as well as the required "therapy" place where you can get accupunctured, inhale flower essences and presumably get your palm read and your chakras aligned, or tuned up, or irrigated or whatever it is they do to chakras.

  The Arizona Wine Grower's Association has held their annual fete at The Farm At South Mountain for a couple of years, and I can't think of a better place to do it. Spread out with lots of room among the ancient Pecan trees, everything was absolutely first cabin. Even the Port-O-Sans were plush. Not the plastic kind of outdoor johns that you normally get, the kind where you feel like you're inside a garbage bin, no sir. These had running water, AC, flushable toilets, mirrors and even little vases of flowers.

  Of course, it should have been nice. These folks, and there were LOTS of them, paid 65 bucks a pop for unlimited tastings, wine seminars and lunch. I kept thinking "WHAT RECESSION??"
  The day began at noon, with an hour devoted to trade only samplers. Wine retailers, chefs, restaurant buyers and sommeliers came thru to sample and place orders. Business was brisk and these folks are dying to get Arizona wines into their dining rooms and onto their shelves.

  Thinking ahead, we decided to use our lunch vouchers and eat before the public was admitted. My sack lunch consisted of an amazing sandwich of grilled portobello mushrooms and peppers and gorgonzola on the best slices of Pane Toscano bread I've ever tasted. All grown and baked on the premises. The toasted pecan balsamic dressed pasta salad side would have been great all by itself. The Sedona Wine festival could learn a thing or two rom these folks about the food they provide next year. I can still taste the dirty socks flavor of the cold, greasy flatbreads I paid 7 bucks for from the Hilton's booth there. But I digress....

  The rabble was allowed in at 1, and that's when it got REALLY busy. We had people 4 to 6 deep all day. I had the pleasure of working with Amy, who is a chemist-biologist person in the Page Springs Cellars actual cellar, Justin, who handles outside events for the winery, and Eric Glomski, owner/winemaker. It was the first time I'd met Eric and I have to say, he's just a regular, scruffy kind of guy who I think is probably a lot older than he looks. I think some people (who hadn't seen "Blood Into Wine" anyway) assumed I was some kind of boss as I was clearly the oldest one at the table. To their great surprise I kept having to ask Eric and Justin the answers to their questions. "How many cases of El Serrano were produced?" "How much Syrah is in the MSGp?" One lady asked "So Eric works for you as your winemaker?" Uh, no, I answered. WE all work for Eric. He's the boss. He makes the wine and owns the place. Eric is THE MAN. That's the kind of guy he is. Self effacing, a bit reticent and ever complimentary about everyone.

  Friday night there had been a judging of all the wines by some poo-bahs of the wine world. Arizona Stronghold, Eric's partnership with He Who Must Not Be Named (M.J.K.) did well, but Caduceus really hauled away the trophies. If and when I can get a link to the results I'll post them later. Page Springs Cellars didn't win any awards this year, and Justin was somewhat non-plussed about that. I used a goat show analogy to make him feel better. I said, "look, I can take my best doe in milk into a three ring show and she'll place in three different positions before three different judges. One judge might be a Nubian breeder and have a prejudice against Swiss breeds, whether he's aware of it or not. Another judge might like my goat over another for some hard to define reason. It's all personal taste, one individual show doesn't mean squat, it's got to be the same whether you're judging wine, livestock or flower arrangements." I think he liked that.

  In the final analysis, Eric did well no matter how you slice it. Consider: Arizona Stronghold is now arguably the 800 lb. gorilla of Arizona Wines. They have more acreage than anyone else. Their wines are now for sale in 32 states and two Canadian provinces. They sell excess grapes and bulk wine to lots of the smaller wineries who are still waiting for their plantings to mature. M.J.K. may have had the money, time, drive and creative energy necessary to start Merkin and Caduceus, but ERIC taught him how to grow grapes and make wine. Eric works as a consultant winemaker for quite a few of the smaller wineries. I'll bet, conservatively, two thirds of the wineries represented at this show had been in some way affected by Eric Glomski's expertise. I couldn't help but marvel at his cool after about the 20th time somebody asked him "so what's it like working with Maynard?" I wonder if anyone's ever asked Maynard "what would you have done without Eric?"

  I promised myself I wasn't going to comment on the preponderance of tatoos, piercings and dark clothing on the tasters standing 6 deep all day at the Caduceus table, so I won't. There. I didn't. M. J. K. was not in attendance, you'd think these people would figure that out. He never shows. Puscifer was playing a sold out show that night in Phoenix though, so maybe he was lurking around disguised as somebody else. I do kinda like their version of Rocket Man, click the link to listen to it and see all the weird stuff on their website.

  I don't know why Ray Freitas didn't attend. I'd love to have seen how her wines did in the judging. Pillsbury, who markets for her, had a table but I didn't have even a minute to check out the other tables.
I need to talk to them today to get some Ray's Red for Romano Scaturro at Vince's Little Star restaurant in Cornville, so maybe I'll get some information then.

  I really enjoyed this festival. The drive is a piece of cake. Stay on I 17 till it turns into 10, get off on 32nd street, drop down past Broadway, Roeser and Southern and The Farm is on the right just about a block past Southern. It's possible to wander the grove, look at Maya's 2 acre garden and farm and have a pleasant time without spending a dime. Affordable lunches and breakfasts are to be had at the other eateries on the premises too. You don't have to spend a fortune. I'll bet breakfast there this time of year would be pretty special. I'll have to take somebody else's word for that though. Here are a very few shots I had time to take. Salud!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arizona Wine Week

It's official. Today Governor Brewer will declare November 1-7 "Arizona Wine Week". It's hoped that the Gov will keep her driver working overtime this week.  There are two festivals going on next weekend in the valley. There's the Thunderbird Artists' Carefree Art and Wine Fest Thing, and there's the Arizona Wine Grower's Association Festival at The Farm at South Mountain.

As I said in the previous post, Page Springs Cellars had called me to confirm working for them at Carefree. I've long been curious about the Farm at South Mountain. I've pretty much always had the idea that it's the kind of upscale green business that only Lexus Hybrid drivers could afford, taking smug comfort in the knowledge that their Arugula Salad is grown right on the premises where they're paying 25 bucks to eat it. This event costs 65 bucks a pop to get in and includes lunch at their big deal restaurant and full tastings, plus the presence of virtually every winery in the state and all the actual winemakers, too.
Out of the blue yesterday, the event coordinator from Page Springs Cellars called me and said "you know, instead of Carefree, we'd really like you to be with us out at the Festival at The Farm."
After demurring a bit, making clucking sounds about the extra driving distance, hemming and hawing just the right amount, I jumped on it before he could change his mind.
Johnny M. and I were gabbing the other day and he said "if there's a way you could weasel your way into that Farm Festival, you really ought to try." Well, I didn't have to.
I just hope I don't have to pour the Gov's wine.