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