Arizona Wines Part 2

As we mentioned in part one of our Scottsdale vacation we went to the FnB restaurant to try some wines where the grapes were grown and vinified in Arizona. It is a nice little restaurant with the kitchen in the middle. If you sit at the bar you can watch the chef Charleen Badman do her magic. They were pretty full but said we could take two seats at the bar for an hour as they had a reservation and would be full then. We also enquired about reservations for ourselves and they had one opening for Sunday night so we decided we better take that opening immediately. As we had been informed, they do serve only Arizona wines with the exception of a sparkling wine from New Mexico.

We decided to start with the sparkling wine as George Herron, our local wineshop owner at Fine Wines of Stockton, had suggested we look for it when we told him we were going to focus on wines from the southwest. It was a Non Vintage Gruet Brut sparkling wine. It was a slight blush color with many very fine bubbles. The nose was of green apple and that carried over into the flavor with a little vegetal notes like apple peel. The finish was clean, moderately long and quiet pleasant.

After that we had a 2009 Pillsbury Chardonnay from Cochise county and a 2008 Callaghan Cabernet Sauvignon, Cochise County. We were pleasantly surprised at how nice all the wines were. The chardonnay was a little too chilled so the nose was a little closed initially but as it warmed up the nose became more complex with citrus and green apple. There was good acid and a clean long finish. I picked up a little oak but Nancy did not. It turns out it has been aged six months in neutral american oak.

The Callaghan Cabernet was also a little cool to begin with so we took our time so it could warm up a little. There was dark fruit and spice on the nose and the color was fairly light for a cabernet. There was a lot of dark fruit and red cherries in the mouth but not overripe and actually reminded us more of a pinot noir than a cabernet. Very smooth and well integrated tannins with a light mouthfeel and lots of flavor. The finish also had a lot of flavor and lingered on the palate. We thought these were going to be big fruit bombs like other wines from hot climates but it turns out the grapes are grown at higher altitudes (3500 to 4800 feet)

Since we could not stay at FnB for dinner we went exploring and ended up at Tapas Papa Fritas somewhat across the street and up the hill. The staff was very friendly and the food was good, though rather high fat. The flamenco group was pretty loud, however, and their mic picked up conversations on the other side of the bar. We had a leek tart and mushrooms sauteed in sherry. They also had great bread with a nice aoli. Since we were in a Spanish restaurant we decided to have Spanish wine with our meals so we ordered two different Albarinos to go with our meal. The first was a 2005 Fornelos and the other was a 2008 Licia. The Licia was a very light yellow color with a closed nose. The flavor was light and citrussy with a lot of acid and a moderately long finish. It was a very good complement to the tapas we had ordered. While understated it was elegant and complex. The Fornelos was a darker yellow and had an obvious and distinctive nose we are having trouble describing. The color, nose and flavors were very concentrated, an older and more concentrated version of the Licia.

The next night were going on a moonlight hike in the desert so we had pizza for lunch at Grimaldi’s and ordered enough extra to have for dinner just before we went hiking. We went out to McDowell Regional Mountain Park and sat in a picnic area by ourselves eating our left over pizza with coyotes howling all around us. Pretty neat! When the rest of the group arrived we went for a fun two hour hike in the dark. It’s pretty nice in the desert at night, just have to be careful you don’t walk into a cactus or step on a scorpion!

The next day we did the usual shopping and we also went to visit my newest granddaughter for awhile. Later that evening went to Cowboy Ciao for a very excellent dinner. Nancy had the Pan Seared Panko Crusted Halibut that she said was really good and I had the Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry which was excellent. After looking at the menu and wine list we were somewhat unsure what we wanted to order so decided to have a glass of wine while we were making up our minds. I chose a 2008 Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Riesling from Washington while Nancy wanted a Pinot Blanc but could not decide between the one offered by the glass and a Chenin Blanc offered by the glass. The waitress was so nice, however, she brought out a taste of both wines for Nancy to try. She also brought a taste of the Shiraz I was thinking of having with the mushrooms. It’s really nice when a restaurant lets you taste the wine before ordering. Nancy decided on the 2007 Lazarre Pinot Blanc after tasting both wines. It turns out the Chenin Blanc, which was a 2005 Domaine Des Baumard Savennieres Clos du Papillon was quite sweet. It was instantly obvious the pinot blanc was going to be a better match. The Savinnieres had a light yellow color with some botrytis on the nose and was surprisingly sweet with melon and pineapple flavors. The acid was nice, however, and it had a clean long finish. The Lazarre had light fruit and mineral nose and flavors, very typical Pinot Blanc charactereistics. An elegant wine with with a nice mouthfeel and lots of flavor. It was a perfect match for the halibut.

I had a 2008 Mollydooker, the Boxer, Shiraz from McLaren Vale. A dark ruby colored wine with a big fruity nose. There were big fruit flavors but not overripe. A pleasant surprise as I had expected a huge overripe oaky wine. There was spice with a little oak, lots of nice fruit and smoke, moderate well integrated tannins and good acid with a long finish. The shiraz went very well with the mushrooms I had for dinner.

Sunday we got up late and went to my other granddaughter’s birthday party at a local pizza place catering to children. She and her friends had a great time playing all of the games and eating pizza. We ate light as later that evening we were going to FnB restaurant as planned.

We were welcomed enthusiastically as they do all of their customers and sat at the corner of the bar where we could watch the chef and almost all of the rest of the restaurants. After perusing the menu and listening to the specials I ordered the grilled quail on a bed of fergola with some yogurt layered on. Nancy decided on the special which was a grilled lamb tenderloin on top of succotash with a mint and herb sauce. The waiter recommended a 2008 Pillsbury Roan Red, an obviously Rhone inspired blend of 68% Grenache, 16% Syrah, 14% Mouvedre and 2 % Petit Syrah. The color was a nice medium red and the nose for Nancy was the cherry and berry flavors she expects from a Grenache while I got the red roses I often associate with Grenache. It was a very elegant with a light mouthfeel and a lot of flavor with spicy back notes that complemented the fruit. Light well integrated tannins and the finish was long with the flavor of the wine. It went excellent with both of our meals, a really great match. After dinner we had a Cherry, Almond Semi Fredo dusted with almond. It was excellent! The entire meal was excellent! Easily in the top five meals we have ever had. What a great way to end our vacation!

We spent some time talking with the one of the owners, Pavle Milic. He is really big on Arizona wines and even sponsored a blind wine tasting with 10 Arizona wines and 10 well known wines from around the world. The results were surprising in that the Arizona wines took first in both the white and the red categories. The judges were all well known wine personalities including Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV. For us, we will plan on a wine tasting trip to southern Arizona in the future to find more nice wines from the southwest.