April’s Wine Club

wine-beer-store-phoenix-april-wine-club-brian-benson-cellarsApril’s Wine Club Selections Are Here!

This month’s club sees an interesting blend of Old World meets New World showcased by an up-and-coming New World cult producer and a historically rich producer sourcing from and up and coming AOC. Confused yet?

Let’s start with this: it’s Rosé season. Technically, Phoenix offers us year round Rosé season. And, thankfully, the wine culture in the West has finally come to realize that a good Rosé is as refined as it is refreshing – and not a sweet wine with the initials WZ. To further drive home the idea of “season,” the 2015 Rosés from the Northern Hemisphere have been arriving by the caseload recently. Arizona, California, France, Oregon, and Spain have all been releasing their 2015 Rosés. Much of what we’ve tasted so far has been very intriguing!

So what is Rosé? Rosé is (should be) a dry wine. And to keep things fun and easy, we’ll point out that it’s basically made up of red varietals (our favorite Rosé grape is Grenache). As the selected grapes are harvested and brought to the crush pad, they go through one of a few different methods to draw the winemaker’s desired amount of pigment from the skins. That desired amount of pigment, and method in which it is drawn out, produces a Rosé from grapes that would typically produce red or purple wines.

A couple of terms that you should pay attention to when talking about Rosé: maceration and saignee. Both are methods of making and imparting the beautiful Rosé color that you should look for, and both methods are used to produce what is considered premium Rosé. A key component is that both methods desire a “dry” style of wine. We’ll leave it at that since we’re keeping this light and fun… But if you want to completely geek out on Rosé, stop in at the shop to discuss!

Rosé should be paired with a lighter dish, spicy dish, friend, sunset, patio, or day that ends in “y”. And it should probably be consumed within three years of its vintage year. The areas producing the best Rosés (in our opinion) are France (Provence, Languedoc), Spain (Rioja), Lebanon (yep, we said Lebanon), and California (SoCal).

And our wine club selections this month are:

Chapoutier Bila Haut Rosé
This selection comes from the esteemed producer/négociant Michel Chapoutier (pronounced shuh-poo-tee-ay). The Chapoutier family has been producing wine for centuries. Michel and his brother took the family business from the confines of the Rhône Valley and expanded into other parts of France, Portugal, Australia, and the US. In the process, they’ve certainly made their mark in the world of quality wine, experience, and opportunity. This particular selection is a blend of 55% Grenache and 45% Syrah from the Languedoc, France. The method of production is maceration, which pulls the gorgeous hue you’ll find in this wine. It delivers a unique point of minerality and freshness. Enjoy!

Brian Benson Cellars Kandy Red
Ummmmm…what just happened here? Let us tell you. We just got you another selection that was not previously available in AZ. Not only that, but Brian Benson, the winemaker, is considered a “cult” producer in Paso Robles, CA. Why? He doesn’t make a ton of wine and what he makes is not broadly distributed…and everything he makes is pretty freaking fun. Brian made his first wine at the age of 12, and began selling his wine commercially when he was just 19. He cut his teeth in the wine biz after his family purchased some land on the west side of Paso Robles in the 1990s. They became grower-producers in an up-and-coming wine region at just the right moment. We had the honor of purchasing some of Brian’s wine 10 years ago when he was just starting out in the commercial side of the business. He had a tasting room built off the back of his father’s tasting room. It was very basic and simple – a tasting cave, if you will. We tasted a few of his selections and were left wondering when this guy was going to blow up in popularity. We bought three bottles that day and wished we had purchased more. It’s always impactful when you come across personalities in the wine industry that are not afraid to express themselves through the wine they make. To break the mold of “what a wine should be” as compared to “how a wine can express itself” is what Brian has championed. Kandy Red is a blend of Grenache and Zinfandel (or Primitivo if you’re feeling Italian). Enjoy this selection and keep your eye out in the shop for some additional limited release selections from Brian. Rapid Roy, Tryst, and Neopolitan Pussycat will be showing up soon and in limited quantities!

Cheers, and see you soon!

Danielle & Craig

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March’s Wine Club

wine-beer-store-phoenix-march-wine-club-michael-pierceMarch’s Club Wine Is Here!

2 turntables and a Cotes du Rhone! March wine club wines are in, and what could have been a better way to kick them off than to see Beck perform last weekend at McDowell Mountain Music Festival. Those who know…know!

And what fun selections this month. Actually, this month holds a selection that we have been waiting to use since we opened last summer. So it’s almost a year in the making!

Last year, before we opened, we set out on a mission to find AZ wines that showcased varietal correctness while demonstrating notes of our AZ terroir at reasonable prices. We hit up a couple of wineries and were not impressed (we’re too classy to name names, of course!). Then we hit up a few more tasting rooms and found a couple of wines that were good, but sourced from CA. We were about to call it a wrap when we decided to make one last stop at Four Eight Wineworks in Clarkdale. Four Eight is a Co-op for AZ winemakers. It showcases a numerous AZ wines that are also marketed through their wine bar. It was here that we came across a Viognier from Saeculum Cellars and a white blend from Bodega Pierce. Both wines made us look at each other, smile, and proclaim that there is hope for AZ wine in our shop after all! We then found out that both wines were made by the same winemaker, Michael Pierce. So who is this dude and how does he pull off making great wine from grapes grown in AZ? Well, it just so happens that his talent was also recognized by Yavappi College, where he is the Director on Enology (AKA the study of wine).

Michael’s father owns and cultivates just over 25 vineyard acres in Wilcox, AZ. Which means Michael is able to pull from his vast experience and knowledge to collectively work with his father to produce some of, if not the best, grapes in AZ.

And March’s selections are…

Bodega Pierce “Pandora”
Our first AZ wine offered in the wine club! This is such an exciting feature for us, to be able to share a wine that made us believe in AZ wine! And the wine was delivered to us by Michael Pierce himself! Pretty rare circumstance to have a winemaker personally deliver their product, so we captured the moment by forcing the humble and reserved Michael to pose for the photo above! This selection is a blend of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Malvasia Bianca. Rich notes of citrus with a tropical mid palate and finish. When we first tasted this wine, it was so good that we thought it was sourced from Southern California. We’re proud that AZ can produce wines of this quality!

Coto De Hayas “Fagus” Old Vine Garnacha

This selection comes from the DO (Denominacion De Origen) Campo De Borja. Located in the NE part of Spain where Garnacha (Grenache) is produced with authority, and this selection is no exception! The grapes are sourced with care from 50 year old vines. This wine is also unfiltered and unfined, which is awesome! Enjoy this deep, dark, rich Garnacha with whatever you are eating, or just on its own. Spain keeps offering such amazing wines at incredible price points that it is making it difficult for us to keep from featuring these gorgeous wines!

Enjoy,

Danielle & Craig

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HTBS In Arizona Capitol Times: Small shops seek control over wine tastings

Sampling Errors: Small shops seek control over wine tastings

wine-beer-store-phoenix-hidden-track-sampling
Danielle Middlebrook and Craig Dziadowicz opened Hidden Track Bottle Shop in downtown Phoenix in July 2015. They’re supporting a bill that would give them more flexibility with wine tastings. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Last New Year’s Eve, the owners of a small wine shop in downtown Phoenix wanted to thank their customers by having a wine tasting.

But the distributor in charge of the event was an hour late to a two hour tasting, leaving customers waiting and causing some to leave, said Hidden Track Bottle Shop owner Danielle Middlebrook.
“As a business owner, it really took the wind out of our sails, to be feeling such a heartfelt thanks to our customers and then just to really have it blow up in our faces for nothing that we could have done,” Middlebrook said.

Middlebrook and her partner, Craig Dziadowicz, opened Hidden Track at 111 W. Monroe St., last July, hoping to introduce unique wines to the city and become a community gathering spot.
They hold tastings twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, but, according to Arizona liquor laws, they’re required to have distributors bring in their products and conduct those tastings, Middlebrook said. The process takes control away from the owners, especially in situations such as what happened on New Year’s Eve, she said.

Normally, the distributors’ tastings work out well, she said. But when it doesn’t – if a distributor forgets to file the proper paperwork, doesn’t file paperwork on time, gets stuck in traffic or gets sick – it’s painful for a small business, Middlebrook said.

“Most of the time, it’s a successful outcome. It’s just that when it isn’t, we lose a lot of credibility and it makes it look like we don’t have ourselves together, when the reality is, we have painstakingly gone through a myriad of different steps,” she said.

A bill proposed by Rep. T.J. Shope could help Middlebrook and Dziadowicz.

The Coolidge Republican’s HB2182 would get rid of a requirement in state law that says a beer and wine store must have a 5,000 squarefoot building in order to be able to conduct its own sampling.
In practice, Middlebrook says the bill would allow her to open a bottle of wine from the store’s shelves if the distributor tasting didn’t work out for some reason. She could also curate wines from the shop for a more creative tasting if she wants.

The 5,000 squarefoot requirement, which grocery stores or wine retailers such as Total Wine or BevMo would reach, “seems to benefit the large companies against maybe some homegrown Arizona businesses,” Shope said.

He said he hasn’t quite been able to figure out why the requirement is on the books in the first place.
“Nobody from Total Wine or even the grocery stores or the BevMo world has reached out at all, which leads me to believe that nobody really knows why the 5,000 squarefoot number is there,” Shope said.
Lee Hill, communications director for the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, said in an email that the bill would simply remove the 5,000 squarefoot language, so it would allow places like convenience stores or gas stations to have tastings, too.

She said she hasn’t tracked how the provision became a law, but it’s been on the books for the nine years she has worked at the department.

“After asking persons involved in the liquor industry for decades, my understanding of the purpose of the square footage requirement is to allow sampling in larger retail locations, eliminating convenience markets and gas stations,” Hill said.

Rep. Juan Mendez, (D)Tempe, said he was concerned about the possibility that convenience stores could sample beer and wine, if they wanted to.

“I don’t want to go to convenience stores that are everywhere and have them sampling the latest booze and energy drink thing,” Mendez said while voting against the bill in the House Rural and Economic Development Committee.

An amendment from Shope during the House Committee of the Whole session on Feb. 17 clarified that a beer and wine store under 5,000 squarefeet would still need to have 75 percent of its shelves dedicated to liquor in order to do samplings, which would likely exclude gas stations and convenience stores.

The bill passed the House Rural and Economic Development committee on a 53 vote on Feb. 2. It awaits a formal vote of the House before heading to Senate. If the bill becomes law, Middlebrook said the shop doesn’t plan to stop working with distributors to put on tastings, but they want to have a safeguard to make sure customers won’t lose out on trying wines if something goes wrong.

“We worked really hard to build this business. It’s a labor of love. It is tough as a business owner to do everything that’s within your control and still have the outcome fail for reasons beyond your control,” she said.

Sampling errors_ Small shops seek control over wine tastings _ Arizona Capitol Times

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Feb’s Wine Club

 

February Wine Club Selections Are Here!

Well it’s that time again… The joyous time that comes each month when we get to share the newest club selections with you! And once again, we found a couple of treats.

So lets talk about a couple things. First, some fun facts about Argentina and the land of Malbec.

Argentina, although known as “New World,” was involved with viticulture as far back is the mid 1500s. To put that into perspective, the Medoc region in Bordeaux was a marshland at this time, very few people knew about Rioja, Spain and the wine it was producing, and Port (as we know it) didn’t exist. But let’s call Argentina New World for the heck of it. Enter a volatile economy (some things never change) and Malbec becoming the varietal that would bring Argentina back into the wine world in a fierce way – so much so that Argentina now exports Malbec back to Cahors, France, the region considered the birthplace of Malbec!

Argentine wine originates almost entirely from a region named Mendoza. The Mendoza region is the 6th largest producer of wine in the world. It also claims the highest average vineyard elevations at an average of 900 meters (2,900 feet). These heights would normally create temperature issues with grape growing, but a combination of mountain sun exposure and a desert-like climate give this large region the ability to produce a lot of grapes.

Many people often ask how South America is able to produce such high quality wine at a relatively low cost. Well this might shed a little light: On average, the cost of land and labor to produce grapes in Argentina is $30,000/acre. Compare that to the $300,000/acre it costs in Napa…or as we call it, the “Napa Tax,” and you get some pretty steep price differentials.

So with that information at hand, we bet you can guess that one of the selections is going to be from Argentina?

And the selections for February are:

Etude “Grace Benoist Ranch” Chardonnay, Carneros, California
As we’ve told you before, the Carneros region in California is the region in which Chardonnay creates a model for all other Chardonnay to follow. With a perfect marrying of grape and terroir, Chardonnay from Carneros takes on a brilliance unmatched. OK, so that’s our opinion (and we’ll gladly accept any taste challenges and comparisons!). Etude Wines was created about 25 years ago and became an industry standard for Napa Pinot Noir. And where great Pinot Noir is grown, so too is great Chardonnay. Enter what we call a “classic California Chardonnay.” Classic in the sense that it is not masked with oak and butter notes, but is allowed to shine to its fullest expression. This Chardonnay is elegant and graceful. Enjoy!

Bodega Calle Reserva “El Necio” Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina
So we teased you with all that Malbec talk just to hit you with a killer Syrah! An amazingly beautiful Syrah! We were so blown away by the uniqueness of this selection that we might seek out another from this small Mendoza producer in future wine club months. And when we say small producer, we mean only ~ 400 cases of this Syrah are made each year. Yep, 400 cases and we got 20! It’s kind of fun asking if we can buy 5% of the total production to share with our wine club members. This wine is going to throw some major terroir at you. Then it will follow up with a richness that is led by layers of flavor that don’t stop. It’s also organically grown and produced, harvested by hand and fermented in cement tanks. After fermentation is complete, the juice is transferred to French Oak for 12 months before it is released to market.

Cheers, Wine Club Members – can’t wait to hear what you think of these beauties!

Craig & Danielle

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Jan’s Wine Club

wine-beer-store-phoenix-wine-club-janHappy New Year, Wine Club Members!

What a great finish to 2015. Our NYE Bubbles and Suds tasting was a grand send off! And from the looks of it, 2016 is starting off on a great note, especially considering the finds for this month’s club selections.

Let’s talk a little about Bordeaux (guess why?). In order to put together a base to begin learning about Bordeaux, you should know these fundamentals. First, circa 1855, Emperor Napoleon III requested that a classification system be put into place in Bordeaux. Enter the “Cru” system. This classification system (by ranking of “best”) was to arrange the various Chateaus to be displayed for the Exposition Universelle de Paris. This system took into account the reputation of each Chateau and the average price of a Chateau’s wines. From this came what is commonly referred to as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th growth properties. These properties were defined and written into law and became a benchmark of quality that the world of wine follows and studies every day.

Here is a list of the “1st Growth” (Premier Cru) Chateaus:
– Chateau Lafite
– Chateau Latour
– Chateau Margaux
– Chateau Haut-Brion
– Chateau Mouton Rothschild

If someone offers you one of these bottles, say thank you and share with us!

The more important part to Bordeaux is knowing the varietals (grapes) approved and used.

Red varietals of Bordeaux:
– Cabernet (dominant on the left bank of the Gironde estuary)
– Merlot (dominant on the right bank of the Gironde estuary)
– Cabernet Franc
– Malbec
– Petit Verdot
– Carmenere (very little is used today…but remember last month’s selection?)

If you hear someone refer to a wine as a “Bordeaux blend,” they’re referring to a blend using the first five grapes above.

White varietals of Bordeaux:
– Semillon (most common)
– Sauvignon Blanc (most common)
– Muscadelle
– Sauvignon Gris
– Ugni Blanc
– Colombard
– Merlot Blanc
– Ondenc
– Mauzac

And now on to the Wine Club selections –

Chateau Moulin Canon Fronsac
This amazing little Chateau has 7.5 hectares (18 acres) of organically grown vines. They produce just three selections of wine, and the selection that made it into our club is 100% Merlot. In fact, it’s only Merlot that is grown on this property. If you caught the info above about red Bordeaux varietals, you’ll have already figured out that this Chateau is a right bank property where Merlot is dominant. This wine sees used French oak for 12 months. Total estate production is just 1,800 cases! This wine is a gem that we are sure will impress you. It is ready to drink as soon as you pop the bottle, but if you want to let that bottle breathe for about an hour before you drink what’s in it, the wine will take on a new depth and richness – to a level that made us sure we had to bring it in to share with you!

Terras Do Cigarron Godello
Godello, say what? Say Spanish varietal that will leave you wanting more. This selection comes from a very small DO (Denominacion De Orixe, AKA a certified Spanish growing region) called Monterrei. This area is in the northwest part of Spain, right on the Spain/Portugal border. This area is culturally part of Galicia, and during Lenten season celebrates a local carnival tradition called “Entroido.” This celebration comes from an ancient pagan fertility celebration marking the passage of winter into spring. The heroes of Galicia, known as “Ciggarones,” are honored during Entroido with masks that adorn their families lineage and history. In other words, this wine is freaky good, but we are not responsible for any fertility shenanigans caused while drinking it!

Cheers to you and an amazing 2016!

Craig & Danielle

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Dec’s Wine Club

wine-beer-store-phoenix-dec-wine-clubDecember’s Club Wine Is Here!

We (well, The Craig anyway) had to run down to South America to wrap up the December club offering. And we are going to have to share some pictures.

The trip was centered around Vina Santa Carolina. This historic winery has been in operation for 140 years. The original winery, which is now a national historic site, is in the heart of Santiago’s industrial center. As the city grew and industry moved in, the winery lost vineyard sites and eventually had to purchase new vineyards in the surrounding agricultural areas. However they had resources to research the best growing regions and choose regions that would produce the best Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. This philosophy didn’t make their job easy, but it allowed them to produce amazing quality. The rest of the world of wine started to figure out what this winery was accomplishing and have been using them as a resource. There is now a partnership with UC Davis researching and developing vines and varietals that are relatives of the original pre phyloxera root stock brought to Chile from France in the 1800’s.

Side note on this winery before we get into the actual wines. Santa Carolina Reserva De Familia Cabernet made international wine news when in 1889, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, they received a Gold Medal. This was the first Chilean and New World wine to receive such honors, and this wine was considered on par with Grand Cru Bordeaux! BTW, we have this selection at the shop. It is an amazing wine.

OK, we can keep going on about the winery, but you will have to stop in the shop and ask for more details. Now about those Club wines…

Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc
This Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Leyda D.O. in Chile. The Leyda region is one of the cooler growing regions in Chile. Cooler growing regions equal premium grape quality. *Key point*: hillside and cool climate growing regions create amazing quality. So if you are ever wondering what to buy and you find out the fruit is sourced from a hillside or cooler growing region, you will most likely be enjoying a good bottle! This bottle is an amazing value. The fresh, clean citrus notes on this SB are perfect for that first welcome glass of wine at a holiday party! This selection was also named a “best buy” from Wine Enthusiast. At the shop, we’ve named it a “must buy.”

Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere
First lets talk about Carmenere (car-men-YAIR). This is the lost Bordeaux varietal, meaning that as Bordeaux was striving to become the wine mecca that it is today, specific varietals were standing out and passing the test of quality. These varietals, know as Bordeaux varietals, are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc…and Carmenere. Carmenere, however, was falling out of fashion (because Carmenere is a delicate grape and ripeness timing is everything when producing this varietal) in Bordeaux and then Phyloxera hit. And when Bordeaux replanted, Carmenere basically became extinct. Fast forward to the 1990’s in Chile. Merlot had been widely planted in Chile, but it was discovered that what was thought to be Merlot was actually Bordeaux Carmenere. In 1998, Chile officially recognized and renamed Carmenere plantings. Santa Carolina is ahead of the pack when it comes to producing the best Carmenere. In fact they product a tier of Carmenere that is considered the best in the world! This selection is not only a great value, but it was also named in Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines of 2015!

So there you go those are your… Wait… We are not done! Yep, you get a third bottle this month. We’d like to say thanks for being in the Club, and hey, its almost New Year’s Eve… So bubbles!

Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva Cava
If you think it sounds sexy, wait til you pop this on NYE! Segura Viudas is managed by the Ferrer family. This family is known for making exceptional sparkling wine. The Segura Viudas Estate was developed in the 1980’s and showcases a higher quality of Spanish Cava. The history of the Estate dates back a couple of years…as in back to the 11th century. We think they’ve figured it out by now!

Please enjoy these selections, and when you are drinking the bubbles on NYE, know that we will be doing the same and thinking about all the amazing customers/friends whom we have met so far on our journey through the Hidden Track.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Craig & Danielle

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