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Where to take a wine connoisseur to dinner in Phoenix?

ipsedixit May 20, 2010 04:32 PM

I'm entertaining someone who fancies herself quite the wine connoisseur. I would like a place that would provide not only an interesting and varied wine list, but the service and food to back it up.

Would Quiessence be a good choice?

Other recs?


6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

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  1. c
    crsin RE: ipsedixit May 20, 2010 05:26 PM

    I'm not at a wine connoisseur, but maybe FnB? She may find the novelty of the Arizona wine list to be fun/interesting...

    7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

    8 Replies
    1. re: crsin
      azhotdish RE: crsin May 20, 2010 05:39 PM

      Exactly what I was going to suggest. And if it doesn't live up to her expectations (which will likely be, none), there's always Kazmierez next door with a list deeper than one could ever hope for.

      1. re: azhotdish
        ipsedixit RE: azhotdish May 20, 2010 06:46 PM

        Hmm, I've been to FnB and was not really impressed with their food. Albeit it was only one visit.

        KazBar, I'm afraid, is too much winebar and not enough restaurant.

        Need a real, full meal. Tasting menu if at all possible. Reason I mentioned Quiessence was because I was thinking something like their Brick Oven Table would be ideal, or something along those lines.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          hohokam RE: ipsedixit May 20, 2010 07:15 PM

          Cowboy Ciao and Kaz share the same wine tome (much more than a list), though, my experiences with the food there have been uneven.

          Tarbell's, a nominee for best wine service in this year's round of Beard Foundation voting, might also be worth considering.

          And while NOCA's list isn't extensive, I've found their wine offerings to be fairly interesting and to pair extremely well with their food--not an accident, I'm sure.

          Finally, I know that the owner of Caffe Boa in Tempe fancies himself to be something of a wine expert, but I haven't eaten (or drunk) there recently enough to know how well he lives up to his own hype.

          edit: Forgot to "mange my links" or whatever before posting, but I reckon you can find both NOCA and Tarbell's without a map.

          Cowboy Ciao
          7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

          Caffe Boa
          398 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

          1. re: hohokam
            Desertdoc RE: hohokam May 20, 2010 08:09 PM

            Would second the recommendation for NOCA or Tarbell's. Both have excellent wine programs. They both have also recently been supplementing their btg selections with some higher end choices. They also have good half bottle selections.

            The list at Cowboy Ciao can be a bit overwhelming and hard to navigate unless you know what you want.

            Cowboy Ciao
            7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

            1. re: Desertdoc
              jsaint RE: Desertdoc May 21, 2010 12:50 AM

              Bourbon Steak and Binkley's

              6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

              1. re: jsaint
                drewb123 RE: jsaint May 25, 2010 01:51 PM

                Binkleys is the best!

                6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

            2. re: hohokam
              Bill Hunt RE: hohokam Jun 4, 2010 10:10 PM

              Oops, missed this post. I think that I just mirrored much of what you said, but you said it first!


        2. re: crsin
          Bill Hunt RE: crsin Jun 4, 2010 10:08 PM

          Have not been, and have not seen the details of their AZ wine list, BUT just returned from a tour of the Sedona area and the Oak Creek wine country. We knew Dos Cabezas and Calaghan down south, and greatly appreciate their wines, but were surprised by what is being produced in Oak Creek. We bought 3 mixed cases and joined one "wine club" as we were impressed.

          Going back 10 years, we hosted a wine dinner. The opening wine was the Dos Cabezas' Viognier. This went head to head with two Condireus , that cost 150% and 250% more, but was the winner. Not bad for an AZ white vs some of the most venerable Rhône Viognier.

          Gotta' try FnB, to see for myself.


          7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        3. finlero RE: ipsedixit May 21, 2010 01:13 PM

          We went to Quiessence last time I was in PHX (thanks for the tip, Rubee!). The meal was extraordinary; the wine program was fine, but definitely not compelling enough to pique the interest of a true connoisseur. The list is comprised of a few dozen all-domestic bottles, including a handful from AZ. Nearly all the wines are significantly more casual than the food, with the standard markup of a few hundred percent. Nothing on the list grabbed my eye as a truly remarkable find.

          I haven't been to Sassi since the chef change, but I remember being impressed with their cellar a few years ago. In addition to the standard list, they have an older vintages list with a lot of interesting finds. The markup struck me as pretty severe, but the quality and quantity were definitely there. Again, I haven't been since the chef change, but at the time I was absolutely floored by the quality of the chow, easily the best Apulian-style meal I'd had in the States.

          10455 E Pinnacle Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

          6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

          4 Replies
          1. re: finlero
            ipsedixit RE: finlero May 21, 2010 02:20 PM


            Thanks for the feedback on Quiessence. I'm less concerned with the variety or depth of the wine list and more of how the wine program (and the wines selected) paired with the food courses. Any thoughts on that aspect?

            I'll check out Sassi - thanks.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              finlero RE: ipsedixit May 21, 2010 02:51 PM


              I'm an old world kind of dude, and have no serious wine chops, so please take this with a grain or twelve of salt, but some things I'd mention here:

              * As a rule, any list with descriptive blurbs for each item probably indicates they don't have a dedicated sommellier in house.

              * The whites are reasonably diverse, but the vast majority of the reds fall into the merlot/cab/pinot buckets. The list is also really CA-heavy, which is a minor pet peeve of mine.

              * You may already know this, but just to say it, by-the-glass wine pairings for a tasting menu are a notorious haven for plonky wines. They may flatter the food, but they probably won't impress someone who considers herself a wine nerd. My best tasting menu experiences have often involved selecting a lighter bottle for early on, then a bolder bottle for later, and enjoying how the same wine plays off different dishes in different ways. The really top-notch restaurants will even select the tasting menu courses based on the wine you've ordered.

              Again, the list is anything but bad, but IMO it wouldn't be on my short list of wine destinations in the Valley.

              1. re: finlero
                Dmnkly RE: finlero Jun 5, 2010 10:17 AM

                "As a rule, any list with descriptive blurbs for each item probably indicates they don't have a dedicated sommellier in house."

                May or may not be the case. I have no idea. But they *REALLY* like describing things over there.

                1. re: Dmnkly
                  finlero RE: Dmnkly Jun 5, 2010 11:43 AM

                  So true, especially with the food. The staff took so long to describe some of the dishes that I was worried they would get cold.

          2. d
            danieli10 RE: ipsedixit May 21, 2010 04:17 PM

            Maybe the obvious choice is to hit Sportman's, drive 5 minutes west and go to Coup des Tartes?!

            1. k
              kmarg RE: ipsedixit May 21, 2010 10:28 PM

              If they like Italian wines, go to Grazie in old Scottsdale for the best import list

              1. s
                Sherri RE: ipsedixit May 22, 2010 10:03 AM

                Christopher's, noca and Vincent's all have very good wine programs and the food to back it up. You might give thought to calling one of the choices to talk about your dinner plans, discuss menu & wine pairings. I like to get a "feel" for the people I'll be dealing with and this first step may be helpful.
                Good Luck on your upcoming dinner.

                1. j
                  jock RE: ipsedixit May 22, 2010 02:28 PM

                  noca has a trophy list but the prices are high.

                  take them to atlas bistro. the food is very good to excellent and they can choose wine from AZ wine where they have one of the best selections in arizona.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jock
                    Sherri RE: jock May 22, 2010 02:54 PM

                    Bingo! I completely spaced on Atlas Bistro. Thanks for the reminder, it sounds like a perfect fit for the OP.

                    Atlas Bistro
                    2515 N Scottsdale Rd # 18, Scottsdale, AZ

                    1. re: Sherri
                      charlieboy RE: Sherri May 22, 2010 05:45 PM

                      Absolutely Atlas Bistro!

                      Atlas Bistro
                      2515 N Scottsdale Rd # 18, Scottsdale, AZ

                  2. k
                    kmarg RE: ipsedixit May 22, 2010 08:05 PM

                    Just drove by Backstreet Wine Bistro, always a thought as well.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: kmarg
                      azhotdish RE: kmarg May 23, 2010 12:57 AM

                      Backstreet is closed.

                      1. re: azhotdish
                        mrdewey RE: azhotdish May 27, 2010 03:36 PM

                        C R U S H B A R @ C H R I S T O P H E R ' S

                        B I L T M O R E

                        1. re: azhotdish
                          Bill Hunt RE: azhotdish Jun 4, 2010 10:17 PM

                          Yes, Jock had to close the doors, much to the loss of PHX diners and winos.

                          Backstreet will be missed by all who knew it.


                      2. Bill Hunt RE: ipsedixit Jun 4, 2010 10:02 PM

                        Here are my choices:

                        Vincent's on Camelback - heavy on Burgs, Bdx, but also some interesting domestic (US) wines. Tell Howie that Bill Hunt sent you, and that you are looking for his ultimate wine experience within a certain budget (very important, unless you just hit the Powerball)

                        NOCA - great, much, much smaller list, BUT it fits with the fare perfectly, and will never have any of the "usual suspects." Short, but well-suited and fairly priced.

                        Binkley's - excellent wine list, and with more depth than NOCA, plus fairly priced too.

                        Tarbell's - Mark knows his wines, and his list, while not deep is excellent, and you will likely not be familiar with many. Well selected, and fairly priced.

                        Cowboy Caio - Peter knows his wines and his list is fairly deep. While he does have some of the more common wines, he has tons of uncommon wines. I find the noise level to be too high (have mentioned this on many occasions), but the food is extremely good, and the wine list is top-notch.

                        There are the "steak houses," where you can spend $6000 per btl, for some rare Bdx, or Burg, but they are marked up 800%, so what is the need. Too many others, so I pass on these, unless my host is paying. Even then, I feel horribly guilty and am uncomfortable, even when they ask me to pick the wines. I am just not a fan of those sorts of markups, and would rather invite the party over to my house for some of the same wines, and they cost me far, far less.



                        6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

                        1. Bill Hunt RE: ipsedixit Jun 4, 2010 10:14 PM

                          Another possibility is Marchellino Restaurante (just moved from Northern & 13th). Their printed list is just OK, but we turn chef loose to dig into his private, unlisted store, and the wines are great! The food has always been excellent of better. Have not dined at the new location, but will this Saturday night. Foodie buddies have dined there, since the move, and will be with us on Saturday. We will put chef through the "wringer" to see if his private stash is still that good.


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