Once upon a time I wrote for the (now defunct) Taste Magazine. I was working on an article about celebrity-branded alcohol, although that article got scrapped when I took over the Wine Academy column for the magazine. In the process of researching that article, I somehow managed to get in touch with the publicist for Maynard James Keenan, and eventually, I interviewed him. It’s just as well my article got scrapped, because my recording of the interview wasn’t very good. It was so bad, I have yet to be able to clean it up and use it. (Since then, I’ve improved my recording equipment.)
For those unfamiliar, Maynard James Keenan is the front man for rock bands Tool, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle. Until I met Kevin Keith, I had no idea who he was, so don’t feel bad, and I think that Maynard actually preferred my lack of knowledge of his music during the interview. If there is anything I got out of that conversation, it’s that he doesn’t like being called a “Rock Star.” Well, that and Maynard James Keenan is the most intense person to whom I have ever spoken. I believe that he does everything with the same intensity – be it music or wine, which should tell you something about his wine.
When Kevin and I went to Arizona in 2007, we visited Cornville, AZ as we drove south towards Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. It’s off the beaten path a bit, but Cornville was an absolute delight for us as wine lovers. We started at Page Springs Cellars, where it just so happens that Maynard had worked with the wine maker to learn everything he could about wine. At the time, Page Springs Cellars was also selling Maynard’s labels, Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. (Our Photos from Arizona Wineries) We have several Maynard-created wines in our wine fridge.
When I interviewed Maynard, he was working on launching Arizona Stronghold, a winery in the southern Arizona ghost town of Jerome. (A lot of grapes are grown in southern Arizona.) Last summer, an article in Decanter.com alerted me that Maynard and his winemaker Eric Glomski have officially launched the new winery.
Turns out, the process of creating Arizona Stronghold is the basis for a new documentary called Blood Into Wine. It premieres in Arizona (of course) on February 19 (full list of theatres is after the jump – mostly West Coast I’m afraid). But the DVD will be released on May 4 Sept 6. Check out the trailer. Even if you don’t like his music, how can you resist a documentary like this? It’s got music, wine, and a lot of humor, I think.
Blood Into Wine arrives in select theaters on Feb. 19 with a Phoenix-based premiere at the W Hotel Scottsdale.
CNN Money reported today that restaurant wine lists are huge rip-offs. I think we all knew this. But just in case you weren’t clear on the facts:
Restaurants mark up cheaper bottles by an average of three times the retail price, while the prices of higher end wines are typically doubled, says Ronn Wiegand, a master sommelier who runs the industry newsletter RestaurantWine.
Last week, I got to eat at the wonderful (and amazingly expensive) new restaurant Sage in Las Vegas’s new Aria / City Center complex. My friend and I picked a $44 bottle of Argentinian Malbec off of the wine list, and proceeded to enjoy two bottles, but I was aware that the bottle probably retailed for around $15. We made a decision to “not think about it.” That said, we both felt we got off lucky with the $44. Mixed into the French listings was a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tâche, which was listed at over $9000. Per bottle. Ouch!
The CNN article continues, with tips about wine by the glass:
Think that’s rough? Prices for wine sold by the glass are tripled or even quadrupled, Wiegand says, since restaurants have to account for the chance that they won’t sell the whole bottle before it spoils.
I hate ordering wine by the glass, but occasionally, that’s all I want and I bite the bullet. If I’m with a group though, or if Kevin and I actually want the same glass, I’ll tend towards a bottle. Back when Tonic was Twist, I would always order a bottle of the Gruet Sparkling Wine from New Mexico as opposed to just a glass. The difference between an ~$14 glass and a $40 bottle seemed negligible when people were sharing. I recently noticed that Tonic still offers the Gruet on their list, so if I can ever tear myself away from cocktails, I might resort to the full bottle again.
Many restaurant wine lists have a sweet spot – that spot where you can find several bottles of wine in a similar price range that is actually affordable and not so far off from the retail price to give you a heart attack. At Sage, we found that spot in the Argentinian section. At the Wine Cellar at Las Vegas’s Rio, that spot was located in the Spanish wine section. So if you have to shop by price, look for the sweet spot.
As I pulled into the driveway last night, I heard this news on the radio. It made my night! After all, we love our wine, but we're equal opportunity beer and cocktail folks as well.
We love our German beer here in Zincinnnati (see Oktoberfest and Hofbrauhaus). So why not open a biergarten / brewpub featuring one of Cincinnati's original German brews? Christian Moerlein will be opening a 15,000 square foot restaurant and brewery, complete with outdoor biergarten, down on the Banks.
The new multi-story brewpub will be built on top of a parking garage across from the Great American Ball Park.
The restaurant, to be called the Moerlein Lager House, will seat 500
inside and 600 in the beer garden. It will span the block on Main Street between Mehring Way and Theodore M Berry Way, in stumbling distance from the ball park, really.
According to the Business Courier, "Preliminary designs for the two-story building include a green roof,
balconies and terraces with views of the river, Roebling Suspension
Bridge and the ballpark." I fell in love with green roofs in Vancouver, so I'm pretty excited about just that one small detail on its own.
The new restaurant will also offer brewery tours. It's slated to open in 2011.
I can't imagine the place being anything but packed all the time. When I lived in Maryland, my friends would go to the store looking for Moerlein beer, which just baffled me at the time. After all, I'd grown up with it. Moerlein is nationally known as a maker of craft brews and, combined with the ball park, will be a huge hit for tourists.
I used to love Twist. But since the Jean-Robert Restaurant Group became the Relish Group, I've sort of avoided those locations on principle. (The principle being I love Jean-Robert.)
You may have noticed that Twist is currently closed. It will re-open in mid-September with a new name – Tonic Union – and Pigall's will re-open with a new restaurant concept. Are they renaming Pigall's? I'm not sure and I have mixed emotions about it. There's a lot of wonderful culinary history with that name, but at the same time, I don't want to possibly see the name mistreated.
The new restaurant will serve American cuisine that sort of sounds like gourmet comfort food. The Business Courier quoted Relish Group COO Justin Dean as saying, “It’s grandma’s recipes retooled with a nice little twist."
The new chef, Steven Geddes, is a Las Vegas restaurant consultant and also a Master Sommelier, which is good news. The pairings should be excellent and I expect him to have a broad understanding of how food and wine can enhance each other. The sous chef is Kyle Johnson, who recently worked for Celebrity Cruise lines. (Having just stepped off a Celebrity Cruise, I can't say I was overly impressed with their food.)
As for Twist, I'm sad to say it will be redecorated. I really hope they keep those beautiful round chandeliers that Jean-Robert ordered from France, or that somehow Jean-Robert gets to reacquire those. They were one of my favorite things at Twist, aside from the champagne. If the Wades plan to match the decor to the food next door, I'll just cross my fingers.
UPDATED: Apparently the new name for Pigall's will be Local 127. I suppose that sort of works with Tonic Union next door, but admittedly, the whole thing sort of brings a steelworker/Allentown sort of motif to my mind.
Lots of quirky little things going on in the greater wine industry right now:
Continuing the celebratory summer mood initiated by the historic
Modern Wing opening, this exhibition marks the first time a fine arts
museum has explored art through the vine.
Wine has played a role at the Art Institute of Chicago almost since
the museum’s inception in 1879. A major European expedition to acquire
classical antiquities for the fledgling collection in 1889 resulted in
the purchase of several pots originally used for serving and storing
wine. In 1890 the Art Institute made its first serious foray into the
realm of Old Master paintings with the purchase of 12 Netherlandish
works, including Jan Steen’s Family Concert which shows
guests drinking out of distinctive Dutch wine flutes while listening to
music. In 1927 the Art Institute purchased half of the Jacques Mühsam
Collection of European glass with funds provided by Julius and Augusta
Rosenwald, providing the museum with superlative examples of
wineglasses from the 15th to the 19th century. This cross-departmental
exhibition presents nearly 300 wine-themed objects, including selected
loans from other institutions and private collectors, tracing this
beloved libation’s surprisingly significant role as a stimulus and
source of artistic endeavor from ancient times through the modern day.
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