Monday, April 12, 2021

ADVERTISING: Advertorial — Wine travels

by GEORGE BALLING/the dinner party
| April 7, 2021 1:00 AM

About three or four weeks ago, when it was snowing every day and the temperatures were hovering near freezing, we decided to head out for some warm, sunny weather. Our plan was to forego a spring trip this year but our resolve wavered and we opted for a quick three days in Scottsdale. We know many of you travel to the area and we had not been in some time, so we decided to go for it. Whenever we travel it is an opportunity to try new restaurants and peruse their wine lists for new favorites, and a chance to try some wines we have in the shop but haven’t tasted for a bit.

We were not disappointed. The restaurant scene in Scottsdale is vibrant and innovative. Some smaller restaurants are just now reopening after a year of COVID related closures and some city-imposed curfews from riots they experienced over last summer.

With every meal we ate out we were supremely impressed with the diversity on the wine lists. Both whites and reds, by-the-glass and full bottle selections were innovative and stayed away from the predictable. While Chardonnay and Cabernet were well represented (as they always are) there were always a couple of choices that were less conventional.

For us, two meals really stood out. One night after doing some shopping we happened on to a place that looked interesting. It was too early to eat dinner, so we decided to go into Zinc Bistro and sit at the bar for a glass of wine. That was that. Our server at the bar, Jessy, was a delight and we ended up staying for dinner. Turns out Zinc has been there for 20 years, a remarkable run for any restaurant. Being a true French bistro, the glass list was loaded with French choices, including white Burgundy, Sancerre and Rosé from the South of France. Every one we tried was delicious, but the wine was just the start.

We started with an appetizer of mussels and fries that was delicious; we easily could have been sitting in a bistro in Paris. After a shared salad course, we moved on to the entrees. Mine was a flat iron steak that was one of the best steaks I’ve had in a long time. I paired it with the Legende Bordeaux, which we recently featured in our wine club and the pairing was perfect. Mary enjoyed Jidori chicken paired with a vintage Beaujolais from a producer we don’t have access to here at home and again — it was ideal.

The entire evening was just about perfect and our new friend Jessy made the recommendation for our dinner the following night. He talked about Hush Public House, located a few blocks away, also in the Kierland Commons area of North Scottsdale. Hush is tucked back in the corner of a shopping center with a small sign that you might miss if you weren’t specifically looking for it. The restaurant is relatively small and is run by Chef/Owner Dom Ruggierio, an arrangement that always works well. When you have a chef that is fully invested in everything that comes out of the kitchen or crosses the bar then you end up with a stellar product and experience. In addition to being small, Hush is also loud. Led Zeppelin and other classic rock bands are the music of choice. The crowd, too, is lively and the staff is friendly and fun.

Like Zinc and our other choices while in Arizona, the wine list was full of innovative names. We were thrilled to find half bottles of Champagne Palmer on the list for a festive start to our last night of vacation. We carry Palmer here at the shop, but it has been a while. The wine is still delicious; classic Champagne all the way.

With our dinner, we decided to venture out and ordered a bottle of Sagrantino from the Montefalco region in the South of Italy. Made by Lorenzo Mattoni, the wine sees 18 months in very large oak barrels but you would never know it; there was not a touch of oak on the palate or in the aromas. There was much dark fruit on the palate and ample tannins on the finish, definitely a full-bodied wine and one we will be attempting to track down for the shop.

We also had a few moments to chat with Chef/Owner Dom. The inspiration for this new venture was his time spent traveling, including while in the military. He oversees the tiny, open kitchen, allowing his team to do the creation but with a thoughtful eye to food presentation and always willing to jump in when things got hopping, which they for sure did. Hush is a must-go for those who visit the Scottsdale area.

One final note on the wine scene in that area: prices are fair. Restaurant markups were not low but they were appropriate, a certain comfort when traveling. We encourage you to check out these two great establishments if your travels take you to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.