Friday, December 2, 2011

Queers! #5: The Trouble with Trifle

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:00:51 — 35.7MB)

Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous!Nope, there’s nothing really wrong with Trifle, but it IS a Star Trek geek reference!  Our holiday-themed episode has  great wine and champagne recommendations for you, along with holiday food traditions around the world, how to not completely kill your diet during this ‘season of eating’ and more hilarious one-liners than you can shake a stick at!
We share our own holiday memories with you on this very special show, plus, give the gift of QTalk Arizona this holiday season!  Tell a friend about our fabulous Food and Wine Show, plus our whole lineup of great shows on your local queer podcast network!
From all of us at “Queers!”, have a safe and joyous holiday season!
Joe, Claudine, Nathan and Libbie

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Queers! #4: Great Wine Buys, Pumpkins Debunked and Surviving Thanksgiving!

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:05:20 — 37.8MB)

Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous!OK, it’s not quite turkey day yet, but we’ve got a Thanksgiving-related show for you anyway!  Nathan gives us some great wine pics from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine Top 100, Joe debunks pumpkin, Claudine raves about Mu Shu Grill and Libbie pairs turkey and wine!  And, what does Siri recommend for your pumpkin pie fix?
Notes and helpful links form this episode:
Libbie and Nathan recall their adventures at the recent Wine Stomp in Southern Arizona.  We can tell you that they didn’t win, but they at least tried!
Nathan talks to us about some great inexpensive wines from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine Top 100.
Joe gives us the low-down on pumpkin through the ages and why it has become such a craze these days, plus other Thanksgivings around the world.
Claudine dishes about her experience at Mu Shu Grill — she just can’t say enough good things about it!
Is it possible to pair some wines with the venerable turkey?  Libbie’s got the full glass of information on that one!  Plus, is it ok to get a bit tipsy and relaxed to make the holidays go over well?  And how to do it with class and style!
What’s up with the new developments at 7th Ave and McDowell?  Is it ok that they are putting in national chains just to redevelop the area?  We’d like to see otherwise, but at least they are re-using existing buildings.
And to round out, we highly recommend buying local and supporting your independent shops and restaurants this holiday season, it keeps our local economy headed in the right direction!
From all of your tipsy hosts at your favorite food and wine show…
Have a safe, indulgent and truly ‘happy’ Thanskgiving!
Joe, Claudine, Nathan and Libbie

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Queers! #3: More wine, please!

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:02:45 — 44.3MB)

Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous!We were so busy trying to get as many details into this episode that we even forgot to introduce ourselves!  (Going around the room during our ‘Queers’ intro it’s Joe, Nathan, Claudine and Libbie — for those playing along at home).
Claudine and Libbie, along with their partners, took a trip to San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa that has both Nathan and Joe totally jealous and they give us the details of their adventures.  From walking the wrong way and down a hill in SF to their relaxing and wine-sampling travels in wine country, we get the entire divine tale.
Nathan tells us about the wonderful trip he took recently to the Harvest Festival in the wine country of the Verde Valley of Arizona and Joe mentions the fabulous weekend (which started off with a wine tasting) up in the Red Rocks of Sedona enjoying their Pride festivities.
Ever wanted to add something a little extra special to your dessert?  How about liquor-infused whipped cream?  Yes, there is such a thing!  (Joe heard about it, strangely enough, on the NSFW show on TWiT)
Joe gives his full review of Rum Bar and the Breadfruit in Downtown Phoenix.  Hint: order the scallops, they’re totally hot!
As we enter fall, what’s your favorite food of the season?  We share our own favorites and stories.

Shameless plugs for our co-hosts blogs:
Libbie ( | Nathan (

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Queers! #2: Cheese is the Wine of Food

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:08:09 — 57.3MB)
Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous!On this edition of Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous…
Wine Focus:
Nathan introduces us to three great summer wines that can be had for $10.  (Get ‘em at Total Wine)
Libbie talks about the upcoming Grape Stomp and Festival at The Farm at South Mountain, that Arizona is now a bona-fide Wine Destination and that is is coming up on Harvest Season in Arizona Wine Country.

Food Focus:
Joe de-mystifies bacon and where it comes from, the bacon mania that has gripped the world, the question “is bacon better than sex?” and his favorite places to get your bacon fix!
Claudine discusses the newest trend in restaurants: iPads replacing menus!
Restaurant Reviews:
Joe talks about a little-known CenPho dive to get great food, awesome sandwiches and even a giant breakfast burrito:Cranberry Hills
Claudine shares her divine recent experience enjoying brunch at St. Francis.
Rumors / Gossip:
Anthony Bourdain vs Paula Deen! No, not celebrity deathmatch — but Anthony says Paula is the greatest threat to America!  Is she the Butter Terrorist??

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dane Cellars

After over two decades working in the wine industry, winemaker Bart Hansen founded Dane Cellars in 2007. Named after his son who was born the same year, Bart brought his experience from working for such world renown wineries as Kenwood Vineyards, Benziger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Wines. Drawing from this experience, Dane Cellars produces two Cabernet Sauvignon wines, a Zinfendel and a Chenin Blanc. I recently tasted the Clarksberg Chenin Blanc and the Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

The thing with Bart Hansen's wine is, as the old adage goes - he's so good, he makes it look/taste so easy. In a world where words like big and robust are what winemakers strive for to please critics, I often feel the finesse and careful balance that must go into producing wine is over looked. It is clear with both of these wines that great care goes into producing quality wines, focused on using quality fruit, all while making them very approachable, not only in price, but also in style - these wines are very food friendly and easy to drink.

As Bart recently said in a blog post of his own:
I was asked, why Chenin Blanc? My first thought was the sarcastic answer, why not Chenin Blanc? But then I thought about it. When I first started in the wine business Chenin Blanc was planted throughout the north coast. But as the popularity of Chardonnay and other varieties grew the acres in Sonoma and Napa started to shrink and so did the amount of wineries producing Chenin. There are very limited plantings in Sonoma/Napa these days, also Monterey, Mendocino, & Santa Barbara counties. We produced a Dry Chenin Blanc when I worked at Kenwood Vineyards, and it was a great wine but like so many other producers Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay were dominating the white wine market. So the Chenin Blanc that we received was used as a blending grape in the Vintage White Table wine. So when we started our winery it was a chance to make a wine I enjoyed drinking and to try to pay it the respect that I think it deserves.
I can honestly say that with this wine, he has paid Chenin Blanc a tramendous amount of respect. The crisp nose, that bursts with great citrus fruit is just the beginning. Upon tasting this wine, refreshing tropical fruits dominate the taste. There is a perfect balance of acidity and a smooth finish that leaves your taste-buds wanting more. At $15 a bottle, this is a summer white I could drink everyday.

Rating: A

Upon pouring the 2007 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I was impressed by the very nice, deep fruit on the nose, but it was when I took the first taste that I realized that Bart Hansen truly knows what he is doing. Despite the deep, rich texture, the beautiful fruit, the balanced toast with a hint of spice - there is a simplicity to this wine. I had to take another sip to make sure I tasted it correctly. I am actually not sure simplicity is the right word, because there is all the complexity in structure and flavor that should be there in a Cab, but it just all comes together in a way that really speaks to this winemakers talent and appreciation for the winemaking process.

I could easily see this $24 bottle of wine stand up next to wines twice the price. Check out Dane Cellars website to purchase this, and Bart Hansen's other wines.

Rating: A

(These wines were generously provided by Dane Cellars as tasting samples.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Andrew Murray Vineyards

To say that Andrew Murray strives for perfection in each of his wines might be a bit of an understatement. In tasting his 2010 RGB, 2008 Espérance and 2009 Watch Hill Vineyard Syrah, I was very impressed with the consistency in balance and obvious craftsmanship by whom Food & Wine Magazine named "Taste Maker of the Year" and described him as, "One of the most fearsome talents in food and wine."

The 2010 RBG is a wine inspired by an early visit that Andrew made to the Rhone Valley. Andrew was tasting a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape and got very excited when he realized the wine smelled like "Juicy Fruit". He has been chasing that aroma for over 10 years and he feels that he has finally achieved it. I would have to say I agree.

This blend is 50% Roussanne and 50% Grenache Blanc, both from the Camp 4 Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Upon pouring this wine into my glass and taking a smell, I was surprised and excited by the "Juicy Fruit" aroma, which blended perfectly with some light floral notes and a bit of honey. Such a great and refreshing smell for a hot Arizona summer night.

With the first taste, a very crisp and balanced, as well as fruit forward first impression consisting of a bit of pear with a bit of that honey from the nose. The body and structure were very impressive for a white wine and the finish lingered with a pleasant balance that was consistent through each step of tasting this wine.

At $25 a bottle, only 200 cases of this wine were produced. This wine is a perfect summer wine and paired beautifully with the cheese board and fruit that we started the night off with. It is available online at Andrew Murray Vineyards' website or in the Los Olivos, CA tasting room.

Rating: A

The 2008 Espérance is a true Rhone style GSM blend. Consisting of 60% Grenache Noir, 25% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre and at $30 a bottle, 400 cases of this Central Coast wine were produced. As the name of this wine states, Espérance translates into Hope from French, Andrew Murray "hopes" to inspire your senses, as his were over a decade ago on his visit to Southern France.

With the body and structure of the Grenache very evident, as well as providing the fruit forwardness of that grape, the Syrah adds a bit of spice, both on the nose and in the mouth, as well as providing the body and finish that the Syrah is known for. The Mourvedre steps in to provide a very nice floral note that rounds out this very balanced and incredibly food friendly wine.

When I first opened this bottle, I poured and tasted a bit too early and the wine was a touch hot on the nose and finish, so I decanted it and set it aside for about an hour and this wine opened up into a truly complex wine. This wine was clearly my favorite of the three I tasted. Andrew has created a masterpiece with this wine.

Rating: A+

The 2009 Syrah, Watch Hill Vineyard comes from the cool Los Alamos Valley, which allows the grapes to reach a nice maturity level that is evident in this full-bodied, yet not over powering, Syrah. I must admit, I am not a big fan of overly peppery, big Syrah wines. While the characteristics of a Syrah were clearly there in this wine, the balance and complexity set this wine apart.

The nose is bursting with deep red fruits, a touch of spice, some smoky oak and a hint of gun powder. I couldn't stop smelling this wine! The taste delivers on each of the aspects of the aroma, but add to that a very delicate floral note, provided by the 5% Viognier that was added to this vintage. The finish doesn't disappoint on this wine either and it left me longing for a big smokey rack of bar-b-que ribs to really pull out all of the complexity that this wine has to offer.

Although this was probably my least favorite of the three wines, that isn't saying I would not drink it again. It is coming with me to the next big summer bar-b-que I go to. At $36 a bottle, only 212 cases were produced.

Rating: B+

This sampling of Andrew Murray's wines made it clear as to why Robert Parker, Jr. called Andrew, "One of the shining stars in the Santa Barbara Firmament", and his wines "a breath of fresh air given their exceptionally high quality and realistic prices."

(These wines were generously provided by Andrew Murray Vineyards as tasting samples.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous! #1: Arizona Wines

Queers! Eat, Drink and Be Fabulous!We’re introducing ourselves as friends who have come together to share our shared passions for food and wine with our listeners.  We’re trying to convey our interests and loves by just being casual about it, we’re not professional critics — just foodies!
Libbie starts us off, talking a bit about wines produced locally here in Arizona.  The three main growing areas are Sonoita, Wilcox and the Verde Valley.  Libbie and Claudine share about their recent trip to the northern Arizona wine country.  And speaking of Arizona wines, FnB Restaurant in Scottsdale only features Arizona wines.  FnB is an absolutely incredible culinary experience, if you haven’t made it over there yet, you’ve gotta go!
Nathan recalls his recent trip to the first ever Gay Wine Weekend in Sonoma, California.  We sum it up as “Drink with a Purpose”, as it benefitted both Face to Face – Somona County AIDS Network and the Sonoma Community Center.  It was a truly magical event that should become a wonderful tradition for years to come.
Claudine starts off our segment about de-mystifying foods.  And this time, it’s dairy — specifically, eggs!  Cage-free?  Do the chickens all hang out and have egg-laying parties?  What’s the difference between organic and non-organic?  You’ll be egg-ceptionally knowledgeable after this episode!
Joe gives his review of recent visit to the new Black Chile Mexican Grill at Biltmore Fashion Park.  Looks like it’s a chain, but evidently not.  What’s was his rating?  Listen and find out!

If you have a great wine or a wonderful restaurant that you’d love us to check out and talk about, just drop us an email!  Or even better, leave us a voicemail!  (440) 84-QTALK (78255)

Featured wine on this episode: Dos Cabezas ‘Pink’
Other helpful links mentioned on the show:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gay Wine Weekend 2011

Let me just start by saying that Gary Saperstein and Mark Vogler know how to put on a world-class event and Out in the Vineyard's Gay Wine Weekend is bound to be the "can't miss" annual event for the LGBT community in California Wine Country.

The First Annual Gay Wine Weekend was held June 17-19 in Sonoma. The weather, the events and the setting couldn't have been more perfect! Over 300 people attended the various events, starting with the VIP Reception at MacArthur Place on Friday evening. Not only were there three great wineries pouring at this event - Poem Cellars (whose Cab Franc was among my favorites of the whole trip - more on that in a future post), Highway 12 and Westwood - there were also tasty hors d'oeuvres and cocktails provided for those in attendance. As we left the event we were also handed a fun schwag bag that had items from the various sponsors. After the reception, "An Evening of Gay Comedy" was held to benefit the Sonoma Community Center, headlined by the very funny Judy Tenuta and featuring four other comedians, the evening was filled with laughs and helped raise much needed funds for a very worthy cause.

Saturday was all about wine tasting. Many of the participating wineries were offering tasting and wine specials, so we headed out to take advantage of those! Our day began as every day should, with bubbles! Gloria Ferrer was offering complimentary tastings to Gay Wine Weekend All-Access VIP ticket holders. The grounds, views and winery are spectacular. We sat on the outdoor patio and enjoyed three different sparkling wines. Our group's favorite was the 2002 Royal Cuvee, which for $32/bottle, it is a very solid sparkling wine. This 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay bubbly has received critical acclaim, as well as five Gold Medals at various wine competitions across the country.

After enjoying the patio and bubbles at Gloria Ferrer, we headed to the much anticipated and highly recommended "Mountain Top Tour" at Kunde. Although they weren't a participating winery, we were told it was a can't miss, with views of the Sonoma Valley that are second to none. More on Kunde in a future post.

After two great tastings and the tour of Kunde, it was time to stop by one of Sonoma's most beloved restaurants, the girl & the fig. Opened in 1997 by Sondra Bernstein, the girl & the fig is a must for anyone visiting Sonoma. Located in the historic Sonoma Square, it is the perfect lunch or dinner spot. The rustic French inspired menu has something for everyone and the freshness and quality of the food is truly something special.

With just a few hours to go before the Twilight T-Dance, we were able to do two more tastings, first we hit Ledson - beautiful location, not my favorite wines or tasting room experience - then we finished the day at Imagery Estate Winery. Imagery was a participating winery and provided free tastings. The tasting room walls are lined with the original works of art that are used on each of their bottles of wine, which provides for a very unique experience, as well as beautiful bottles of wine that not only contain great wine, but actual pieces of art. My favorite wine was the Dragonsleaf Syrah, which as the tasting notes accurately describe, is full of:
"dark, rich flavors of blackberry and raspberry with a rustic, spicy tobacco finish. Soft tannins slowly unveil an earthy quality, reminiscent of a redwood forest floor, while toasty oak essence wraps around all the flavors for a savory, evenly packaged wine."
Imagery was a great way to finish the day of tasting and I look forward to opening that bottle of Dragonsleaf Syrah soon.

It was then time to head to the spectacular Atwood Ranch for the Twilight T-Dance. To say that this venue is gorgeous, doesn't do it justice. The evening began with a VIP reception on a beautiful patio, with wines being poured by Sojourn Cellars and Audelssa - my favorite of the bunch was the Sojourn Cellars Spring Mountain Cab - hoping to get some soon, so I can write more about it.

Following the reception, everyone was ushered down to the barn for an evening of wine, food and dancing. Wine was being poured by a dozen different participating wineries and to pick a favorite out of the bunch would be nearly impossible. The very generous support of Benzinger Family Winery, Imagery Estate Winery, Eric Ross, Deerfield Ranch Winery, Muscardini Cellars, Enkidu, Loxton, B Wise Vineyards and Keating Wines at the T-Dance, made for a very fun night with some really great wines. Additionally, the food truck round-up provided options to fit everyone's taste and some great grub!

Despite all of the great food, wine and being able to spend time with friends and make new friends, the highlight of the evening for many was the spectacular sunset. It couldn't have been more perfect and many joked that those putting on the event did quite an amazing job staging the sunset for the event.

The Big Gay Brunch and Wine Auction on Sunday morning closed out the weekend with a bang. Hosted by El Dorado Kitchen, the event was filled with Mimosas, Bloody Mary's and laughs, as the 60 or so people in attendance bid feverishly over several wine lots and a wine country experience, with all proceeds benefiting Face to Face, Sonoma County AIDS Network.

To say the weekend was a smashing success is an understatement. And to think this is just the beginning of what Mark & Gary have in mind for what future Out in the Vineyard events will look like, I am already anxiously awaiting June 2012.

Additional Gay Wine Weekend coverage:
Gay Wine Weekend draws 350-400 to Sonoma Valley
Big Gay Brunch & Wine Auction

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gay Wine Weekend 2011 | St. Francis Winery 2006 Red

Opened up a bottle of the 2006 "Red" from Gay Wine Weekend participating winery, St. Francis Winery. This Sonoma County red blend is made up of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. Coming in at under $10, this is a very drinkable everyday wine, with full body to support pairing with heavier meals - I'm thinking lasagna, anything from the BBQ or even comfort foods.

Pouring this wine into the glass provides a special treat, the deep, dark ruby color is very crisp. The nose on this wine definitely full of ripe fruits, with a touch of spice. The wine is a little bit hot - label says 14.7% alcohol by volume. Upon taking a taste, you can taste the dark fruits and some oak. This wine provides a long, dry finish.

Although this is definitely not the most elegant, balanced or refined wine - at under $10 a bottle, this wine is worth checking out and I will buy it again.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nathan OUTloud #13 | Gay Wine Weekend (Crosspost from

Click here to download Episode 13 on iTunes. Don't forget to subscribe!
In conjunction with, a newly created wine blog, I continue my series and in episode 13, you hear my interview with the organizers of the very first Gay Wine Weekend, in Sonoma, California. Mark Vogler and Gary Saperstein are the founders of Out in the Vineyard and have put together a line-up of events, special guests and host wineries, that cannot be missed.

Gay Wine Weekend kicks off Friday, June 17th, with a VIP Reception at the host hotel, MacAurther Place and is open to all VIP All-Access ticket holders. Following the reception, Gay Comedy Night will be held at the Sonoma Community Center. All proceeds benefit the Sonoma Community Center.

The events continue on Saturday, with the premier event of the weekend - The Twilight T-Dance. A benefit for Face to Face, Sonoma County AIDS Network - this event will feature over a dozen participating wineries, under the stars and Out in the Vineyard at Atwood Ranch.

The weekend wraps up on Sunday morning with the Big Gay Brunch and Wine Auction. This event is also for VIP All-Access ticketholders and will also benefit Face to Face, Sonoma County AIDS Network.

For more details on Out's in the Vineyard's very first Gay Wine Weekend, visit and don't forget to follow my new blog at

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at You can also call the Nathan OUTloud comment line at (209) 202-3688 (209.20.BeOUT)

Follow me on twitter at @nathanoutloud & join me on the Nathan OUTloud facebook fan page.

Come OUT | Be OUT | Live OUTloud™

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ceja Vineyards | 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir

The minute I opened the bottle of 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir, I knew we had another winner. In the glass, the color and clarity are impeccable. Red ripe cherry color, that has both depth and also a softness to it, that you don't always find. The nose on this Pinot Noir bursts with fruit and earthiness. much like my description of the Ceja Chardonay, it is abundantly clear that at Ceja Vineyards, it is all about the fruit. Fresh strawberries and darker fruits give this wine an accessibility with food that make for very easy pairing. Add to that the subtle spice and herbs of the Pinot Noir grape, and you will be hard pressed to find a food that this wine doesn't compliment.

The smooth and balanced textures of this wine linger with each sip, giving it a finish that I am sure many winemakers wish they could accomplish in their wines. Winemaker Armando Ceja has created another masterpiece, or should I say, he has let incredible fruit produced by Ceja, become the a masterpiece by letting nature take its course.

(This wine was generously provided by Ceja Vineyards as a tasting sample.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gay Wine Weekend 2011 | Where to Stay?

Gay Wine Weekend has teamed up with some great properties in Sonoma and the surrounding areas as Official Host Hotels. MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa is just minutes from Sonoma's historic Plaza and is offering special rates for June 17-19. MacArthur Place will also host the VIP Reception on Friday night from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm for All-Access VIP ticket holders. For booking info or to make your reservation, call 800) 722-1866 and mention Gay Wine Weekend. You can also check out the property and other details at

Also playing host to Gay Wine Weekend is a Santa Rosa historic landmark, Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa. Just 30 minutes north of downtown Sonoma, Flamingo Resort offers the classic charm of the resort hotels of the 1950s and all the contemporary amenities, including a world class health club and spa. It is the perfect location for exploring Northern California’s premier Wine Country in Sonoma and Napa. For more information, visit or call (707) 545-8530
In addition to the host hotels, there are two partner hotels that are offering special packages for Gay Wine Weekend!

The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort and Spa is nestled in Sonoma Valley and just minutes from everything that Sonoma has to offer. It is also conveniently located for easy access to Napa and is less than an hour north of San Francisco. The Lodge is offering the "Living Out Proud" package which includes: Cottage room, Breakfast for 2 daily, Sparkling wine upon arrival and 2 daily spa passes. To book this package visit and once you have entered your reservation dates, click on the "Room Packages" tab at the top. You can also call (707) 935-6600 and ask for the "Living Out Proud" package.
If you plan on gathering a group of friends and prefer to stay in a villa for Gay Wine Weekend, BeautifulPlaces specializes in vacation rentals throughout the wine country ranging from cozy vineyard cottages to hilltop estates. Recognized as one of the world’s best villa specialists by Passport, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and Robb Report, BeautifulPlaces will provide complimentary tickets to the Twilight T Dance with rentals of 3 or more nights. To book your stay, call (800) 495-9961 or visit the BeautifulPlaces website.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Out in the Vineyard | Gay Wine Weekend 2011

Out in the Vineyard, the very first Gay Wine Weekend will take place June 17-19, 2011 in Sonoma, California. Mark Vogler and Gary Saperstien organized the first Gay Napa Wine Train and realized that Wine Country was really missing an opportunity to host a Gay Wine Weekend, or possibly eventually a week-long event, much like Aspen Ski Week.

California Wine Country offers an incredibly unique lifestyle. Less than an hour outside of San Francisco, Sonoma is an escape from the urban life. A slower pace, breath-taking landscapes and amazing wine, Sonoma makes for the perfect host city to Gay Wine Weekend. Last year at an LGBT event, the mayor of Sonoma came to announce a proclamation that was unanimously passed by the Sonoma City Council that declared the city of Sonoma as an LGBT tourist destination. Sonoma has opened up to welcome the LGBT community and provide an Wine Country experience that is second to none.

Gay Wine Weekend will consist of events throughout the weekend, starting with a VIP Reception on Friday night, June 17th. This event is available for attendees that purchase the VIP All-Access tickets. Following the reception is An Evening of Gay Comedy at the Sonoma Community Center featuring Judy Tenuta. Individual tickets are available to this event, which benefits the Community Center. Additional acts including Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, Janine Brito, Scott Silverman and Dave Karraker have been recently announced, making for a full night of laughs.

Before the events resume Saturday night, attendees are free to roam Sonoma, visiting wineries and taking in the beautiful sites of Sonoma and the surrounding areas. Saturday night, the Twilight T-Dance at the beautiful Atwood Ranch benefits Face-to-Face, Sonoma County AIDS Network. At the T-Dance, the host wineries will be pouring their wines from 7:00 - 10:00 pm. Those host wineries include, Poem Cellars, Benziger Family Winery, Gloria Ferrer, Audelssa Estate, Deerfield Ranch Winery, Enkidu, Eric Ross Wines, Imagery Estate Winery, Loxton Cellars, Sojourn Cellars, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards and Westwood Winery. In the coming weeks, WinePHX will be tasting and posting reviews of the wines you will be able to taste/drink that night.

Gay Wine Weekend wraps up Sunday with the Brunch and Auction which is also open to those holding VIP All-Access tickets. This brunch and auction will also benefit Face-to-Face, providing much needed funds for the Sonoma County AIDS Network.

If you are interested in attending the very first Gay Wine Weekend, more details and tickets can be found at and follow them on twitter @OutInVineyard.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ceja Vineyards | 2008 Carneros Chardonnay

An interesting thing happened when I opened the 2008 Carneros Chardonnay from Ceja Vineyards, poured it into my glass and took a nice long whiff - I wasn't hit with an oaky, butter bomb! Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of what some California Chardonnays have become - I feel it has become more about what process the winemakers are using to make the wine, as opposed to letting the fruit really guide the process. As with other Ceja wines I have tasted, this wine is all about the fruit, and not just the juice that has been barreled, but the care that goes into growing a grape that makes great wine.

This Chardonnay highlights the true characteristics of the fruit and the vineyard. From the crisp nose, that presents pretty distinct citrus, as well as a fresh, ripe pear. And that is just the beginning of what this wine has to offer. The palate on this wine is very complex, despite of the fact that the wine-making process did not include malolactic fermentation, which generally gives Chards their body and structure, providing the deep buttery taste and texture. For a wine this crisp, the structure is incredibly balanced and also lingers in the mouth. This fullness is achieved by a 9 month French barrel sur lie aging process, leaving you with a rich wine, that is all about the fruit.

As I am pretty sure the Ceja's would recommend, I had this wine with a plate of slightly spicy chicken fajitas, some flavorful Mexican rice and guacamole. The slight sweetness of the wine, worked beautifully with the spicy dish. This truly is a wine I could drink all summer.

(This wine was generously provided by Ceja Vineyards as a tasting sample.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ceja Vineyards | Vinum, Cantus, Amor

Vinum, Cantus, Amor (Wine, Song, Love) are not only the words that guide Ceja Vineyards, but you can practically taste them in every bottle of Ceja wine.

After decades of growing grapes in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, the Ceja family founded Ceja Vineyards in 1999. Their first vintage was released in 2001 consisting of 750 cases. Over the next decade, that number would grow to 10,000 cases per year. With 113 producing acres of vineyards overseen by Armando Ceja in the Carneros, Silverado Trail and four other regions in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, the focus on matching vine to terrior is evident in the quality of fruit produced. This quality is not only recognized in the premium wines produced by Ceja, but by the prominent list of clients who purchase or have purchased grapes from the Ceja's. That list includes Mumm, Signorello, Domaine Chandon and any others.

President Amelia Moran Ceja is the first Mexican-American woman to be president of a wine production company and has been recognized by numerous organizations for her contribution to the wine industry and also for leading Ceja Vineyards to become an Award-Winning Vintner. As Amelia says, she wears many hats, including: she is the contact person, a wine salesperson, a public relations person, the executive chef, a compliance specialist, a bookkeeper, a wine delivery person, a wine shipping person, a grape picker, and whoever else she needs to be. She also leads the company's social media presence. Ceja is leading the industry with their involvement in and use of social media, including blogging, facebook and twitter.

Helping Amelia maintain and grow that online presence are her son Ariel and daughter Dalia. Ariel joined the family business as General Manager and has instrumental in the growth through the opening of the tasting room in downtown Napa. Dalia was brought on as Director of Sales & Marketing and has been a driving force in the growth of Ceja through establishing relationships with retailers and restaurants.

Not only are the Ceja's producing quality wine, but also amazing food at Bistro Sabor in downtown Napa, just a block from their tasting room. When you're in Napa, you must stop by Bistro Sabor and if you're lucky enough to be there on a Saturday night, join in the salsa dancing from 10:00pm to 1:30am.

As for the wine, check back throughout this week as I do tastings of three of Ceja Vineyards quality wines. First I will be tasting the 2008 Napa Carneros Chardonnay, followed by their 2007 Carneros Pinot Nior, and ending with the 2007 Vino de Casa Red Blend.

(Full disclosure - Ceja Vineyards very generously provided me with samples of the Chardonnay and Pinot Nior, but I picked up the Vino de Casa at my local wine store.)

Welcome to WinePHX

So what is WinePHX? Well the answer to that question will be ever changing I am sure. For starters, the name started as "Wine Fix", but being that I live in Phoenix, AZ, I thought I would add a little local flair to the blog and call it "WinePHX".

Why start another wine blog? Aren't there enough already? Well, I love drinking, sharing and learning about wine, so I figured what better way to do that, then to start a wine blog. Over the course of the next few months I will be trying out different things on this blog including, featuring wineries that I like, not only talking about the wine they produce, but also the story and the people behind that wine, starting with one of my favorites, Ceja Vineyards. I will also be talking about different wine events, including the very first Gay Wine Weekend in Sonoma, called "Out in the Vineyard".

So what should you know about me? I am certainly NOT a professional, I just have a passion for wine and love to share that with others. I love meeting new people with that same passion and learning from them. So feel free to contact me, share your thoughts, share your knowledge and share the wines you love as well. You can follow me on twitter, or feel free to contact me at the email address listed on the blog.

Interested in being featured and sharing your wines or events? I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime - let's raise a glass to the launch of WinePHX! Cheers!