Some diners look at long wine lists at restaurants and ask themselves questions like, “What wine goes with shrimp and grits?” “Is it okay to want Cab with everything?” And, “What in tarnation is a Mourvedre?”
By signing up for a wine-paired dinner or tasting, offered at restaurants across Arizona, not only will you indulge in a special chef-prepared meal, but the wine will be perfectly paired with each course, making your choice of wine a lot less confusing.
FLG Terroir, Flagstaff
Wine is the raison d’etre of FLG Terroir, a wine bar and bistro located on the second floor of a vintage brick storefront in historic downtown Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. FLG Terroir’s list is more than 525 labels, and you can find some 30 wines offered by the glass. If you’d like to sip and learn, the bar/bistro offers special tastings, as well as monthly three-course small-plate pairings. Their knowledgeable staff handles most of the events, but occasionally a winemaker will make a guest appearance.
The Wigwam, Litchfield Park
Credit: The Wigwam
On the western edge of Greater Phoenix, The Wigwam in Litchfield Park is a historic resort surrounded by acres of lush gardens. It dates to 1918 yet still maintains its warm, Southwestern style. Regulars know to mark their calendars for the almost-monthly Wigwam Wine Dinner Series, when the resort’s chefs prepare a special four-course dinner, matched perfectly to what the winemaker serves. Yes, questions are encouraged, and spending the night is a good option.
Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix
Another spot for a luxe sleepover, the Arizona Biltmore, is in its 28th season of presenting Winemaker Dinners at Wright’s, the elegant dinner-only restaurant named for Frank Lloyd Wright, who served as an architectural consultant on the resort’s design.
Guests start with a reception and then move onto a four-course dinner paired with wines from the featured winery – some of which are from the United States, while others span the globe. The dinners at this gracious Phoenix-area resort are held monthly from October to June.
It’s no secret that Phoenix chef Mark Tarbell loves wine – he writes a wine column and is on tap as a wine expert for many media outlets. On the corner of 32nd Street and Camelback Road, his troika of enterprises – intimate Tarbell’s restaurant, bar-like The Tavern and the retail Wine Store – are all sites for various wine (and sometimes beer or whiskey) dinners throughout the year. The winemakers don’t lecture, but, rather, table-hop so you can get some one-on-one knowledge while you enjoy your special meal and vino.
Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix
On a knoll above the Biltmore, the Wrigley Mansion has been a Phoenix landmark since it was built in the 1930s as a winter home for the chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. In recent years it opened as a social club with a restaurant, now helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef, Christopher Gross.
The Wine Dinner Series, held often throughout the year, is a hot ticket, with brief talks by the winemakers, followed by wine pairings with a Gross-prepared special dinner. Recent menus included such savory fare as duckling with fingerling potatoes paired with a 2013 Chateau Moulin de Tricot Margaux.
Maynards Market & Kitchen, Tucson
Credit: Maynard's Kitchen
In downtown Tucson, Maynards Market & Kitchen occupies part of a historic, still-working train depot and offers a spacious patio from which you can watch passing trains. The restaurant – named for two men called Maynard – has full monthly calendars of events, including wine dinners and wine tastings (free for members of the restaurant’s Wine Club).
The dinners – four courses and paired with wines – focus on the wine and food of one particular wine-producing region and are presented by the chef and sommelier, who explain the evening’s choices. Upcoming tastings will focus on the Pacific Northwest and South Africa, and reservations are highly encouraged.