Blueberry Pinot Noir, Green Apple Riesling, White Chocolate Ale and Other Sips of the Kokopelli Wine Festival

Categories: Events
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"Going once....going twice...sold!" Kokopelli winemaker Dennis Minchella auctions off one of the 1,000,000th bottles.
​We spent more time (okay, all of our time) sipping at grapes rather than crushing them over the weekend at the 
10th Annual Kokopelli Krush, a wine festival put on by Kokopelli Winery & Bistro in Chandler. The event featured live music, the ceremonial opening of the 1,000,000th bottle of Kokopelli wine, and, of course, the competitive grape-crushing for which the festival gets its name.
 
​Next door to the Kokopelli Winery in the Mercedez-Benz tasting room, wine and beer were flowing freely into commemorative Kokopelli Krush mini-glasses. The first tasting table - where many of our drink tickets went to die - was host to urban wineries Su Vino (Scottsdale) and Studio Vino (Tempe). 
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Su Vino's Summer Rain Riesling was an early favorite.
This was fast labeled the "sweet" table, offering wines for the discerning co-ed - which is to say that they were contemporary, playful, and charmingly unpretentious (we'd love to hear Alton Brown, host of Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and author of a New York magazine piece this month on faking it as a food and wine connoisseur, try to snob-ify these). 

White chocolate beer, chocolate port wine, and selections from the new brunch menu after the jump.

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The space was a postmodern delight: decorated with $40,000 of local art, with Sunday football playing on a big screen in the background, and a selection of bottles to sample that would pair well with football, art, or both.

The Summer Rain, a Riesling, was suggested by Su Vino winemaker Cory Whalin as a great wine to sip by the pool. It was light, crisp, and sweet - a choice selection for Riesling and Moscato devotees. Next we sampled the Blue Breeze, a blueberry-infused Pinot Noir. The flavor was warm and subtle, the blueberry more lightly interwoven than you might first guess. 

Finally, two drink tickets went in the box for a sample of the Porto Cocoa, a chocolate Port that, as Whalin noted, tastes sweeter than it is on the first sip, before you experience its full flavor on the second. Sweet is definitely the right word for this decadent treat, which coats your whole mouth in its rich flavor. Whalin suggested this dessert wine by itself or "over vanilla bean ice cream." If you're planning to cook a romantic meal at home for that third or fourth date, take note: This Porto Cocoa is an excellent piece de resistance.

We finished off our sweet tastings with the Studio Vino Green Apple Riesling, which doesn't shy away from its comparison to the popular Jolly Rancher. It's a bit like your favorite Green Apple Martini as a wine, but just a touch sweeter: another poolside party star. Right at this moment, we overheard a guy telling his friends about a woman who could bend things with a very unusual part of her anatomy - so the atmosphere, it was perfect.

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We filled our glasses with the White Chocolate Ale and Blue Breeze blueberry-infused Pinot Noir - neither lasted long.
The room never stopped buzzing about the White Chocolate Ale, a light and smooth pale ale with a very warm, nutty aftertaste (this was probably the white chocolate). Getting less attention was the two-ticket Bourbon Barrel Stout (as the server asked, "Are you sure you want that?"). Stout may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this tasted as close to a great dessert wine as beer can get.

Outside, Kokopelli Winery & Bistro winemaker Dennis Minchella - son of founders Don and Carol Minchella - auctioned off one of the special 1,000,000th bottles of Kokopelli wine in support of juvenile diabetes research (we tasted the 1,000,000th Cabernet Sauvignon later - a good wine for pairing, with no post-sip pucker). Saturday was proclaimed Don and Carol Minchella Day in Chandler in honor of the family's contribution to Chandler and the history of Arizona winemaking. And that history goes far back; Dennis Minchella's grandmother was making a wine dubbed "Sweet Lucy" (which you can still try at Kokopelli today) in the bathtub during Prohibition.

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Relaxing on the extensive Kokopelli patio, we sampled two tapas and a panini from the new brunch menu.
As the children's teams lined up to crush grapes in fast-paced, two-minute heats (the trick, says Dennis, is using the sides of the barrel), we joined many Krush guests on the Kokopelli patio for brunch, which featured a new menu. Off the Tapas section, the Mac & Cheese Wedge ($5) was good and gooey, if not so good for you, and the Spicy Cuban Sliders ($5) were sweet and tangy, if a little pickle-heavy. The Turkey Pesto Panini ($7) was great to share.

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Later in the day, we sampled the Sangiovese 2010, "for foodies," and the buttery-popcorn-like Viognier.
Rounding out the day with wine tastings, we sampled the Sangiovese 2010 from Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery (Cornville), which was described as a "great wine for foodies," and the award-winning Viognier from Alcantara Vineyard & Winery (Verde Valley), which boasted the flavors of butterscotch and buttered popcorn. We finished with the Syrah 2009 from Carlson Creek Vineyard (Willcox), a crowd favorite of the weekend: Que Syrah, Syrah.

All in all, the 10th Annual Kokopelli Krush was excellent value for money ($10 entrance), between the live music, extensive Arizona wine and beer samples, and, yes, watching people of all ages jump up and down on grapes. Now that it's over, we're a little Krushed.

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The Bistro at Kokopelli Winery

35 W. Boston St., Chandler, AZ

Category: Music

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