11 Great Wine Bars in Metro Phoenix
In a time that doesn't seem too long ago, Americans approached wine with a sense of dread. Stumbling over French names, listening to the intimidating patter of the sommelier (who had what looked like an ashtray hanging from his neck), smelling the cork, sipping and giving a nod of approval -- the whole ritualized process seemed arcane and utterly pretentious.
Nikki Buchanan Terroir's private wine room
Then along came wine bars and, suddenly, wine drinking got a lot more fun. Servers offered quick wine suggestions without making us feel like rubes, and wines by the glass allowed us to try new things without making expensive mistakes, and the wine bar ambiance was just upscale enough to make us feel like civilized human beings out for a relaxed good time -- not cougars and hound dogs on the make. In that spirit, we offer 11 Metro Phoenix wine bars you shouldn't miss.
Courtesy of Kazimierz's Facebook page Kazimierz -- not your grandma's wine bar
Nobody pronounces the name right (Kaaz-MEER-ehz), but who cares? The important thing is simply finding this tomb-dark replication of an Old World wine cellar with the speakeasy-style entrance in the back -- because if you're a wine aficionado (and even if you're not), you need to know that The Kazbar (winner of countless Wine Spectator awards) is Arizona's numero uno wine bar, stocked with more than 3,200 labels and a wine list that reads like a James Michener novel. Pretentious, however, it is not. More like chatty and funny and filled with as much erudite wine lore as you can handle. Creaky, velvet-upholstered couches and chairs may look like Grandma's house, but this place gets lively (as in raucous) as the night progresses, thanks in large part to fantastic live entertainment -- including local legends Margo Reed and Dennis Rowland -- every night of the week. If you get hungry, an extensive menu offers charcuterie, a short list of good cheeses, creative flatbreads, and drunken cherry brownie for dessert. So very appropriate.
Sportsman's Fine Wines and Spirits
For as long as most of us can remember, Sportsman's has been the go-to shop for boutique, hard-to-find wines and spirits and a great place to get shopping help from a geeky staff who knows its stuff. But what some of us forget is it's also a terrific wine bar, offering 75 wines by the glass from a list that changes quarterly. Not sure you'll like a particular wine? Ask for a tasting, which is half the pour at half the price. Or maybe you'd like to splurge on a whole bottle (the store stocks more than 2,000), then take it over to the wine bar and drink it without a corkage fee. If you're interested in learning more about wine, Sportsman's offers unscheduled wine tastings (informal and free) from 5 to 7 p.m. midweek. Meanwhile, the huge menu offers great cheeses (Brillat Savarin, Explorateur, and St. Andre, for example) and a slew of other wine-friendly foods, including rabbit cassoulet and Nueske's hot ham and Brie sandwich.