Snob Wine of the Month | Wine Reviews

Quit being such a damn cheapskate. Some wines are worth it. Great bottles for over $15.

Arizona Stronghold – Cabernet Sauvignon “Dala”

Cost: Average price $25

Where buy now: Vinifera – $24.99

Grapes: Arizona Stronghold: Cabernet Sauvignon “Dala”

Region: Cochise County, Arizona

Vintage: 2009

Arizona Stronghold Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently saw the documentary, “Blood Into Wine”, Into Wine the story of wine makers pioneering the terroir of northern Arizona (most notably, Maynard Keenan, front man for bands such as Tool and A Perfect Circle). A real triumph of man vs. nature, these guys attempt to coax the finicky climate into producing consistent, quality vino. Intrigued, I decided I needed this wine.

The winery, named Caduceus, lists but one, yes, ONE Minnesota shop on their website who carries their wine. Where did this city gal venture to sample this precious nectar? Vinifera, located on the Plymouth/Wayzata border, about 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. Sexy Wayzata, home of Brandon and Brenda Walsh!

As I walk in to this cute shop, I am greeted by a sweet golden retriever just milling about. I soon met the owner, Christian, and we chatted about “Blood into Wine”. He explained that all Caduceus wine has been taken off the retail shelves and is only available from the tasting room in Arizona. Boo-urns! Thankfully, he did have four bottles from the Arizona Stronghold winery (a joint venture between Mr. Tool & Eric Glomski). The Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay are solely produced from Arizona-born grapes, and they also make two blends (a red and a white) from Napa Valley grapes. Well, the curiosity of the AZ grape is what brought me there, so I went for the Cab. At $24.99, this was steep for my wallet, but I had to roll the dice. Was this wine worth the price AND the drive?

Later that evening, I inspect the bottle. I cannot believe I’m going to crack a $25 bottle of wine on a Monday night. Who am I? I work for a non-profit for rice lakes! I gingerly open it and pour a glass, letting it breathe for about 10 minutes while I prepared a quick spinach salad with red onion, gorgonzola dolce cheese, tomatoes and vinaigrette. I sat down and stuck my nose in the glass for good whiff of this Arizona swill. I smelled cherry, mild spice and chocolate [dare I say even a little earth? This could the documentary’s influence]. The taste was all Cab – fuller bodied, dark red fruit with undertones of chocolate and spice. It paired quite well with the gorgonzola. I like this creamy gorgonzola dolce [sweet gorgonzola] found at Lund’s, Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, etc. (the fancy-pants joints).

After the salad, I just had to grab some dark chocolate to complete the evening. I recently bought some 65% cacao dark chocolate (on sale at Kowalski’s), so into my face it went. I let the chocolate melt a little before dropping in for another whiff. Oh, yeah – now the chocolate scent was pronounced. I continued to let the square shrink on my tongue as melty chocolate ribbons oozed down my throat. “Now it’s time!” I thought. I took a sip of the Stronghold and sat back, my eyes rolling. “Wow!” I thought, “I may do this every Monday”. My only criticism of the wine is that I wished it had a longer finish. So delicious, I wanted the flavor to hang out a little more in my mouth. What’s the rush, man? Chill. Stay a while.

Was my jaunt out to Wayzata/Plymouth worth it? Hells yes! I wished I hadn’t gone over my lunch hour because I would have perused the shelves. Christian remarked that 80% of their wines are Californian, but they do carry wines from all over the world. I’ll keep these guys in my back pocket as I saw they carry wines I haven’t seen outside Sonoma! If you live in the Western suburbs, add this stop to your weekend or nightly errands.

March is here and that means inconsistent and often times, crappy winter weather. Here’s my suggestion for a decadent evening: Stop over to Vinifera and pick up a bottle of the Arizona Stronghold Cabernet, rent “Blood into Wine” and pick up some good dark chocolate. Nestle into the couch with your goodies and relax. It’ll be like Mr. Roger’s “Picture Picture” for adults.

Palazzo Della Torre

Cost: Average price $20

Where buy now: France 44, Hennepin Lake, Haskell’s – several other shoppes for about $19.99

Grapes: 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese

Region: Verona, Italy

Vintage: 2007

Allegrini - Palazzo Della Torre
Allegrini – Palazzo Della Torre

One sip from this luscious red had my husband emphatically declaring, “This is some good wine!” Yes, he’s been in mediocre wine hell with me lately, sampling a helluva bunch of crap so I can write about the decent ones! He’s always willing to take one for the team, but the recycling boys are going to love us this Thursday: our backyard looks like the backside of the Liquor Depot [RIP].

This red wine is made up of Corvina and Rondinella grapes along with a little smidge of Sangiovese. It hails from the Verona region of Italy (shout out to my cuz Shelby who lives there!) This ruby beauty does have some tartness up front, but finishes smooth, especially for a drier red wine.

My husband said he could sip this alone, but thought it’d be better with food to play off of. Me? I think that just about anyone could sip this, but on this night, I prepared spicy Thai steak lettuce wraps: bibb lettuce wrapped around flank steak that was marinated in a mixture of Sambal, lime juice, fish sauce and garlic. Throw in some cilantro, red onion, carrots and we were loving life. This red really paired well, and was able to hold court with the dish’s distinct spice. Really, you could drink this with several different ethnic cuisines: Thai, Vietnamese, or even some good ol’ fashioned BBQ ribs. Or, pair it the way it was intended, with some truly Veronese cuisine such as gnocchi (or, as non-Italophiles call it, potato dumplings) with butter, sage and parmigiano or with a mushroom risotto or with fennel sausage and polenta. I’m getting side-tracked by my growling stomach!


This wine is made in the ripasso method. What does ‘ripasso’ mean? I had no clue, so I did a little digging.  Literally, it means “re-passed”. It’s a method of wine making where about 70% of the grapes picked in September are immediately vinified. The remaining 30% are left to dry until the end of December, when they resemble raisins. These grapes are vinified and re-fermented with the juice from the fresh grapes picked in September. Voila: a more complex wine. It seems soooo labor intensive, but hey, we reap the rewards. Now, just because I said complex, it doesn’t mean you need a sophisticated palate to enjoy. It just has a bit more depth and rounded flavor to it. You’ll notice it just like my wino-in-making husband did.

My friend gave me this bottle for my birthday and I was tickled as I drank this wine once before at a friend’s house. I loved it so much that I ran to the store the next day, but found it came with a price tag of nearly $20! Too rich for my blood. Perhaps it seemed to taste even better because I didn’t pay a dime, but I could drink this sucker all day long. As I finish typing up this review, I’m tipping the empty bottle back to see if I can get one last drop. Oh sweet Maria, Mother of Italian grapes, it’s so smooth, it sings as it goes down!

The Palazzo Della Torre is more than the typical $15 price point I try to stay under (so as to feed my daily habit without the need to beg for change next to a highway exit). This bottle would make a great birthday present or hostess gift to any wino. Drink alone or with meat and cheese, you just can’t go wrong. Since this bottle is more than $15 but totally worth the price, I deem it the ‘Snob’ bottle of the month. However, there is always a wine sale happening around the Cities so you can pick it up from time to time 20% off. Guess I’m going to have to break down and buy a bottle for once.