Earlier this spring we told you about the arrival of Sorso Wine Room at the Scottsdale Quarter. We had heard about the 32-tap WineEmotion dispensing system, and to be honest, were pretty eager to try it out. It sounded so strange and intriguing; we needed to experience it first hand.
Unfortunately, we discovered Sorso is not the kind of place where we want to spend hours tasting wine. Frankly, Sorso's "industrial chic" interior looks like the existential crisis of a Crate & Barrel show room. Burlap pillows strewn about with wine puns on them such as "Just The Sip" and "Cork Dork," couldn't add a sense of warmth to the room. The cavernous seating area, replete with lounge spaces, two-top tables, communal seating, and ample patio space, is also accompanied by a full-service bar. It's huge and heartless in there — and nothing like the cozy, chic atmospheres we've come to anticipate from wine bars.
On each of our visits, we bypassed ordering wine from the servers (which you can do), and opted to try out the WineEmotion dispenser.
Here's what happens: First, your server brings you empty, standard size wine glasses and a key card very similar to one you might get at a hotel. Out of 100+ wines on the menu, only 32 bottles are available at a time in the dispenser, and these selections are listed on vertical chalk boards high above the taps. Once you've made your choice, you insert your key card into the machine, hold your glass up to the spout in front of your selection, and press one of three buttons corresponding to your desired pour size — 1.5oz sip, 3oz taste, or 6oz glass. When the wine finishes pouring, you remove your key card (it also functions as your running tab), take your glass of wine back to your table, and enjoy.
It's just that simple.
Or maybe not. Servers warned us that several guests had already spilled wine on their clothes by not holding their glasses close enough to the tap spout, or removing the glass before the pour was complete. Spilling, spurting, and leakage in general have apparently caused more than one stain.
Spills aside, after the novelty of watching Chardonnay spurt out of a tap wears off, the whole self-service system starts to feel gimmicky. The pricing is also a little strange. Sorso carries some very fine, pricey bottles, which means that some of the 1.5oz sips cost nearly $10. One Cabernet cost $18.25 for a sip. Not only that, but sometimes the prices between the sip, taste, and pour for one bottle of wine don't make a lot of sense cost-wise. For example, one wine was priced at $18 for a full glass, $10 for a taste, and $5 for a sip.
If tasting through many types of wines is your goal, there are many tasting rooms around The Valley better suited to your needs and your billfold's health. Sorso doesn't provide tasting cards or even a hand-held menu of what's offered on tap, so there's no use in pretending that you're overspending on sips from the WineEmotion dispenser to practice your tasting skills or broaden your wine palette.
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Furthermore, despite the ample floor space at Sorso, the area around the WineEmotion set up manages to feel bottle necked (no pun intended) during busy hours. It can be awkward trying to pour your own Merlot while bumping into other patrons still mulling over the painstaking decision between a California Chardonnay or a French Riesling, and god help you if the seating areas adjacent to the WineEmotion are also full.
Bottom line: due to pricing, inconvenience, and the inherent kitsch-factor, the WineEmotion dispenser isn't worth the effort. On the other hand, Sorso Wine Room itself is a decent wine cafe if you can get into its interior decor. The wine list is actually pretty good, and despite the exorbitant tags on some of the pours from the WineEmotion dispenser, they do have some great wines for much more reasonable prices. We recommend that one stick to ordering full glasses of wine from the servers that wander the floor, and perhaps sample one of the bruschetta boards or charcuterie plates from the food menu. Wine is better served by knowledgeable bartenders, wine professionals, and sommeliers who know how to avoid staining your clothing — or at the very least can offer to pay for your dry cleaning.