Best Tasting Room 2015 | Lawrence Dunham Vineyards | Nightlife | Phoenix

Crisp, bright, lightly floral, enjoyable. No, we're not just talking about the wines from Lawrence Dunham Vineyards; we're thinking of its great new tasting room, too. Situated on a quiet corner in Old Town Scottsdale, LDV is a nice afternoon stop, whether you're on a slow wander through nearby shops or heading there directly for an afternoon tasting. The "room" is really a converted house, and when you're at Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, you feel as though a neighbor is hosting you for the afternoon — albeit one with a great wine cellar and penchant for sharing. The open, breezy space is surrounded by beautifully planted Southwestern gardens that serve it well during its many community events. Whether you're looking to learn a few new things about wine or discover a great new Arizona vintage, Lawrence Dunham Vineyards is worth a trip — or two.

Evie Carpenter

What makes a wine bar great? Well, the wine list certainly has something to do with it, but with any bar, it also requires knowledgeable bartenders with good personalities and great attitudes. In both categories, The Tavern scores. The wine list at this Biltmore-area restaurant and wine bar features everything from $25 glasses of 2010 Silver Oak Cabernet to affordable options in both red and white, available on tap. And if you're not sure where to start, just ask. The bartenders will be happy to pour samples of what you think you might like, and once you settle in with a glass, they'll make sure it's not empty — until you want it to be. If you're lingering for a few pours, order either a cheese or charcuterie board. Ask nicely and they might even mix both into one plate so you can sample a little bit of each.

Readers Choice: Postino Winecafe


Though Andrew Calisterio's been in the Valley for only about a year, he's wasted no time making his mark on the local drinking scene. He landed a job at one of the most prestigious bars in town, Crudo, not long after moving here from California, and he already has made contributions to the bar's cocktail menu. Calisterio's liquid concoctions fall in line with Crudo's reputation for well-balanced and creative drinks that walk the line between being approachable and exciting to hardcore booze nerds. But he's got more than just a knack for shaking up great cocktails going for him; Calisterio's also got a barside manner that we wish were more common around town. Always willing to take the time to chat with drinkers and determine the best cocktail for the occasion, he plays educator and gracious host all at once.

Agility, passion, power, delicacy — Teneia Sanders-Eichelberger's voice has it all. The singer-songwriter, who performs under just her first name, grew up singing gospel in church, and the soulful acoustic pop she makes today makes full use of her versatile vocal cords. With the skill of a jazz singer and a warm, disarming stage presence, Teneia can make her voice do just about anything — charm you into a hypnotic trance, make your heart beat faster, or motivate you to get out of your chair and dance. In the summer of 2015, Teneia and her husband/musical compatriot, Ben Eichelberger, set off in an RV on a nomadic musical adventure, and they have only their fans to thank — the RV was the final goal of a successful crowdfunding campaign, in which the singer raised more than $20,000 for the journey. Only a special talent can inspire that type of generosity.

Fresh off the June 2015 release of its debut album and with rock industry vet Alan Niven guiding the group, Razer has a lot of momentum. And though the entire band plays with the precision of sharpened studio pros, vocalist Chris Powers is Razer's greatest asset. The singer boasts a textbook rock 'n' roll voice — the power of a freight train, the soul of a blues singer, and the chops of an opera star. There are few things Powers can't do with his mighty pipes, and his vocals will lead the way for what might be the next band to break out of the Copper State.

Fairy Bones is a shining example of how talent, hard work, and multi-tasking can carry a band. Fronted by singer/keyboardist Chelsey Louise Richard, the band writes hard-rocking, dramatic, keyboard-driven music, and Richard's mighty voice wails powerfully on Fairy Bones' 2015 release Dramabot, produced by musical Renaissance man Bob Hoag. But the band doesn't just do music well. Fairy Bones released a series of eye-popping videos to build buzz for the album release, and it worked. The video for "Waiting," which looked like a nightmarish stroll through a satanic cult's frat house, appeared on most every local blog's "Best Videos of 2014" list, and the band has a fashionable, unique visual aesthetic that matches its unique style. Fairy Bones has nowhere to go but up.

Readers Choice: Black Bottom Lighters

Kongos hasn't released an album in three years. In the modern music world, three years is an eternity. When most bands haven't released new material in three years, it's because they no longer exist. Remember Carly Rae Jepsen? Her one and only hit was huge in 2012, the year Kongos' album came out. But Kongos has had a good reason to wait. The band of brothers' biggest hit didn't take over alternative rock radio until last year, and they've got the hardware to prove it. "Come With Me Now" received platinum certification in 2014, meaning the song's digital sales exceeded a million units. Since all of Arizona (if not the country) loves the catchy four-on-the-floor chorus and the song's novel use of the accordion, everyone is wondering: When will the new album come out?

Unfortunately, the guys in Kongos have become so good at dodging the question that they would be primed for careers as White House press secretaries should they opt out of the music industry. So for now, we'll wait.

Spearheaded by local promotor Jeremiah Gratza, President Gator Records releases limited-run vinyl titles representing some of Phoenix's brightest. Adhering to no genre specifications, Gratza has released hip-hop from Mega Ran, video game prog from the Minibosses, lo-fi gospel by the Through and Through Gospel Review, Gypsy jazz rock by the Dry River Yacht Club, minimal synth pop from Vial of Sound, and crushing metal by Take Over and Destroy and Gatecreeper, and lots more, all packaged in beautiful, full-color sleeves and including digital download cards. Releasing the records he wants to hear, Gratza is pulling double duty by documenting the ever-growing sounds of the Phoenix music community. 

Led by the dynamic Tommy Ash (that's Miss Tommy Ash to you), the Tommy Ash Band leans just as hard on its Sonoran roots as the twangy sounds of Bakersfield and classic Nashville country. Ash's vocals echo the slapback rockabilly of singers like Wanda Jackson and the rootsy grit of Patsy Cline, and her band of gunslingers rock as hard as they swing. Hailed as a potential breakout star by outlets like We Hate Pop Country, the Tommy Ash Band's approach is well represented by the group's album, Sinner's Blood, and live performances have turned clubs like Last Exit Live and Crescent Ballroom into genuine honky-tonks for an evening.

A night with Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta is a trip back in time to a dusky mambo club, where a sharply dressed horn section blasts backing melodies to a guitarra-wielding frontman. He's Tucson's Tito Puente, if the iconic percussionist played guitar. La Orkesta brings two singers, a pedal steel guitar, a bassist, a drummer, multiple trumpets, and even more instrumentation depending on the night, creating a powerful wall of sound. Few bands in Arizona guarantee as fun a dance party as Sergio's orchestra. Playing a combination of traditional mambo covers and blistering, fun-as-hell originals, the Tuscon band truly is something special. Luckily for us, La Orkesta is a common presence in Phoenix, making the trek north at least once a season. Hell, they play so frequently in Phoenix they might as well live here. We wouldn't complain.

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