Chow Bella

Blind Tasting at FnB Proves AZ Blush Wines Hold Their Own Against World's Great Rosés

See also: Pavle Milic of FnB Presents War of the Roses and a Hog, a Blind Rosé Tasting and Pork-Fest Held on August 24 See also: AZ Wines Impress at FnB's Arizona Judgment

The original War of the Roses (fought for the throne of England in the 1400s) lasted 32 years. But last night's War of the Roses and a Hog at FnB -- a blind Rosé tasting pitting four Arizona Rosés against four prominent Rosés from around the world -- took little more than an hour.

And Arizona came out smelling like a . . . . well, you know.

FnB's co-owner and resident wine geek Pavle Milic planned the event in late July, soon after Wine Spectator gave a tepid 84 points to Pink, a 2011 Rosé produced by Dos Cabezas Wineworks in Sonoita.

Feeling the wine deserved a higher score and suspecting the rating was based on snooty perceptions of Arizona wines, Milic pulled together a panel of local experts to blind taste eight Rosés, believing what was proven true at the Judgment of Paris in 1976: preconceived notions are perforce stripped away in a blind tasting.

He got the results he'd hoped for. The judges ranked the AZ-grown Lei Li Rosé from Caduceus Cellars #1. Meanwhile, 35 lucky civilians -- many of them wine-aficionados as well -- did their own judging of the same eight wines and reached their own conclusions, giving Pink, the Rosé from Dos Cabezas, the third place slot.

What's the takeaway? Arizona wines deserve more respect.

The eight wines chosen for the tasting were:

LIOCO, Indica, Rosé 2011 -- Sonoma

Marques de Caceres Rose Rioja, 2011 -- Spain

Gobelsburger Rosé, 2011 -- Austria

Domaine Tempier, Bandol, 2011 -- France (Provence)

Dos Cabezas Wineworks, Pink, 2011 -- Sonoita, AZ

Sand Reckoner Vineyards, Rosé, 2011 -- Willcox, AZ

Caduceus Cellars, Lei Li, Rosé, 2011 -- Jerome, AZ

Pillsbury Wine Company, One Night Stand, Rosé, 2011 -- Graham County, AZ

And just so you know, Milic didn't stack the deck. He purposely selected non-Arizona Rosés that are considered industry benchmarks from their own regions.

The six judges + Pavle were:

Robert Lindeman: store manager and wine buyer for AZ Wine Co. Brent Shinyeda: GM and wine sommelier at BLD in Chandler Katie Stephens: wine sommelier and co-owner of Beckett's Table Brent Karlicek: wine merchant for Postino Winecafe Ryan McLaughlin: brand manager at Quench Fine Wines, a fine wine distributor in Arizona and Nevada Dominic Armato: Phoenix blogger whose handle is SkilletDoux (recognized by Saveur Magazine) and founder of, a community food board

Here are the conclusions they collectively reached:

#1: Caduceus (AZ) #2: Domaine Tempier (France) #3: Gobelsburger (Austria)

Caduceus was in the top three for six of seven judges.

The People's Choice Awards went to:

#1: Domaine Tempier (France) #2: Marques (Spain) #3: Dos Cabezas Pink (AZ) As Milic puts it, "A blind tasting both humbles and validates the palate.The idea behind the exercise is for people to open their minds and form their own opinions. When it's a blind tasting, you're no longer tasting with baggage."

It should also be noted that chef Charleen Badman's "And a Hog" portion of the event was fantastic -- reason enough to be there, with or without a Rosé in hand. It was a four-course meal of fried green tomatoes with green goddess and feta; green salad with butternut squash, figs, Carol Steele's Asian pears and tesa (crunchy, salty, wonderful Italian bacon); Spider Pig Bostock (succulent pork shoulder, the pig supplied by 4-H member Parker Bostock (son of Dos Cabezas wine-maker Todd Bostock) served with ample sides of grilled corn on the cob, grilled okra, spaghetti squash, tepary beans and peperonata. For dessert, a shimmering yuzu panna cotta with roasted peaches.

In a phone conversation with Chow Bella this afternoon, Milic admitted, "Doing something like this can be risky, but when we get such great results, it helps to spotlight our local wines and show people how good they can be. Arizona wines will continue to get better. It's just the beginning."

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Nikki Buchanan