Meet the Vine Geek (Part Two)

On Tuesday, you met Brian Reeder, co-owner of AZ Wine Merchants and one of our new wine columnists. Today, his story continues. When we left off, Pavle Milic (in the photo above, from left, it's Reeder and Milic) had opened a little restaurant in Scottsdale and Brian had decided resort life at the Montelucia wasn't for him..

Pavle had been selling the bejesus out of AZ juice, and was interested in opening a little wine shop. We sat down and chatted about it, and by the end of the conversation, we had conceived not only a shop (AZ Wine Merchants), but a website for the education and sales of local, domestic, and global wines.

So here we are. The wine shop is open, the website is being polished (coming soon!), and I have great relationships with many of our local winemakers. Most of these people have true passion for their product, and believed that we are residing in a great wine growing region. After traveling to Sonoita for a dinner we had with Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas and Kent Callaghan of Callghan Vineyards, I was hooked -- and wanted to know more. I pestered Todd until he agreed to let me help during harvest, and I headed south for a few days to get my feet wet.

I loved it. I loved how physical the work was. I loved how scientifically precise, yet artfully unique winemaking was simultaneously. I loved getting to assist in all areas of winemaking -- from visiting the vineyards to punching down fermenting grapes. Winemaking isn't glamorous. You're power-washing more than you're tasting, and punching down more than you're blending. And that's what I loved about it. A physical act could lead to the creation of (keep your mind out of the gutter . . .) something subtle yet powerful, graceful, and beautiful. I've always enjoyed working with my hands and head, and this process fulfilled both of those desires. Plus, you're making wine, and it's f*cking delicious.

But what does any of that matter? Why wine in AZ, and why should anyone care? For me it's partly to do with the quality. No, we're not making Marcassin or Harlan -- but we're not supposed to. Those wines are made to represent the area they have been grown in, and are achieving what their winemakers intend. Just as our wines are meant to represent Arizona, and what our wine makers intend. We're watching an industry develop in front of us. Ever seen a musician in a coffee shop, then bragged three years later when they're playing to a sold-out stadium? To me, this is the same. We're watching the birth of an industry. And I dare you to talk to one of these passionate individuals for five minutes, or visit their tasting room and taste through their wines.

Will they all be for you? Of course not.

Do you like every wine you try? I take that back -- do you think every wine you try is the best you've ever had?


But you likely enjoy different wines at different times and for different occasions, and appreciate their quality regardless. Our wines here are unique to Arizona. If you go into tasting them with Napa or Bordeaux or Chianti in mind, expect disappointment -- just as you'd be disappointed if you asked for an Oregon pinot noir and were given a tempranillo from Rioja. But if you can get around preconceived notions and appreciate the wines for they are, then you'll be surprised, and I believe impressed.

So where does this leave us? Yes, I am an advocate for Arizona wine. But while I'm a fan of our local wines, I am a general wine nerd that is constantly looking for the latest and greatest in the world of wine.

Here is the plan: I'll try to entertain you with compelling and educational pieces about wine. I want you to feel confident ordering a bottle at a restaurant and knowing what you'll be getting. I want to help fill in the gaps of your wine knowledge, and give you fun terms and details you can impress your wine snob friends with.

Cheers to wine, to learning, and to drinking!

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