A glass of wine is no rare discovery. But a surprising one? Or a robust vino menu at an unexpected place? Or a helpful staffer who hooks you up with something new?
That's another story.
Metro Phoenix has plenty of full-service restaurants with superlative wine lists. We're lucky. But that's not always what you're in the mood for. Sometimes you just want to take down wine in a laid-back space, maybe nosh on a no-big-deal snack or two. When that's the case, check out these places.
Each will surprise you with its wine game in some way.
(Note: Wine lists rotate regularly, so some wines suggested below may no longer be on offer.)
Kazimierz World Wine Bar
A back-door entrance, a seductively low lit lounge, and a book — no, a tome! — listing thousands of wines: When it comes to vino, Kazimierz doesn't mess around. Deciding what to order from the nearly 50-page menu can be daunting. The best way to attack is with a flight.
Even this requires some thought. Do you want a flight with all German wines? How about a flight themed around the mood of love? A flight of bubbles? Chat with your server for recs; sink into one of the soft, velvety couches, relax, and enjoy the cellar-like atmosphere vibe. The nosh menu includes traditional wine-pairing staples, such as cheese and charcuterie boards, warm olives, and bread.
Order: Close your eyes and point to a bottle on the menu. Most bottles here are splendid. Pair it with a hunk of Manchego cheese and slivers of prosciutto.
7137 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, 480-946-3004
The Whining Pig
Even though this place has four Valley locations, we’re partial to the Bethany Home Road one. Slotted between a psychic and a massage parlor, The Whining Pig is hard to find (a good thing), cozy, and has one of the most affordable wine lists in town.
Nearly 30 wines are scrawled on a chalkboard, organized by price. They start at $5. Here, a five-spot gets you the likes of Mosel riesling from Germany or the lovely Hess chardonnay from Monterey. Throw in another dollar or two to upgrade to the likes of a classic zin from Paso Robles or a Lebanese white blend.
The best part about The Whining Pig is that if you have zero idea about you like when it comes to wine, or even if you know exactly but like to branch out, the staff is knowledgeable about last every bottle, and willing to lend guidance. There’s not much to eat unless you’re in the mood for grilled cheese, which — let it be said — goes very well with a chilled glass of white. (Wine and cheese in another form!)
Order: If they have a French Picpoul de Pinet, get it. It’s a light, delicate white wine that’s ultra-fresh.
1612 East Bethany Home Road, 602-633-2134
There's so much to like about Central Wine: the modern, warm atmosphere, the convenient location off of the light rail, the ever-changing wine list, and the owners’ and staff’s big heart and passion for wine.
The enthusiasm is infectious. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of wine knowledge, you’re bound to enjoy yourself at Central Wine. And if you’re interested in sampling local Arizona wine, this shop showcases a nice roundup of in-state whites and reds, including those by reputed wineries Chateau Tumbleweed and DA Ranch.
In addition to the eclectic and surprising wine menu, what sets Central Wine apart is its extensive offering of events, such as classes and weekly sommelier-led tastings. Show up on a Saturday for a lesson in Spanish wines, or Thursday evening for a themed tasting.
Order: A bottle of Chateau Tumbleweed syrah and a veggie board.
4236 North Central Avenue, #101, 602-812-7343
GWIN Wine + Beer
Like many good spots in metro Phoenix, GWIN is located in a strip mall. Named for the Cornish word “wine,” GWIN’s theme is loosely Cornwallesque (they offer the traditional Cornish pasty on Thursdays). GWIN offers newbies a relaxed step into the wine world.
The list is longish — 30 some offerings on rotation — and includes wine made by the owners’ family estate. While the wines aren’t as regionally diverse as they could be, the best thing about GWIN is the lack of pretension. You want to sample as many wines as possible? Go ahead. You want to ask as many questions as possible? Don't be shy. Plus, GWIN offers weekly wine events and discounts — perfect for those drinkers new to the wine scene and/or those not prepared to shell out $50 for a bottle.
Order: A glass of Shannon Ridge Barbera and the honey-almond baked Brie.
7342 East Shea Boulevard, #109, Scottsdale, 480-247-9915
Postino is a sure thing. With six locations across the Valley, you can always find one nearby when the need for a glass of wine strikes. Postino offers some truly affordable day drinking at $5 for any glass until 5 p.m. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the killer patios at each location and the hip design and vibes.
The wine choices are great. On a menu of 25 to 30 options, each bottle is thoughtfully selected and rotated on a quarterly basis. The diverse list spans Old World and New World styles, and frequently features wonky varietals, such as the mencía grape from Spain or the Italian garganega. If you’re an adventurous drinker, Postino is the place to try something new. Bonus: Postino offers $9 off any bottle of wine to go.
Order: Bring friends on a Monday or Tuesday after 8 p.m. to partake in Postino’s insanely popular board-and-bottle deal: $20 for a bottle of wine and a bruschetta board.
3939 East Campbell Avenue, 602-852-3939; 5144 North Central Avenue, 602-274-5144; 302 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-632-6363; 615 South College Avenue, Tempe, 480-927-1111; 7030 East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale, 602-899-1111; 4821 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 602-428-4444
Terroir Wine Pub
We love that “pub” is in the name of this snobbery-free wine bar. It accurately describes the laid-back energy of this place, and yet reflects how serious the owners are about wine. With a list that changes daily, you can come every day for a year and not have the same glass of wine twice.
A friendly staff is happy to educate wine newcomers. Snacks include lavosh plates, cheese boards, and bruschetta, with a few decadent dessert options thrown in for good measure. Unlike most wine bars in the Valley, Terroir offers a wine club; for $30 a month, members receive two bottles of wine, plus discounts at the pub. Terroir also invites guests — both club members and non-members — to rent a bottle locker in Terroir’s wine storage room. You can rent a 12-bottle or a 36-bottle locker on a monthly or yearly basis.
Order: Since the wine selection changes daily, ask your server for recommendations. Then get The Venice Lavosh: marinara, mozzarella, pepperoni, Genoa salami, and bell peppers.
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7001 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-922-3470
First Draft Book Bar
The beloved, locally owned bookstore isn’t a wine bar, per se. However, the Camelback location features First Draft Book Bar, which offers $5 glasses of wine on tap during happy hour (Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m.) and Wine Wednesdays with discounts on glasses and bottles. The wine list isn’t extensive. But you can browse the bookstore while sipping and even find a nook to settle into and read. It's like Las Vegas for book-lovers and oenophiles.
300 West Camelback Road, 602-274-0067