I thought it appropriate that my first post as a contributor to Write on Rubee would be about Arizona wine. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Rhonni Moffitt and I used to publish Arizona Vines & Wines Magazine (subsequently named AZ Wine Lifestyle). Back in 2008, my husband created a brochure to help him sell land in Arizona wine country – something no one knew about back then. There were twelve wineries when we published our 2008 edition. We printed 10,000 copies of this eight-page brochure and provided them to the wine tasting rooms to distribute. After a couple of months, we were getting phone calls that they had run out and they wanted more.
Well, we realized, this could be a very expensive venture if we had to print more every couple of months without any financial revenue to support the print costs.
That’s where the publication began. I bought Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, a new camera and a subscription to Lynda.com to learn how to use it all. We created a mock-up and went around to sell advertising. Fast forward to December 2013, we were publishing a quarterly 120-page full-color magazine, printing 25,000 copies each quarter, and distributed them all over the state of Arizona. Unfortunately, it was beginning to be too much work for too little revenue and I sold the business to a man with 30 years’ experience in the publishing industry, with the hopes that he could grow and sustain what I started.
Being involved in this labor of love became my passion. Watching the Arizona wine industry grow from those twelve wineries featured in the first issue to almost 100 licensed wineries by 2013 was fascinating and exciting.
I can also thank the magazine for cultivating my friendship with Rubee (aka – Christina Barrueta). We joke that we looked across a crowded bar at a wine dinner at the now defunct Tapino Restaurant and it was love at first sight. We shared a love of fine wine, delicious food and fun experiences. Christina contributed immensely to Arizona Vines & Wines, at first with our restaurant feature article, and by the end she wrote three separate regular features, adding “Cocktail Corner – Mixologist Feature” and “Happy Hour Highlight.”
I’ve since watched her blossom with great enjoyment, reading her contributions to other popular Arizona publications and now with this blog.
One night a few weeks back, after dining out at Fabio on Fire, settling in on her couch and drinking wine (of course), I mentioned that I missed writing and, if she was interested, I would love to contribute to her blog from time to time. That’s where we are now. My first contribution to Write on Rubee is like coming full circle, discussing my recent dinner at Bar Bianco which featured four of Arizona’s favorite wineries (and personal favorites of mine as well).
A few months back, one of my friends was dining at Pizzeria Bianco and found a flier promoting a wine dinner series at Bar Bianco, and one of the dinners was called Arizona Love. Sharing a love of the Arizona wine industry, Megan, Becky, my husband Josh and I immediately determined that we couldn’t miss this and made reservations for the dinner that was over three months away.
When the night finally arrived, we were not disappointed. The dinner was served family style, allowing us to make new friends, while enjoying the company of our old friends. Bar Bianco is located directly next to the nationally-acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco. Most diners become aware of Bar Bianco as a place to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while enduring the notoriously long wait times at Pizzeria Bianco. With this wine dinner series, they are promoting that Bar Bianco is not just for waiting, but a place to be enjoyed as its own dining destination. The tables were set up in the grassy area between the two restaurants so we could dine al fresco on what would prove to be another gorgeous temperate evening in Phoenix.
Chef Chris Bianco arrived to a round of applause, greeted the guests, and introduced the flavors we would enjoy that evening. Each course was perfectly paired with a wine from the guest winemakers. It’s quite a feat to attend a wine dinner with more than one winemaker… and this one had four (well, I guess technically three plus the wife of a winemaker).
One of the highlights of every visit I’ve made to Pizzeria Bianco is the fresh roasted vegetables. Yes, he’s known for the pizza but, to me, the veggies are always a must-order. This meal started off with a platter of a variety of colorful roasted veggies, quinoa and a sample of cheese, served alongside Bianco bread. This was paired with 2014 Caduceus Cellars “Nagual de la Naga” – a Sangiovese blend. Although winemaker Maynard James Keenan was not able to attend, his wife Jen was in attendance, a perfectly beautiful substitute.
The second course, a fresh and crisp salad, included mixed greens, shaved pears, gorgonzola, bread crumbs with an apple cider vinaigrette. I was delighted to learn that Sand-Reckoner Vineyards was pouring their 2016 Orange Roussane. This was my first introduction to an Arizona orange wine and it was a treat. Rob Hammelman, who attended with his wife Sarah, explained the process of how to make an orange wine, which involves leaving the wine on the skins longer than you would a traditional white wine.
Our main course showcased spring Cinnamon Roost Farm lamb porchetta with roasted Blue Sky purple potatoes and charred rapini. This was so delicious that I had to dive back in for seconds.
This was followed by a platter of fennel sausage and sweet peppers. Another perfect pairing was the 2015 Callaghan Vineyards Aglianico. One thing I love about Kent Callaghan is that he’s adventurous and likes to try growing different varietals that may not be well known (to some). He’s been around the block a while and is considered an Arizona wine pioneer, so he has learned what varietals will tend to succeed more than others, although he’ll humbly explain that there’s always a learning curve with each new experiment. This Aglianico would definitely be considered a success story.
Lastly, the dessert course, a lovely tiramisu ,was accompanied by Dos Cabezas WineWorks 2017 “White.” This wine was particularly apropos for this evening as the label features artwork from the Bianco family – a portrait of one of the favorite family dogs. Winemaker Todd Bostock was present to tell the story behind the label as well as the wine.
It was great fun, after the dinner was completed and our tummies were full, to enjoy an additional glass of wine (my choice – the Callaghan Aglianico) with the winemakers and their spouses, and to reminisce of old times when we worked closely together through the magazine. It’s especially fulfilling to see the success that they are experiencing as individual wineries, as well as the industry as a whole. I’ve seen how hard these folks work and will continue to happily imbibe on the juices they produce. And as far as Bar Bianco wanting to prove that they aren’t just a place to wait… they accomplished their goal in spades. And if you think Chef Bianco is a one-trick pony and can only make great pizza, you would be wrong.
Bar Bianco is located at 609 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004.