Monday, November 16, 2009

Cork & Cactus vs The Big Pour

For those of you with small children, and without baby sitters, stop reading this post now. It will only depress you. If you are like Dr. Desert Flower and I, without small children, and ambulatory enough to get out and enjoy happenings around Phoenix, then please read on.

Last Friday night, was the Annual Cork & Cactus wine tasting at the Desert Botanical Garden here in Phoenix. This was the third consecutive year that Dr. Desert Flower and I attended. Earlier years, it was held in September, when the temperatures were still over 100F. This year, DBG staff decided to move C&C out into the garden itself and combined it with the Chiles & Chocolate tasting as well. At first glance, this sounded like a good idea - however, in reality it was very poorly executed. Consider the following points:
- The DBG paths are not extra wide, not fully paved, and often are gravel
- Having bright temporary installation flood lights elevated to only 8 to 10 feet means they are glaring into pedestrian eyes, making reading the Wine Tasting List impossible.
- Waiting in line for 20 minutes to get a 6 inch diameter plate of appetizers from 2 very small, poorly located buffets, is maddening
- having wait staff wade through a prickly cactus garden to refill the food buffet is a disaster waiting to happen
- reducing the dessert table down from a pool-table sized Mayan pyramid of delicious chocolate and pastry decadence in previous years to one small 3 foot long, one sided table of a few dessert treats this year (with another 10 minute queue to access the poorly lit table) is also frustrating

Once the retired, semi-ambulatory (ie walkers, canes, and low inertia) retirees LEFT after the first hour, and other younger attendees had enough and left in frustration, the garden was actually passable, wine tasting table queues were one or 2 persons deep, and the setup actually flowed better. The tiny dessert buffet was decimated. The Chiles & Chocolate booths were approachable. The Dziuk family had a savory honey stand (Absolutely Delightful Local AZ Honey) where we picked up a 1 lb bottle of Mesquite honey. We met Julia Baker who had amazing chocolate creations that were heavenly. We purchased a bag of organic chocolates from The Wei of Chocolate (Daily Sensual Love, Daily Gratitude, Daily Love mmmmm). The Chiles & Chocolate exhibit exceeded expectations.

The Cork & Cactus wine tasting fell Far Short. The Valley Ho held a NPR sponsored Wine Tasting the same night. Dr Desert Flower and I believe that most of the delicious wines that C&C had last year migrated to Valley Ho this year. The left overs, were a lack-luster motley crew of small distributors who did not know the wines they poured, were unfamiliar with the vineyards, did not know how to pour (stop pressing your bottle to my glass's edge, I don't want Hepatitis or to taste bottle dust thank you!), or were 'filling in for my brother' as several table staffers declared. Some of the local wines (AZ, NM) were grape juice, kool-aid, or just plain nasty. We found none of them worth buying and went home without purchasing a single bottle. In years past, we went home with cases of reds, whites, ports, and bubbly. Not worth the $75 entry fee.

CONTRAST this to Saturday Night:

Saturday night, in Scottsdale, Draft Magazine hosted "The Big Pour". I was initially skeptical of "The Big Pour" as I am not a huge fan of micro-brewed beers, but the band Everclear was playing, and Dr Desert Flower loves their songs, and for $35 you got to hear the concert AND get "10 pours" - basically 4 ounce plastic glasses, that got checked off on your "passport" that you got when entering the "beer garden". It was held on the pedestrian bridge over the Scottsdale Canal (misnomer "Scottsdale Water Front" - it's an agricultural irrigation canal). There were Polish, Czech, Russian, Mexican, Arizonian, Belgian, German, Dutch, Japanese, and various American beers. There were drunken frat boys, mis-guided cougar hunters (Dr Desert Flower was approached when I was busy getting a beer), and beer enthusiasts of various ages there enjoying the festivities. Everclear played a 75 minute set, and a 3 song encore - no one under 30 appeared to be before the stage in the crowd and only those of us born prior to 1980 appeared to be paying attention to the concert after 9am. There was ample cannabis smoke wafting through the crowd as well. A fun time was had, and it was Definitely worth the $35 entry fee.


  1. What's not to love about micro-brews? That's like saying you don't like restaurants that aren't part of big chains.

  2. My delicate allergic GI tract REALLY does not like the various yeasts and pollen inclusive in micro-brews. I've tried to address it with various supplements to reduce the issue, but to no avail. I do love wines from small producers / chateaus, and I abhor chain restaurants generally, but for the sake of the planet and the olfactory senses of my loved ones, I best avoid micro-brews.

  3. That's weird. Same effect even on lagers from small breweries? Or just ales?

  4. it's the reduced processing I think. "Organic" & "unfiltered" beers seem to have a more powerful negative aspect digestionally as well. When we used to live in Spartanburg SC, we had a genius allergist who treated Traci & Christopher, and after a year of good results, I went to him as well, and he helped me out a great deal - Dr. Brooks, also a reserve army colonel, good guy, but a rabid rightwinger. He explained that all allergens take one of 3 reactive pathways into the human body. Some of us, have natural resistance to all three, some lack defenses in 1 or 2 of the pathways. If you lacked all three, you were in terrible shape, auto-immunity wise. Some grains / hops / yeasts / fungi / organics have strong negative effects on some individuals, and others do not. It's a fact of life I've learned to maneuver around. =)


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