– By Darla S. Hoffmann, Certified Specialist of Wine
It’s no secret that Downtown Phoenix has been kissed by welcomed urbanization and significant transformation. The use of Adaptive Reuse Projects is plentiful and it is becoming a big draw for people to move downtown. Businesses are also gaining exposure from people in the suburbs. This is such a positive message for the economy of Arizona. One of the many other things driving the economy is the increasing visibility of Arizona wines. My constant research of wine in Arizona led me to Central Wine, a product of an Adaptive Reuse Project, which just happens to be downtown, on Central Avenue, near Indian School. The building also houses The Clever Koi and Modern Citizen, a Leiden Mitchell salon.
Jenna Rousseau, owner of Central Wine, was born in Arizona and is the fifth generation of the famed Rousseau Family. The Rousseau Farming Company has been putting healthy food on the tables of Arizonans since the 1800’s, so Jenna just might be someone we can count on to bring us quality products and great service for a very long time.
“I’ve always had a passion for wine and knew life would eventually bring me to wine in Arizona, but nine years ago, I didn’t feel our state was quite ready for my concept,” says Rousseau.
So, she moved to San Diego for college, studied abroad in Italy where she learned much about wine and drank a lot of it, then onward to Sonoma to work a Harvest at one of the vineyards, then took her talents to San Francisco where she worked in a wine distribution center and a local wine shop. Finally, she ended up working at The Ferry Building, San Francisco’s most famous landmark, working on the wine related topics on their website. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a vibrant gathering of local farmers, artisan producers and independently owned and operated food businesses. Rousseau is quite the little go getter and took full advantage learning the wine business at a very young age.
While keeping an eye on the wine industry in Arizona and watching the growth of Downtown Phoenix, she could see the time was right to roll out her vision back where she belonged. She moved back to Arizona and searched for a location where her concept would be accepted and embraced by the community. She wanted a retail shop combined with an experience. Central Wine is a wine bar with a huge emphasis on small brand wines for retail.
“You may find some of the wines that I carry in AJ’s, but never in a big box store,” says Rousseau. “I do carry a few Arizona wines and would love to carry more, but my focus is to stick with those that are not as readily available in the Valley. For example, I carry DA Ranch and Chateau Tumbleweed, so one doesn’t have to travel up north to taste their wines.”
The Arizona wine industry deserves kudos for supporting one another; be it a bar, restaurant, winery or vineyard, I see the comradery every time to do an article. For instance, while Rousseau and I were chatting it up, Kris Pothier, owner of Chateau Tumbleweed, personally delivered Central Wine’s order. Jenna often does wine tastings of Wagner Family Wines, including Caymus Vineyard. The Wagner Family of wine, of Napa Valley, has a family winemaking legacy that can be traced back over 150 years and eight generations. Wagner’s sister Rachel lives in Arizona and gladly facilitates tastings at Central Wine to showcase their wines to the people that live in her state. Central Wine also carries Chacewater Winery wines of the Sierra Foothills in California, owned by the Manuel family. Luke Manuel, son of owner Paul Manuel, lives in Arizona and delightfully delivers Rousseau’s orders himself. Yet another great demonstration of how the people living in our state thrive on helping each other succeed. I like hearing stories like that, so without much of an arm twist I bought Chacewater’s 2012 Malbec and 2014 Cabernet Franc.
Central Wine is celebrating three years in business and is enjoying sharing their hip style of wines by the glass and retail. The by-the-glass aspect allows her to keep prices lower in her retail area. If you buy a wine by the bottle and drink it inside, a $15 corking fee is included in the price, which is standard across the state. Even with those fees, the most expensive wine on the menu is $50, which you can take home for only $35. Jenna rotates her wines two times per month, some stay and some travel in and out just to keep things interesting.
The exquisite mix of Central Wine, The Clever Koi, Modern Citizen and nearby George & Dragon brings opportunity to the area. People have choices; they can have a glass of wine at Central Wine, and then mosey over to The Clever Koi for dinner or vice versa. Central Wine does offer small bites such as meat and cheese boards, burrata, and desserts. They also offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks like coffee drinks, ice tea and lemonade.
To learn more about Central Wine and their fabulous wine club, my first suggestion is to call Uber and get yourself downtown, but if you aren’t able to do that just now check out their website at www.centralwinephx.com and put it on your list of places to visit.
East Valley resident Darla Hoffmann is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Sommelier. She is the owner of About Wine, a wine education company, where she does on-site tastings and classes at restaurants, home parties and corporate events. She also works part time in one of Arizona’s award-winning tasting rooms, LDV Wine Gallery in Scottsdale. A member of The Wine Century Club, she has tasted over 100 grape varietals. Her goal is to share her knowledge and passion for wine, while educating our readers on the booming wine industry in the state of Arizona. If you are a wine collector looking for tastings and storage in the Valley, email email@example.com. Learn more at: www.aboutwineinaz.com.