When restaurateur Peter Kasperski arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1979, he had at least one good reason: to escape the Chicago winters. “The year I shoveled snow off my roof so it wouldn’t collapse was the year I moved.” In 1997, he made another good decision: to open a restaurant that would help Scottsdale realize its potential as a great food town.
Along with partner Marianne Markogianis and chef Bernie Kantak, Kasperski launched Cowboy Ciao, a quirky neo-Western restaurant. To pair with dishes like buffalo carpaccio, he compiled an eclectic 88-selection wine list. During the restaurant’s first week, two supermodel types came in and delighted him by ordering a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera from Apulian vintner Cosimo Taurino—affirmation that Scottsdale was ready for something more ambitious.
Kasperski planned to expand his list to 100 bottles, but things got out of hand. Today he presides over a cellar of 28,000 bottles, with 3,300 labels from 45 countries. And the cellar keeps growing: It got too big “about 2,000 bottles ago,” he quips. This one cellar provides all the bottles for the seven wildly diverse restaurants in Kasperski’s mini empire. A diner at any of his restaurants can order off the same enormous, ever-changing list, with bottles sorted not by varietal or region but by color and price. Champagne is next to aged sparkling wine from California’s Livermore Valley; Bordeaux shares space with Bulgarian Merlot; Mexican Zinfandel is grouped with Côtes-du-Rhône. Kasperski contributes Tom Robbins–esque tasting notes. He describes Zilavka from Herzegovina’s Mostar Vineyards, for instance, as a “light-bodied white added to the list in honor of Superman’s most mischievous opponent, Mr. Mxyzptlk.”