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24 Feb 2017

Well Red: An Interview With Vince Calcagno, Co-Owner of Joey Palm Springs

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Vince Calcagno. Vince Calcagno.

When you think of good wine, what comes to mind? A sit-down restaurant? A white tablecloth? A fancy bottle pulled from a cellar for a special occasion?

This is an outdated way of thinking: More and more, good wine isn’t limited to just high-end places or special occasions. For example, someone may not expect fine wine from a place well known for its coffee—but at Joey Palm Springs, you’ll get just that.

Vince Calcagno and Joe Lucero are partners in life and in business at Joey, which opened a little more than a year ago on Palm Canyon Drive. Calcagno spent more than 20 years as the owner/operator of Zuni Café in San Francisco, so he knows a thing or two about running a restaurant. At Joey, he does whatever needs to be done, including, on occasion, washing the dishes. One of his other responsibilities is curating the wine list.

Zuni Café has an expansive wine list and a sommelier, both of which helped Calcagno develop a love of wine. He brings this ethos to Joey’s more-casual bistro style. Although there are just six wines on the list, there is a little something for everybody—and you won’t find the usual affordable brand names, but instead offerings like a white Côtes du Rhône (which should please any chardonnay-drinker).

Calcagno and I sat down one morning at Joey and sipped not wine, but coffee—although I did taste the aforementioned white Côtes du Rhône!

What was your first wine love?

I was a waiter at the Hayes Street Grill from 1979 to 1981. Chalone Chardonnay! When I would have a hard night, my boss, Dick Sander, the owner, would pour me a glass, and I would sigh and say, ”Nectar!”

What’s exciting about wine to you right now?

I will always love delicious French wines, like Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc. I love blends. Since we live in the desert, (I love) rose all summer long. Italian whites.

Your desert island wine?

I mostly drink whites, so any white Tablas Creek, and Chablis.

Favorite Food Pairing?

Hmm … a Zuni chicken, although I make it differently now, with tarragon and a splash of sherry at the end. Then a great pinot noir … yum!

What are you drinking now?

I was having a Manhattan with Buffalo Trace and Carpano Antica, but I have a bottle of Clicquot rose staring at me.

What do you love about the desert?

Well, the weather, first of all. After living in the cold city of SF for so many years, it is fun to be in a warm place, where everyone seems so supportive. It is conducive to my “older” lifestyle.

Your favorite places to go in the desert?

I love Lyons. Tropicale, because it is always fun. Seymour’s, of course. Spencer’s for breakfast, and, oh … Dead or Alive.

Palm Springs native Christine Soto is a co-owner of Dead or Alive wine bar in Palm Springs. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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