The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2016

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1 14  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2016 Christine Soto may be considered a rookie in the wine industry, but the self-taught Palm Springs native is already making very calculated veteran moves. Soto and her indus- trial designer boyfriend Anthony Cioffi (also a Palm Springs native) opened the design-focused beer and wine bar Dead or Alive (DoA) in Palm Springs just this year; and its unlike anything else the desert has to offer. "Dead or Alive is our contribution to the 'new' Palm Springs . . . Anthony and I have complementary skill sets: He's a designer and loves beer; I'm the generalist—experienced in admin, financials, operations, marketing and, most importantly, a wine lover—so it's a match made in heaven. With the recent addition of business partner Matthew Kaner [Los Angeles– based celebrity somm, owner of Bar Covell and Augustine Wine Bar] we have all our bases covered," says Soto, continu- ing, "One of the reasons I started Dead or Alive was because I wanted a place where anyone could go on a regular basis and drink new and interesting wines. [Cioffi would insist she say beer too.] As a distributor friend said, 'Greater Palm Springs is all Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir,' and mostly name brands to boot. So I have some soft landing places, some recogniz- able varieties and regions on the list, but I experiment as much as possible. There's always something new so that when regulars come in they can discover." If DoA's wine and beer program distances itself from the usual Palm Springs vibe, it's reunited with the area's desert design ethos through its Midcentury Modern exterior. The interior, on the other hand, blasts off from Rat Pack retro and hovers somewhere in the future, like a set from an '80s sci-fi film. Sitting in the tall chairs made of vinyl cord, staring at the built-in fire-colored lights flush with the surface of the black and white Corian (a blend of minerals and acrylic), I half expected to hear the bionic bar speak in the voice of KITT: "Michael, my thirst sensors indicate you need another craft beer in a frozen ceramic 'crushed can.'" (Seriously, that's how they serve the beer.) So next time you're in Palm Springs visit Christine Soto, order a deliciously obscure glass of wine and watch its silhouette slowly change colors against the glowing sphere eclipsing the back wall of the bar. Whether Soto is a replicant or not, I'll leave to you to decide, but we can at least agree to call her one of the pioneers of the "new" Palm Springs. TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . Great service. When dining or drinking somewhere feels effort- less, it's a real treat. Updating/ cleanliness; the little things like a freshly painted bathroom or refinished chairs. Design and all things thoughtfully constructed for the experience. At DoA, we thought long and hard about the height of the bar, the foot rail, etc. Vision/focus. I appreciate when a restaurant or bar takes a simple concept and over-delivers. Really good wine/a great wine list—even if a list only has four wines but they're all delicious and thoughtfully selected. Bad service. I'll eat mediocre food and drink okay wine if it means I feel welcome. Unsolicited advice. There are reasons behind the decisions we make. There's a reason DoA does not have a traditional sign. When my knees hit the wall under a bar. Hot plate/cold salad. I really hate that. Generic wine lists, like just listing variety of grape. I know I'm a diner, but c'mon! THE "5" LIST CHRISTINE SOTO'S TOP FIVE FAVES CHRISTINE SOTO'S TOP PET PEEVES CHRISTINE SOTO CO-OWNER/SOMMELIER DEAD OR ALIVE, PALM SPRINGS, CA by Jessie Birschbach PHOTO: KENTON DREW JOHNSON

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