Our Story: A Journey That Began With a Sip

You know you’ve found something good in Sorso Wine Room when the story starts in Italy, especially when it includes the necessary element of any great adventure: no set plans.

It was March 2014 and owners Mark and Lauren Teahen were leaving a life in Major League Baseball after Mark’s 12-season career with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. He was considering pursuing baseball in Europe, where there are leagues in Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. Because of their love of the Italian lifestyle, Italy was the front runner, so they decided to take a trip to explore and immerse themselves in their potential new home. It would mark the end of one dream and the start of another.

They regulated the temperature as well as the quantity by offering a full pour, a taste, or what the Italian word “sorso” means – a sip.

“A week after Mark was released, we had the trip booked, but we only knew when we were flying in and out. We got our international drivers’ licenses, rented a car and used our phones to guide us,” explained Lauren.

It was this free-for-all attitude that led them to stumble upon Enoteca Falorni, a wine bar in Chianti that once housed the first major winery in the region. Built in 1893 in the old town of Greve, the present day condition was a juxtaposition of old world with new: original brick formed archways, corridors and small rooms that held large leather furniture, ambient lighting and the most interesting to the Teahens: Enomatic wine dispensing systems. Each bottle was attached to a tap that dispensed the wine, delivering the quality equivalent to a newly opened bottle for up to four weeks. They regulated the temperature as well as the quantity by offering a full pour, a taste, or what the Italian word “sorso” means – a sip

“It was self-serve, what I like to call a wine buffet. We purchased a card for the dollar amount we wanted, grabbed a glass and started tasting,” ... “It was really a unique and fun experience.”

“It was self-serve, what I like to call a wine buffet. We purchased a card for the dollar amount we wanted, grabbed a glass and started tasting,” said Lauren. “It was really a unique and fun experience.”

In the case of Enoteca Falorni, there were 100+ wines available to taste, organized in 13 different sections by region or type of wine. It was a self-guided education, a journey within a journey, which the Teahens really appreciated.

“Sometimes you go to a wine bar or restaurant and someone can be overly helpful. It’s almost too much information, which can be overwhelming. At Enoteca Falorni, there were descriptions and educational elements throughout, and it was nice to just guide ourselves and try what we wanted. We also hadn’t ventured much into Italian wines, so it was a great introduction and education on the various regions,” said Lauren.

As they tasted their way through a handful of wines, they began to wonder why there wasn’t something like it in Scottsdale.

“We’d seen the dispensing machines at iPic Theaters, but their presentation didn’t really strike our interest like it did in Italy where they were the main focus of the wine bar,” said Mark.
Through their travels with baseball, the unique dining/nightlife experiences they had in various cities seemed to be lacking in Scottsdale. What they found in Italy appeared to be a perfect fit.
“It was so different from any other kind of experience we’d had dining out here. If we want to go for a drink, we’re past the phase of standing in line to get into a bar. We’re looking for a more relaxed, lounge-type environment, and I think a lot of people our age are looking for that niche. We felt our concept for Sorso would work really well in our area,” said Lauren.
A year later their vision has come to life. Sorso’s evolving wine selection is made up of unique wines from around the world. Thirty two wines are offered through Wine Emotion dispensers, along with eight to ten by-the-glass options and an expansive bottle list. Craft beers on tap and in bottle, as well as a full menu of gourmet foods including meat, cheese, bruschetta and sweets will also be available.

“We want people to have a good time whether they come with a group or by themselves, whether they’re new to wine or experienced. When Mark was playing baseball, there was a lot of time I spent on my own. There was a place down the street that I felt comfortable going, with a great bartender I could talk to. I really appreciated not feeling judged or alone. We want to create a place where people can feel comfortable hanging out, where they can have a great conversation with our staff or another visitor,” said Lauren.

Some of Sorso’s design elements include ways in which people can leave their own mark on the place, creating a connection to the space, other visitors and the Teahens themselves.
“Lauren and I are very present, working hard to make sure our staff is an extension of us, always exuding that feeling of community. We want it to be clear that it’s family-owned and run and be available to hear peoples’ suggestions, like their favorite wine or beer they can’t get anywhere else. We want them to feel connected,” said Mark.
While Scottsdale is already their home, Sorso Wine Room offers a new sense of community not only for their guests but the Teahens as well.
“We’ve lived in about eight to ten different cities in the last eight years, so even though this is our home and our roots are here, we’re excited to settle and establish ourselves in the community as providers of a great service,” said Lauren.
Providing for those in their community has always been important to the Teahens. In 2011, they founded the annual Driving Out Domestic Violence Golf and Gala event benefiting Chrysalis, a local domestic abuse agency. Their time in Kansas City was also filled with philanthropic work. With this sprit of giving back running through the opening of Sorso, they hope it will provide another platform to bring different communities together to help one another.
While the Teahens decided not to pursue baseball in the end, their time in Italy still marked the final chapter of one dream and the start of another equally inspiring one. A dream that still allows them to immerse themselves in what they love so much about the Italian lifestyle – warm hospitality, friends, family and great wine. And they’ll start this new journey just as they did at Enoteca Falorni – one sip at a time.