Podcast: Châteauneuf-du-Pape vs. Chateau Tumbleweed

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I’ve delayed posting this podcast for a long time because of Reasons, but the camaraderie and wine should still be shared… and here it is!  Finally.

In this podcast, my friends Abby, Chad, James and myself compare the Wild Will E. Cox from Chateau Tumbleweed (100% Arizona grapes) to a classic Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhone, while eating a really fancy meal cooked up by Abby, one of the masters of the Flat Iron. Who will win? You’ll possibly be surprised.

Rhone vs. Arizona

(Since I hate clickbait, I’ll tell you. Arizona wins… but not because of why you would think.)

This podcast, recorded back in July, is kind of the first in the “Let’s compare Arizona versus the World” series I’ve been doing a lot of lately. Consider this the first Rhone vs. Arizona podcast.

Rhone vs. Arizona

The food was amazing. Thanks again, Abby and Chad!

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

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Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally associated with massive quantities of delicious food. Indeed, one could argue that the food is the point of the entire holiday, rather than actually giving thanks for the blessings we have received over the course of the year. With such a vast array of food available, it can be a daunting task to come up with wine pairings that will be suitable for a meal. Not to mention the fact that within a family and guests, there can be a multitude of different palate preferences sitting around the dinner table, which can also make things difficult. Different dietary restrictions, whether medical or self-imposed, can also make it a struggle to keep everyone happy around the dinner table. But, never fear, the Wine Monk is here! I have created a carefully curated list of eight wines of varying styles that should pair with just about any set of food you are planning on serving on Thanksgiving day; whether vegan or carnivorous. These eight wines will also appeal to a wide variety of palates, so finding one or two bottles on this list to keep everyone happy around the dinner table should be fairly easy, thus allowing for that inevitable family fight of why you aren’t providing grandchildren to take precedence instead.

Thanksgiving

Roussanne is a lesser-known Rhone varietal that has potential in Arizona, and it is often overshadowed by its northern cousin, Viognier. (The Roussanne has a penchant for sailing through the late frosts we get here without any problem, putting it at an advantage over other varietals.) Colibri Vineyard, located in the shadow of the Chricahua Mountains, nestled between the towns of Portal and Paradise, provided the grapes for the 2015 Colibri Roussanne by Page Springs Cellars. Melissa Gagliardi and Eric Glomski were the wine makers. This white wine opens on the nose with the classic aromas of white pepper that I often associate with this vineyard. Additional notes of apricot, Meyer lemon, and grassy herbaceous notes emerge on the nose of this vintage, intermingling with pears, flint, white peaches, and white tea on the palate. The finish of this wine lasts for 32 seconds. The high acidity and medium body of this wine will pair with most of your Thanksgiving meal, as this flavor profile is very versatile; even with vegan Tofurky as your centerpiece. A bottle of this will run you $28 at the Page Springs Cellars tasting room in Cornville.

thanksgiving

Seyval Blanc is a member of a special group of varietals known as American Hybrids–grapes which resulted from a cross from European varietals and indigenous American species; these grapes are often more resilient in the face of cold weather. The 2016 Steven Seyval is a medium-bodied dry white wine was sourced from D.A. Ranch Vineyards, near Page Springs. It was also fermented in 50% French Oak. The nose of this wine opens with aromas of vanilla, apricots, lemon meringue, and toasted marshmallows. On the palate, the Steven Seyval proves to be a medium-bodied white which opens with intense citrus notes, intermingling with pear, limestone, white pepper, and apricot, with a finish that lasts for 48 seconds.  You can grab a bottle of this wine at the Chateau Tumbleweed tasting room for $24.

thanksgiving

Semi-sweet rose wines have often been maligned of late with the resurgence in popularity of dry, French-style vintages, but I believe they still have their place at the table. The NV Rosato, made from 100% Syrah sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyards, is probably the best wine to be found in the tasting room at Oak Creek Vineyards in Cornville. The nose of this dark-colored rose opens with aromas of mint, rose, red currant, and strawberry, intermingling with just a hint of cherry. On the palate, this vintage has notes of cherry, red currant, mint, strawberry, and limestone  The finish lasts for 34 seconds, and this wine has about 1-2% residual sugar which provides a bit of a tart sweetness on the palate as well, intermingling with medium acidity. This wine will go well with honey-baked ham, or strawberry-themed desserts on your Thanksgiving table.

thanksgiving

Nebbiolo, as I mentioned last month, is a rich and supple grape from the Piedmont in Northern Italy. However, here in Arizona, we do things that nobody in Italy would dream of: we make it into a rosé. The 2015 Lei Li Nebbiolo Rosé from Caduceus Cellars is sourced from the Elephante block vineyard, here in the Verde Valley. Handpicked, this wine was whole cluster pressed and aged in stainless steel and oak puncheons. The nose of this salmon-colored rosé opens with notes of white peach, grapefruit, watermelon, and herbs growing around water. On the palate, thirst-quenching acidity intermingles with pomelo, peach, mint, rosemary, and limestone, with subtle hints of black pepper on a finish that lasts for 42 seconds. This wine will make a fine centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table, at $40.

thanksgiving

Sangiovese, the main grape of Tuscany, is arguably the most food-friendly grape in the world; it’s a very good thing that this grape does so well in Arizona. Wines made from this grape will pair with a wide variety of food, and the 2016 Sangiovese from Javelina Leap, sourced from Carlson Creek Vineyard in Willcox, is no exception. The nose opens with rich earthy notes, bright cherry, a little bit of rosehips, vanilla, and sandalwood. On the palate, this wine opens with notes of cherry, raspberry, and roses, intermingling with earth, anise, spice, and petrichor, with a light load of leathery tannins. The finish of this wine lasts for 45 seconds. This medium-bodied, high acidity red wine will pair with anything and everything on your Thanksgiving table—that is the miracle of Sangiovese. A bottle of this Sangiovese will run $32 at the Javelina Leap tasting rooms in Cornville or Sedona.

Thanksgiving

Cabernet Sauvignon is not a good wine to pair with Thanksgiving meals, as it is too bold and too tannic. Lovers of Cabernet, however, will adore this wine as it has many characteristics reminiscent of their beloved, but is lighter and more thanksgiving-friendly. Like Cabernet, Carménère is a Bordeaux varietal, that was lost from Bordeaux and rediscovered growing in Chile. Grown in Paulden, the 2015 Carménère (Barrel Select) from Del Rio Springs Vineyard was made at the Aridus wine-making facility in Willcox. This full-bodied red wine is a rich sensory experience on both the nose and palate. Rich aromas of tobacco, bright red fruit, and violets emerge on the palate, intermingling with fertile earth. The palate is a similar satisfying flavor explosion of complexity, with notes of cedar, tobacco, cherry, raspberry, earth, and spices, with a lingering finish that lasts for 53 seconds.  This wine will be a bit more difficult to find, but bottles can be found at Plaza Liquor Deli in Prescott for $40, along with the Del Rio Springs tasting room which can be visited by appointment.  This will pair well with the meat and roasted vegetable portions of your Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving

Vidal Blanc, like Seyval Blanc, is an American Hybrid varietal. The 2016 Vidal Blanc from Page Springs Cellars was sourced from the only vineyard that grows this varietal in the whole state: Bruzzi Vineyard, near the small town of Young in Gila County, along the Mogollon Rim. This off-dry white is very reminiscent of Vouvray to me. The nose opens with notes of bright pear, stone-fruit, quince, lemon meringue, and toasted sugar.  On the palate, this light-bodied semi-sweet white wine has notes of roasted pear, caramelized sugar, creamy papaya, and apple, and a bit of creamy texture on the finish, which lasts for 23 seconds. This wine, while off-dry, is not super sweet and will be a good pairing for desserts on your Thanksgiving table.  A bottle of this wine will cost you $29 in the Page Springs tasting room.

Thanksgiving

Verdhelo is a grape that has a special place in the hearts of many who search for the perfect dessert wine, as it is one of the four main grapes used to make Madeira. The NV Late Harvest Verdhelo from Passion Cellars, made by Jason Domanico is a nice homage to the classical late harvest wines of Spain and Portugal. The nose of this wine opens with rich tropical fruits: mango, pineapple, and papaya, intermingling with notes of vanilla, anise, caramelized sugar, and cilantro. On the palate, this golden dessert wine tastes of vanilla, honeysuckle, mango, melon, caramelized sugar, and starfruit. The finish of this wine is slightly creamy, intermingling with a food-friendly acidity, lasting about 45 seconds. This wine strikes a balance between sweet and dry, making it the perfect companion for pumpkin or pecan pie. You can acquire this wine for $20 at the Passion Cellars tasting room in Jerome.

There you have it guys!  A nice, well-curated collection of wines to make your Thanksgiving (or any other holiday dinner) a success!  Happy Holidays!

Four Tails Vineyard: 2015 Double Trouble

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I am doing this review a little differently this time around. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much of my new favorite YouTube Channel, Regular Car Reviews.  Dang it, Gary.  I am holding you responsible for this.

Double Trouble

 Anyway. Enough of blaming Gary. Let’s drink! Here is the 2015 Double Trouble from Four Tails Vineyard.

People often ask me why I am so into wine, so obsessed with it. While sipping on the first estate release from Four Tails Vineyard this week, the 2015 Double Trouble, I was thinking about this question. And this wine has helped me crystallize an answer, or at least, part of an answer.

Cabernet Sauvignon has traveled a long way from its native Bordeaux to be rooted in Arizona soils. Every place where the world is warm enough to grow vinifera grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is almost always the first in the ground; in California, Arizona… South Africa, Australia, even India and China. It’s comfortable and friendly, like a close relative. People can pronounce it, which also helps. (Imagine the middle-aged suburban housewife going drinking with friends away from the kids, saying to a waiter “Yeah, I’ll have a glass of the house Cab sav.” That sort of thing.) The 2015 Double Trouble is the first wine made from the first estate crop of Four Tails Vineyard. The first vines that the owners, Barb and Cale Coons planted in their vineyard in Pearce, Arizona?  Why, Cabernet Sauvignon, of course.  (They also planted Viognier and Tempranillo.)

The ubiquitousness of Cabernet Sauvignon makes me remember that, even though I was born here in Arizona, I’m not really a native here. I am only the first generation. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, part of my genetics are connected to France. The fact is, even the native peoples of Arizona came from elsewhere. Are we really native *anywhere* other than to the Kingdom of God? And if this wine, made from a workhorse noble grape that’s grown everywhere (or at least almost everywhere), on 6 out of 7 continents, can make me think such deep thoughts, how could I NOT like wine? What other mysteries lurk in my glass of this wine?

Onto the technical stuff. The 2015 Double Trouble, as I alluded to above, is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate vineyard at Four Tails Vineyard, in Pearce, Arizona. The wine was made by James Callahan; his last vintage making wine for Four Tails. Future wines from this vineyard are being made by Gary Kurtz.  I haven’t been able to reach James for information specifically how this wine was made, in terms of maceration time or oaking regimen, but I’d have to guess this wine was likely made with a commercial yeast and saw at least one year in some percentage of new French oak; I get none of the characteristics that to me indicate American oak. The wine itself is named in honor of the owner’s two yellow labs, Bubby and Bruno who are thick as thieves, and never apart.

I really like this wine. The nose of the 2015 Double Trouble opens with notes of rich, dark cassis, plum, and black cherry, intermingling with notes of sandalwood, frankincense, petrichor, and pomegranate. It smells like what you imagine purple velvet should smell like. On the palate, gripping leathery tannins dance amidst notes of tobacco, cedar, cherry, and plum, with just a hint of granite, graphite, and sage. The finish of the Double Trouble at first is short, but hopeful: like a coffee date that both parties really want to turn into a dinner date, but didn’t plan to like each other this much, and are trying to cancel evening plans to stay in each other’s company; only 21 seconds. As the wine decants for a few hours, the finish opens to about 45 seconds, and those tannins slowly relax and open. Notes of Lilac and violets emerge amidst all the fruit. The first minutes of that awkward date, filled with anxiety have passed.  Now the two parties involved are conversing over cocktails, ignoring the rest of the world. Love–or at least lust with direction–are filling the air.

I want to drink this wine with a good medium-rare steak, just with a bit of salt and pepper, with some baked potatoes on the side, while smoking a decent cigar from the Dominican Republic. Something simple, but elegant–not fancy.  Homey. Yeah,  That’s what this wine is kind of like.  It’s comfortable but elegant–like a well-worn suit jacket that you find $50 bucks in the pocket from the last time you were at a wedding with an open bar, so you use the find to treat yourself to something nice. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s damn nice. In fact, I think this wine is probably the best Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve had from Arizona in a while.  That’s kind of what Cabernet Sauvignon is like for me; a close friend that you see perhaps once or twice a year, but you’re always able to pick up where you left off like it was only yesterday.  It’s drinking great now, but you could cellar it for a few more years no problem. I don’t know that there are any bottles left, but Cabernet Sauvignon should be a regular feature from Four Tails Vineyard from now on, so check their website.

Wine, by nature, is a drink that engenders deep philosophical conversation, and thoughtful contemplation, which is, of course, the lion’s share of what I’ve been writing about.  The fact is, wine always has a story to tell, for anyone willing to pay attention. And that’s why I like wine so much. The stories.

I like listening to those stories, and attempting to translate them for a wider audience.  In fact, this is sometimes why I like wine more than I like most people. Arizona wines are just beginning to tell their stories.  I’m glad to simply be here, listening.

Double Trouble

 Here is the 2015 Double Trouble amidst the vines that made this vintage.

Podcast: Mourvèdre and Kerner with Robin Black

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It is a dark and windy night in Sedona. The wind rattles and shakes the walls of the yurt. “Mourvèdre,” it whispers. You pull out glasses and three bottles.It is a dark and windy night in Sedona. The wind rattles and shakes the walls of the yurt. Your friend Robin reaches into her cold pack. “Mourvèdre,” she whispers. You pull out the 33 Degrees Mourvèdre, and a Bulgarian Mavrud. “It is time for the ritual,” you reply. “Bring forth the glasses!”  Her husband shakes his head.

Welcome to a special podcast with my friend Robin Black, a photographer and wine blogger from California.  In this podcast, we compare a Paso Mourvèdre with one from Arizona… and a Mavrud from Bulgaria, which some wine folk believe is actually a clone of the Rhone and Spanish staple, brought to Bulgaria by the Romans. We also compare a California Kerner with one from Alto-Adige! Take a listen!

Del Rio Springs: 2015 Carménère Barrel Select

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Carménère is a grape which I honestly wish that was more widely planted in Arizona. As of right now, I am only aware of two vineyards in the state growing this fascinating varietal; Chiricahua Ranch Vineyards, down in Willcox, and of course, Del Rio Springs Vineyard in Paulden. I’ve been holding onto this bottle of the 2015 Carménère Barrel Select for some time now, and since it is another varietal that often makes me think of fall, I decided I should finally open it while taking a jaunt among the quaking aspens in all their fall glory. It is especially sad to drink this vintage for me, considering that it will be quite a few years before we see another vintage of this wine coming from Del Rio, as most of the Carménère block got accidentally nuked by a neighbor spraying herbicide on a windy day.

The 2015 Carménère Barrel Select in the Aspens

The Wine:  The 2015 Carménère Barrel Select is made from 100% Carménère, sourced from Del Rio Springs vineyard in Paulden, Arizona.  This vintage was made in the Aridus facility in Willcox, Arizona, by Leah Shanker (I think, but it could also have been Marc Phillips). The wine was aged in medium toast French oak barrels for somewhat longer than their non-barrel select, but I am unaware off hand just how much longer.  It is a rich crimson red in color, partially translucent.

The Nose: This wine has a rich nose, with aromas of cherry, Perique tobacco, anise, blackberry, cassis, red currant fruit, plum, and violets.  As the wine opens, the wine gains rich earthy notes as well, intermingling with additional notes of lilac and green peppercorn.

The Palate: Like the nose, the palate is a rich sensory experience, especially after decanting.  This medium-bodied red opens with notes of cherry, plum, raspberry, strawberry, and cassis, with firm, leathery tannins.  As the wine opens, additional notes of anise, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, lilac, vanilla, and tobacco emerge, along with intense, rich earth.  The finish of this wine lasts for 55 seconds and is filled with intense earthy characters, green peppercorns, plum, anise, allspice, and rich tannins and tobacco.

Pairing: I want to pair this with venison or elk stew or steaks, or even wild boar. A roasted vegetable casserole would also work well.  Savory is your key with this wine, I think, but it would also be great with a cigar on the patio on a fall evening.

Impressions: This wine will actually be a very good medium-bodied red wine to pull out for Thanksgiving dinner, and may well be a delight for Cabernet lovers in your family–it will work while Cabernet Sauvignon won’t.  The 2015 Carménère Barrel Select is a rich and savory wine that is an intense flavor experience once it has opened fully–this to me indicates this wine has not quite peaked yet.  I would consider cellaring this vintage for at least another 2 years or so, but it also is great now, if you’re patient.

This wine feels distinctly masculine to me; I feel its personification to be that of a Biologist who specializes in discovering rare tardigrades and other microbiotic fauna in rich earth.

Podcast: Arizona vs. Rhone (Cornas and Sand-reckoner)

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In this podcast, a couple friends and I drink an Arizona Syrah with one of the crown jewels of the Rhone: Cornas. Who will win? Why is Syrah so interesting? Take a listen.
(SoundCloud audio embedding doesn’t seem to be working on WordPress right now, please go to the link below)

Syrah

Que Sera, Syrah. Cornas vs. Rhone!

https://soundcloud.com/theazwinemonk/podcast-sand-reckoner-7-vs-cornas

Dektown Cellars: 2013 Checkmate

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Fort Bowie Vineyards has been dead and gone for over a year now and for some people, the wound still is fresh. It was a major source of fruit for many winemakers in Arizona. It still happens that I have a few bottles of wine made with from fruit sourced from this vineyard… and since I was thinking about the transience of things in the earthly realm, I figured it would be fitting to open one of those bottles while looking for fossils along the Mogollon Rim. I decided on the 2013 Checkmate from Dektown Cellars.

2013 Checkmate

The 2013 Checkmate from Dektown Cellars is made from 100% Merlot sourced from Fort Bowie Vineyard.

The Wine: The 2013 Checkmate is made from 100% Merlot, sourced from Fort Bowie Vineyards, which was once located in the small town of Bowie, Arizona. The wine was aged in French oak.  The wine was made by Kimberley Meyers at Pillsbury. It is a dark garnet color; lighter than Merlot from California, but still darker than many other vintages I’ve encountered in Arizona except for a precious few.

The Nose: The nose at first is very tight, with notes of cassis, blackberry, raspberry, mulberry, intermingling with pomegranate and sandalwood notes.  After decanting, additional aromas of lilac, Cavendish pipe tobacco, earthy petrichor, and anise emerge.

The Palate: The palate opens with cassis, blackberry, black cherry, and plum, with nice acidity, medium tannins, but is still pretty tight at the opening.  The finish of this wine has notes of rich earth, flint, cassis, anise, and lilac on the finish, with medium acidity, lasting for 53 seconds.  After decanting, additional notes of Cavendish pipe tobacco, and bay leaves emerge on the palate.

Pairing: I feel the 2013 Checkmate would pair very well with a nice New York strip steak, with a side of grilled asparagus and a baked potato.  For a vegetarian pairing, focus on mushroom based dishes–a nice mushroom Lasagna will work quite well.

Impressions: The 2013 Checkmate is a very satisfying Merlot overall, and a good sendoff to Fort Bowie of Blessed Memory. A bottle of this wine is well worth the potentially difficult trek to acquire; though Kimberly Meyer is happy to help you out if you reach out to her.  This wine could age very well for another few years yet; drink now, or cellar for an additional 3-5 years.

 

Cellar Dwellers: 2009 Tarantula Hawk

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In that brief Indian Summer between the end of Monsoon and the coming of the first chilly nights, the desert is full of Tarantula Hawks, a fascinating giant wasp that has adapted and evolved to hunt tarantulas as nurseries for their young. It is also, in my opinion, pretty much the only wasp that isn’t an asshole–they keep to themselves instead of attacking people. This jaw-dropping insect is the namesake for the Zinfandel produced by Cellar Dwellers. It just so happens that I had a bottle of one of the earliest vintages of this wine in my stash. Knowing that Zin doesn’t have the longevity of other reds, I decided I should crack open my bottle of the 2009 Tarantula Hawk.

2009 tarantula hawk

The 2009 Tarantula Hawk Zinfandel is a blast from the past.

The Wine:  The 2009 Tarantula Hawk is made from 100% Zinfandel, sourced from Golden Rule Vineyards near Dragoon, Arizona. This wine was made by John Scarbrough at Page Springs Cellars.  I am guessing, based on the palate, that this vintage was aged at least partially in American oak–as is the tradition for Zinfandel.  The wine is beginning to show its age: the rich vibrant color of Zin is starting to fade on the edge to burnt orange and maroon.

The Nose: The nose of this wine is still surprisingly vibrant, with notes of spiced plum, nutmeg, cherry, and mulberry. Additional notes of anise, black pepper and myrrh round out the bouquet of the 2009 Tarantula Hawk.

The Palate: This is a full-bodied Zinfandel, beginning to show its age.  There are next to no tannins left in the 2009 Tarantula Hawk; the few that are left are soft and velvety, providing a full-bodied, soft mouthfeel, with medium acidity. This wine opens with notes of spiced plum, nutmeg, vanilla, mulberry, and cassis.  As the wine opens, anise and earthy black pepper emerge. The finish lasts 38 seconds, with earthy notes, black pepper, and brambly jam.

Pairing: I would pair this wine with the food you would associate with the last cookout of summer: pulled pork, ribs, and that ilk. Roasted veggies would make for a great vegan or vegetarian pairing for this vintage.

Impressions: Long-time readers, or those who know me personally, know that I am decidedly not fond of Zinfandel in most cases.  Even some of the best, world-class Zinfandels coming from old vines in California or Primitivo really don’t float my boat.  It’s just my palate.  That proviso being said, the fact that this particular Zin has aged 8 years and aged well says a great deal about the skill of the winemaker and the quality of the vintage.  It is starting to show its age, yes, but it is still a quality vintage–to the point where I actually kind of liked it for a Zinfandel!

That being said, if you still happen to have a bottle of the 2009 Tarantula Hawk in your stash, drink this wine now, as it is at the edge of its peak. Past this year, it will begin its slow descent, and won’t be enjoyable.

Personified, this wine is an older Entymology professor, tweed on his coat, teaching classes on bug identification, a year from retirement.

Pairing Arizona Wine with Halloween Candy

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Autumn has finally arrived here in Northern Arizona; that beloved season filled with falling leaves, cooling temperatures, and pumpkin spice infused EVERYTHING. It is also a season for transition; time toring out the bottles of red for cold winter nights. It is the season for finishing up fermentation and racking everything in barrels to wait for the bottle and the shelf. Most importantly, however, October is time for Halloween, which means candy. Lots and lots of candy. In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d pair some of our fantastic Arizona wines with candy you can steal from your child’s trick-or-treating haul. Or… you know, buying aforementioned candy yourself since you’re a grownup and don’t need to rely on stealing candy from a baby to get what you want. Without further ado, let’s get started. All pairings are based on a combination of the flavor of the given candy, and texture of the sweet item in question, and how well it goes with the flavor and mouth-feel of the featured wine. All wines are from Verde Valley wineries.

Halloween

Chardonnay is often touted as the premiere pairing for the often-maligned dark horse candy of Halloween: Candy Corn. This actually makes a great deal of intuitive sense, as Chardonnay often has the same sort of reputation in many circles. Sourced from Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard in the Willcox AVA, the 2016 Trademarked (formerly called The Matriarch) is a stellar example of this often-ridiculed grape. Winemaker Corey Turnbull elected to take a Burgundian approach to his latest vintage, aging this wine in 10% new French oak for 10 months, and inhibiting malolactic fermentation. On the nose, rich aromas of vanilla intermingle with smoked Meyer lemon, grapefruit, green apple and apricot, with a slight hint of limestone dust. On the palate, the vibrant acidity of this vintage stands like a granite monolith against a backdrop of rich apricots, sliced pears, limestone, cliff rose, peaches, and starfruit. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 10 seconds. The Burgundian-style flavor profile of the 2016 Trademarked will also pair rather well with a few other Halloween candies, namely Butterfingers, and Starbursts. Grab your bottle from their tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood for $28.

Halloween

For fans of the peanut buttery goodness of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, look no further than the 2015 Chupacabra. This Rhone-style Blend has been a staple of MJ Keenan’s Merkin label for many years; the 2015 vintage is a blend of 45% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, sourced from Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard, in the Willcox AVA. Aged in both neutral and new French oak barriques, the Chupacabra is a classic take on the GSM blends we do so well here. On the nose, this wine opens with notes of cherry, rhubarb, petrichor, vanilla, violets, latakia pipe tobacco, anise, and rich earth. The palate of this medium-bodied red is a bit young and very tight at first, with cherry, leathery tannins, and tobacco notes. After the wine opens, additional notes of anise, black pepper, dust, and violets emerge on the palate. The finish of this wine lasts for 50 seconds, and is filled with notes of anise and raspberry. A bottle of this wine will run you $24 at the Merkin Osteria in Old Town Cottonwood.

Halloween

I love Shiraz, and Shiraz-based blends. This côte-rotie style co-ferment of 97% Shiraz and 3% Symphony from Pillsbury Wine Company is one of my favorites to be found in any tasting room of the Verde Valley. Sourced from Sam’s vineyard in the Willcox AVA, the 2014 Guns and Kisses is a stellar example of the Shriraz/Syrah wines (it’s the same grape, sort of) that we make here in Arizona. The nose of this wine is rich, with aromas of petrichor, lilac, black cherry, plum, and orange blossom. On the palate, this wine is a rich medley of medium tannins, vanilla, dark cherry, cedar, frankincense, and incense. The finish of this wine lasts for 56 seconds, filled with dank, rich earth, explosive, bright fruit, and lilac. This vintage was made by James Callahan and Sam Pillsbury working in tandem. The rich flavor profile of the Guns and Kisses will work quite well with Snickers and Tootsie Rolls. A bottle of this wine will be $65.

Halloween

Malbec has been gaining in popularity quite a bit lately, and it’s good to see some Arizona versions of this Argentinian mainstay. Considering the climate and soil geology of the Willcox region, it is perhaps no surprise that this grape seems to be here in Arizona to stay—great news if you’re trying to pair with Hershey’s Chocolate or M&Ms. (Fun Fact: Malbec is originally from Bordeaux!) Made by John Scarbrough, the 2016 Fire is technically a blend of 87% Malbec (Sourced from Carlson Creek Vineyard), and 13% Merlot (sourced from Paso Robles). The nose of this wine opens with the classic Malbec notes of jammy plum, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, and black cherry, intermingling with notes of vanilla and petrichor. This full-bodied red wine has some big, leathery tannins, and rich mulberry, blackberry, and cedar notes on the palate, intermingling with violets, plum, and black pepper. The finish lasts for 57 seconds, with nice acidity and rich tannins, intermingling with earth and petrichor. A bottle of the 2016 Fire will cost you $33.

Halloween

The 2013 Dala is a stellar example of Cabernet Sauvignon from Arizona Stronghold that will be great with the Twix and Kit-Kats in your stash. Sourced from Bonita Springs Vineyard on the other side of Willcox from the Bench, this wine was again made by Corey Turnbull in his stint in the cellars. This big, bold red opens on the nose with aromas of rich vanilla and cedar, intermingling with black cherry, cassis, anise, and Willcox dust. On the palate, this full-bodied red seems at first only lightly tannic, but this is a deception. Instead, this wine saves its big, leathery tannins for a robust finish. Additional notes on the palate include anise, cherry, rhubarb, and strawberry, intermingling with woody vanilla, those aforementioned tannins, and sage. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 4 seconds. The 2013 Dala is the only wine in this article that will be easily acquired away from the tasting room, as it is distributed in many Arizona supermarkets, such as Safeway. The tasting room price for this bottle is $18.00. Pair this wine with the Kit-Kats and Twix bars in your stash.

Halloween

The Cellar 433 Tasting room overlooks the dramatic vista of the Verde Valley, providing one of the best views of any tasting room in the state, pairing well with their unique blends. If you are seeking to pair your tart candy, such as Sweet Tarts, Red-Hots, Skittles, and Sour Patch Kids, The Moon from their Bitter Creek label will seem tailor-made for this purpose. This non-vintage blend of equal parts Gewürtztraminner, Malvasia Bianca, and Pinot Grigio is sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyard, and was made by John McLaughlin. On the nose, this light-bodied white wine opens with aromas of rose petals, tangerine, pears, and honey, with just a hint of limestone minerality. On the palate, this wine contains hints of orange peel, white tea, green apples, and pears, intermingling with allspice, honey, and that classic Willcox minerality. The finish of this wine lasts for 54 seconds and is filled with striking acidity, honey, and white tea. A bottle of The Moon will cost you $18.

Halloween

Nebbiolo is a grape much beloved by wine geeks the world over, as it is known for producing some of the most famous Italian wines in the world. Made by Jason Domanico, the 2014 Nebbiolo from Passion Cellars is a uniquely Arizona take on this grape that will pair well with any Crunch bars or Krackel that you acquire on All Hallow’s Eve. These grapes were sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyards, near Willcox, and the vintage was aged in French oak for 24 months. While ghostly pale in color, this wine is a lot more than meets the eye. The classic aromas of “tar and roses” associated with this grape emerge on the nose, intermingling with notes of anise, petrichor, dust, strawberries, and raspberries. This wine has a hefty load of woody tannins and bright acidity, which play well with other flavor notes: mint, raspberry, cherry, anise, and earth. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 4 seconds, and is filled with dust, anise, and hints of vanilla. If you like Nebbiolo, this is a wine that should not be missed. A bottle of this wine will cost you $35 in the tasting room, located across from the House of Joy in Jerome

Southwest Wine Center: 2016 Mourvèdre

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The last time I was in the Southwest Wine Center tasting room, Phil and Michael said they had something special to share with me.  Lo and behold, it was their 2016 Mourvèdre, and they asked if I would be kind enough to review it prior to its release sometime this October.  Since I love this grape, and how it expresses itself in our high desert landscape, I couldn’t say no, especially since no other grape so typifies fall to me in the way pumpkin spice does for others. (If I had to pin down just why, I would say it has to be the rich, spiced scent of so many wines made with this grape.) So, I went out into the desert and poured myself a glass to welcome the first day of fall.

2016 Mourvèdre

The 2016 Mourvèdre from the Southwest Wine Center is a geeky vintage, perfect for the arrival of fall.

The Wine: The 2016 Mourvèdre from the Southwest Wine Center is made from… 100% Mourvèdre. The grapes were sourced from Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard, in the heart of the Willcox AVA. The grapes were harvested on September 1st, and fermentation for this vintage took place in open-top fermenters. The resulting wine was aged in neutral American oak for about 9 months. This Mourvèdre is a little lighter in color than some other vintages made from this grape here in Arizona: a translucent garnet hue. (This makes sense, as it feels to me a little lighter-bodied.) All wines offered at the Southwest Wine Center are made by students of the Yavapai College Viticulture and Oenology program.

The Nose: The 2016 Mourvèdre opens with aromas of boysenberry, cherry, cedar, vanilla, and strawberry, which intermingle with rosemary and rich, dusty earth. As the wine opens, additional notes of allspice, fennel, and tobacco emerge.

The Palate: As I mentioned above, this particular Mourvèdre is a lighter-bodied wine when compared to many of its brethren, with medium tannins and nice acidity.  This vintage opens with notes of cherry, juniper, strawberry, petrichor, and sage. The finish lasts for 41 seconds, filled with notes of flint, allspice, cherry, sage, and stonefruit.

The Pairing: I ended up pairing my bottle of the 2016 SWC Mourvèdre with my special pork pot roast recipe, which uses green chilis, red chilis, a lot of red wine, rosemary, and mushrooms. You could also easily pair this vintage with a similarly hearty venison stew. For a vegetarian or vegan pairing, a roasted veggie casserole will work wonders. Keep in mind that Mourvèdre is a great wine to pair with fall comfort foods in general!

Impressions: As I mentioned above, no wine signifies fall for me more than Mourvèdre, and this 2016 offering from the Southwest Wine Center is no exception. Since this vintage is lighter-bodied, it will be more easily approachable for the average consumer than some of the other, far more tannic, examples this state has to offer. This makes the SWC Mourvèdre a no-brainer for fall family affairs. This does mean that it will not age nearly as long, however, so I would recommend cellaring this vintage for no longer than three years. If you must decant this wine, do so for no more than a half hour before serving, but this isn’t a necessary step.

Personified, the 2016 Mourvèdre is feminine, with a penchant for wilderness camping and a degree in microbiology.  She is geeky enough to have her favorite soil bacteria.

2016 Mourvèdre

Here is the 2016 SWC Mourvèdre with my food pairing.