The Very Special Arizona Statehood Day Podcast with Bess Karner


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For the Arizona Wine Monk’s Very Special Arizona Statehood Day Podcast (Or, I guess, Valentine’s day Podcast also, or the St. Tryphon’s Day podcast… all three? Sure, why not?), you all finally get to meet my girlfriend, Elizabeth (Bess) Karner.  Who wants to be called The Cider Wench.

More importantly, in this podcast, Bess meets Malvasia Bianca, my longest-lasting relationship and girlfriend wine, in the form of the 2011 Private Reserve from Freitas Vineyards, or as she calls it, “Captain Tightpants Bianca.” We also have fun talking about her experiences at the AWGA Gala dinner and awards ceremony, and her impressions of Arizona and our wines, as well as general nerdy things–fans of C.S. Lewis’ more obscure works should also take a listen.

This wine has been reviewed before on the Arizona Wine Monk blog here, so take a look at this original review as well; this was one of my favorite Arizona vintages of Malvasia and it’s sadly no longer available.  In fact, this was the very Malvasia that made me fall in love with this grape.

Happy Arizona Statehood Day, guys!  And Blessed feast of St. Tryphon the Pruner as well.  And, um, St. Valentine’s day if you’re Catholic. (We Orthodox technically don’t celebrate until July.)

arizona statehood day podcast

This is a fancy malvasia.

Los Milics: 2013 Lorenzo’s


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As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in my blog, I’m particularly fond of Pavle Milec’s restaurant, FnB. (It was also the first place I took my Girlfriend to be introduced to Arizona wine, for what it’s worth.) I’ve also mentioned before that Pavle has worked in tandem with Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas to make a wine label.  After drinking the Rune Mourvedre a few days ago, I thought I’d compare Willcox and Sonoita once again, with the same grape, so I thought I’d crack open my bottle of the 2013 Lorenzo’s. For the record, one of the best things about this particular label is that these wines are among the easiest to find in Arizona; you can find them at Whole Foods and AJ’s Fine Foods stores across the state.

2013 Lorenzo's

The 2013 Lorenzo’s is a Mourvedre that explores the terroir of the Sonoita AVA

The Wine: The 2013 Lorenzo’s is 100% Mourvedre, sourced from Todd Bostock’s Pronghorn Vineyard.  This may well make this wine a thing of the past, as Bostock has been grafting over Petit Verdot and Vranec (a dark, Balkan red varietal) to these vines of late.  Bostock feels that Mourvedre does better on the Willcox Bench in his Cimmaron vineyard, rather than the Sonoita AVA.  I’ve had vintages I’ve liked from both areas, but I am not opposed to more Vranec in the slightest. I’m not entirely sure how this wine was aged, but the hints of vanilla suggest a small percentage of newer French oak, as well as neutral barrels, for at least a year or so.  Like all of the wines in the Los Milic’s label, it is named for a member of Pavle’s family.  The color is about the same as any other Arizona Mourvedre: dark garnet.

The Nose: The nose of the 2013 Lorenzo’s is much lighter than that of the Rune, however.  Instead of the earth-driven notes of that wine, this Mourvedre is far more fruity and floral on the nose, opening with violets, lavender, plum, cherry, boysenberry, and the classic Sonoita AVA tangerine terroir note. Herbal notes of sage and mint, along with vanilla, also appear on the opening.  As the wine opens, this vintage gains notes of pomegranate, cedar, and nutmeg.

The Palate: Again, the 2013 Lorenzo’s is more fruit and floral driven on the palate than the Rune Mourvedre, opening with juicy plum, vanilla, violet, watermelon jolly rancher, and cherry notes that intermingle with citrus zest, sage, and some earthiness. The finish after opening is 45 seconds.  It is a little less full-bodied than the Rune Mourvedre, but has a higher acidity.  Given time to open up, the palate becomes more earthy, with additional notes of pomegranate, tobacco, and tarragon. The finish at this point in time lasts for 1 minute and 24 seconds.

The Pairing: I paired this wine with some green chile cheeseburgers, but like most Arizona Mourvedre, it will go well with wild game such as elk or venison. Actually: a venison chili would be amazing with this wine; if you are vegan or vegetarian; a chili of that sort would work well as a pairing.  If you have received your Thin Mint girl-scout cookies, that will work as a pairing too.

Impressions: As much as I do like Sonoita Mourvedre, I have to agree with Todd–this grape tends to do better, flavorwise, on the Willcox Bench than it does in the Sonoita AVA.  (I do feel, though, that this grape does better in Sonoita in terms of flavor profile than it does in the Chiricahua Foothills, however–except of course Colibri, because Colibri is god-damned Rivendell, made of magic and petrified unicorn tears.)

Now, that being said, I will gravitate towards a Mourvedre over a Grenache any day of the week, and the 2013 Lorenzo’s is not a bad Mourvedre in the slightest.  Moreover, I really do feel that Mourvedre is a grape that is a serious contender to be one of the varietals that Arizona is known for in the long run.  In other words: if you see this bottle, don’t pass it up.  And, since it is a little bit lighter-bodied, and somewhat more fruit-forward than the last Mourvedre I looked at, I suspect this will be a more appealing wine to the general consumer palate–not a bad thing at all.

Personification-wise, I feel that this wine is a woman vocalist inclined to Mezzo Soprano, preferring to sing classical pieces in Latin or Italian.

Southwest Wine Center: 2015 Petit Sirah

Petit Sirah is a grape that seems to quietly stay in the background here in Arizona, but it is a grape with a lot of potential.  This particular vintage of Petit Sirah caught the attention of Bess, who likened it to wines she drank from the Jura during her semester abroad.  This wine caught my attention as one of the award winners from the Arizona Wine Growers Association’s Grand Arizona Wine Festival.

2015 Petit Sirah

The 2015 Southwest Wine Center Petit Sirah has some nice herbal notes when it opens up.

The Wine: The 2015 Petit Sirah is technically a blend of 84% Petit Sirah,  9% Grenache, and 7% Syrah, all sourced from Rolling View Vineyards, in the Willcox AVA. This wine was made by the students of the Southwest Wine Center. This wine was made using open-top fermenters, and aged in re-coopered French oak barrels.  59 cases were produced.  The Petit Sirah sits at 3.69 pH, with 6.4 g/L of tartaric acid. This wine won 3rd place overall at the festival for the Petit Sirah category, as well as a silver medal for Wine of Distinction.

Nose: The 2015 Petit Sirah opens with a deeply floral set of aromas: violets, roses, and irises vie for attention with notes of bilberry, boysenberry, rosemary, and currants. Notes of Anise, vanilla, and Willcox dust round out the bouquet.

Palate: The palate of this full-bodied red is evenly balanced between acidity, fruit, oak, and tannins.  The 2015 Petit Sirah opens with notes of blueberry, elderberry, red currants, star anise, rose, leathery tannins and rich Willcox earth.  As the wine opens, additional notes of pomegranate and Kentucky cavendish tobacco emerge.  The finish of this wine lasts for 50 seconds, containing notes of roses, tobacco, and calcareous earth.  The tannins in this wine are firm, not overbearing, acting like support beams.

Pairing: I would pair this wine with lamb, slow-roasted over an open fire Greek-style, with lemon and rosemary.  That being said, this wine would also pair well with green chile cheeseburgers and a side of curly fries!  For a vegetarian pairing, stuffed peppers with eggplant will do nicely.

Impressions:  Out of the medal victories won by the Southwest Wine Center in the last AWGA competion, I have to say this Petit Sirah is my favorite. The more Arizona Petit Sirah I drink, the more I realize its potential here, and on top of that, I’m normally not terribly fond of Petit Sirah coming from the Willcox area–I tend to prefer Verde Valley vintages.  The girlfriend also enjoyed this vintage quite a bit.

I feel like this vintage, personified, is an existentialist French writer, but not a depressed one.  The world, he says, may not matter, but since the world doesn’t matter, all that is left is seeking that which gives us joy.  He is well-dressed, and constantly smiling, and never without a glass of something in his hand.

2015 Petit Sirah

Looking towards the vineyard…


Podcast: Vermentino and SW Wine Center Cabernet with Amber Gates


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Vermentino and cab podcast

To be fair, we drank from all three bottles, but only two make it into the podcast. It was a fun night.

This is a bit of a long podcast, but it was a fun one to record and was made entirely spur of the moment. Amber came into the tasting room, told me she was studying wine in Italy, we had a great time geeking out about wine, and was really curious to learn the details of our wine industry here in Arizona.  Along the way, she said she loved Vermentino. It just so happened that I had a Vermentino made by Rob Hammelman, one of the best winemakers in Arizona. I offered to bring it by her hotel later if she’d be willing to record a podcast, and the rest is history.

The other bottle that’s imbibed over the course of this podcast is the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Southwest Wine Center, that was amphorae fermented and underwent carbonic maceration, a la Beaujolais style. She was interested in what the students were doing there, and I thought this would be the best demonstration I could make, as I thought this particular wine was quite fascinating, as a comparison of sorts between where she was studying and what some of my friends around here are doing.

I sent a couple bottles back with her to take to Tuscan winemakers, and she’s promised to let me know what they think!

This is also the first podcast with one of the new opening things that have been submitted for the contest; this theme was created by Derek J. Power.

Enjoy, guys!


Amber with the vermentino.

Hannah’s Hill Vineyard: 2014 Sandstone Blend


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Located next to Rune, Hannah’s Hill Vineyard is a small, picturesque vineyard in the Sonoita AVA.  They grow several different varietals, such as Roussanne, Malvasia, Riesling, Mourvedre, Tempranillo, and Petit Sirah.  Also of note, Hannah’s Hill does not use oak in making their wines, preferring the terroir of the high plains of Sonoita to show through into their wines.  The 2014 Sandstone blend is one of the first white wine blends to be made at Hannah’s Hill.

2014 sandstone

The 2014 Sandstone is a blend of Roussanne and Riesling.

The Wine: The 2014 Sandstone Blend is made of estate-grown Riesling and Roussane.  This wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The wine is unfiltered and unfined; some bottles may be cloudy like mine. According to the bottle description, the 2014 season at Hannah’s hill was marked by challenging growing conditions. Damaging hail struck the vineyard in July, and there were several waves of hurricane remnants that struck during September, which made for a wetter monsoon than average. This meant that overall yields were low, but each varietal lot was independently harvested and fermented.

The Nose: This wine opens with intense notes of lemongrass and starfruit, intermingling with more subtle notes of pansies and cliff rose.  As the wine opens, notes of banana and tangerine emerge.

The Palate: The 2014 Sandstone opens with strong notes of banana, citrus, and baking spice, intermingling with notes of flinty limestone.  This wine has a high acidity.  The finish of this wine lasts for 40 seconds, and is filled with notes of limestone, starfruit, apple, and lemongrass.  This wine feels pretty full-bodied on the palate; there’s a bit of weight to it.

The Pairing: The fuller body of this wine, likely imparted by the Roussanne, grants this wine some additional flexibility in terms of pairing options. A fettuccine alfredo dish, whether with chicken or mushrooms, will work well with this wine.

Impressions:  I personally found this full-bodied white blend to be a little bland and average on the palate for my liking–I myself prefer lighter-bodied, intensely floral and fruity white wines. I could see, though, how this wine could be a gateway to the Arizona industry for someone who prefers steel-aged Chardonnay as their daily wine. Or lovers of champagne might enjoy this wine–the strong flinty character of this wine reminds me of the terroir notes of the Champagne region.


Rune: 2014 Mourvedre

Arrakis…. Rune…. Desert wines.  Sourcing fruit from Willcox vineyards, and offering them to the public in the high frontier plains of Sonoita, James Callahan makes one of the most fascinating wine labels in the state of Arizona.  Each bottle series tells a story, and eventually, some stories will intertwine with the other.  With the introduction of the 2014 Mourvedre, James introduces a new set of characters: the Steppe Nomads.  As the bottle says:

“A cold gale envelops the entrance to the yurt as the curtains are drawn apart.  While the horse lords hurry to gather enough provisions to last through the coming winter, the warrior maiden tends to her own task at hand. For it is her job to craft this year’s vintage into something truly inspiring All while having the duty of defending her new home.”

2014 Rune Mourvedre

2014 Rune Mourvedre along the icy banks of Bitter Creek

The Wine: Made by James Callahan, the 2014 Mourvedre was sourced from Pillsbury Vineyard in Willcox. This vineyard is located right in the center of the Willcox Bench. The Mourvedre underwent wild fermentation, rather than any inoculation with commercial yeast. James hasn’t gotten back to me yet on how this wine was aged, but I’m guessing mostly neutral French oak.  Like most Arizona Mourvedre, this vintage is a deep red in color, akin to dried blood.

The Nose: The 2014 Mourvedre is rich and intensely earthy on the nose, with additional notes of plum, vanilla, bramble, and juicy black raspberry. Undertones of rosemary, sage, and lavender intermingle with the rich earth and fruit. Overall, it’s more reminiscent of an Oregon Pinot on the nose than your average Arizona Mourvedre.  As the wine opens up, additional notes of anise, black pepper, and pipe smoke emerge from the glass.

The Palate: Like the nose, the palate of this wine is intensely earthy.  Notes of vanilla, tobacco, plum, blackberry, and boysenberry intermingle with the rich earth notes. Prior to decanting, the finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute 10 seconds, and is filled with notes of rosemary, leathery tannins, earth, and prickly peart.  After decanting, the wine gains notes of

The Pairing: Pair this wine with wild game; venison, elk, bear, or javelina.  If you don’t have access to the above, barbeque brisket or ribs will work well.  Vegetarian pairings are going to be a little difficult, but a very earthy chili or soup based off root vegetables should do quite nicely.

Impressions:  There is one word, and only one word, that I can use to describe the 2014 Mouvedre; it’s one of those “fancy ten dollar words,” as my father would say. This wine is chthonic, primordial.  It is like sitting in a cave under the earth, breathing in the rich scent of damp earth and stone while eating rich berries. This wine makes me think of the caves of Lascaux, where our distant ancestors scrawled images on the wall praying for a successful hunt, flickering in the light of a torch.

While very different from the Flying Leap Mourvedre, I’d have to say these two are my favorite Mourvedre vintages in the state.

If we’re going to personify this wine based on the label, though, I am reminded of one of the most intriguing characters from the later Mongol Empire: Khutulun.




Garage-East: 2013 Primitivo Blend


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There’s a varietal of wine that’s very popular in the outside world, but that doesn’t show up in Arizona much at all. Zinfandel, also known as Primitivo to most folks keeping track, doesn’t grow terribly well in Arizona. It is uncommon, therefore, to see it in most tasting rooms. Garage-East currently offers the 2013 Primitivo Blend for all your Zinfandel needs, however. I am not a lover of Zinfandel by any stretch of the imagination, but since this grape is so uncommon here, I’d best spread the word.  (And while I am not fond of Zin, I do know a good one when I encounter it.)

2013 Primitivo blend

If you’re a fan of Zin, you need to check out the 2013 Primitivo Blend

The Wine: The 2013 Primitivo Blend consists of 50% Primitivo, 25% Tempranillo, and 25% Syrah.  The grapes were harvested from Cimmaron Vineyard, in the Willcox AVA. Whole clusters of grapes rested overnight and were destemmed the next day into one-ton fermentation bins.  The grapes were cold-soaked for 24-48 hours prior to inoculation.  The wine spent 7-21 days on the skins, and was punched down twice daily. After pressing, the wine was moved into a mix of new and used 255L and 228L French and American oak barrels, where it was aged for 24 months.  It’s a rich, redolent garnet in the glass.

The Nose: This wine opens up with notes of Blackberry jam, plum, and black currents. As the 2013 Primitivo Blend opens, additional notes of dragonfruit, violets, lilacs, earth, and anise emerge.  If purple had a smell, it would be this wine.  Everything about it is just… purple.

The Palate: The 2013 Primitivo Blend is a medium-bodied red wine with light tannins.  The wine opens with notes of blackberry, mulberry jam, cedar, molasses, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  As the wine breathes, additional notes of pomegranate, Willcox dust, and leather emerge.  The finish of this wine lasts for 57 seconds, with notes of petrichor, blackberry jam, anise, and light tannins.

The Pairing: Pair the 2013 Primitivo Blend with BBQ chicken or pulled pork–or the vegetarian equivalent; jackfruit.

Impressions: If you are a fan of big, giant, jammy California Zinfandels, this is an Arizona Wine you need to try.  This is a big, giant, jammy wine, but with a lower alcohol content than one would expect.  There are more subtleties in the 2013 Primitivo Blend than the Monster Zins of Lodi, however.  And, as mentioned before, I get an overwhelming impression of “purple” from this wine.

This wine is a male poet, who is fond of purple prose; indeed, of all things purple.


Fire Mountain Winery: 2016 Skyfire


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One of the cornerstones of the Arizona wine industry, I would argue, is experimentation. We are not restricted by the rules like so many different wine regions in the Old World, and without the patina of respectability gained by California’s immense marketing budget, we have a bit of freedom with our small batch productions to do some strange and fun stuff.  A great example of this is the 2016 Skyfire, the latest release from Fire Mountain Winery in Cottonwood, Arizona.

2016 Skyfire

The 2016 Skyfire from Fire Mountain Wines is a unique take on Sauvignon Blanc

The Wine: The 2016 Skyfire is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, dry hopped with Cascade and Azaca hops. The grapes were from Carlson Creek Vineyard. The wine was aged in stainless steel; though not for very long.  The wine was hopped after fermentation for four days, then filtered and bottled. The 2016 Skyfire was made by John Scarbrough; the hops were provided by Ryan Sandlin of Dark Sky Brewery in Flagstaff, Arizona. The label painting was done by a local painter who also works in the local wine Industry. The name combines Dark Sky Brewery in Flagstaff with Fire Mountain.  Worthy of note: this wine received no sulfites other than what was naturally produced in the fermentation process, as hops have anti-microbial qualities. This wine sits a pale straw color in the glass. 16 cases of this wine were produced.

The Nose: The 2016 Skyfire opens with notes of lime peel, apricot, grass, and cantaloupe, with just the barest hint of hops. After aeration in the glass, additional notes of flint, baking spice, peach, vanilla, and lychee emerge from the glass.

The Palate: The 2016 Skyfire has exactly the sort of body you would expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. The palate opens with an explosion of hops, limes, lemongrass, and apircot. The wine has a higher acidity, but is not an acid bomb. After sitting in the glass for a while, the grassy notes intensify, intermingling with honeysuckle and anise. The finish lasts for 1 minute and 13 seconds, and is filed with notes of flint, cantaloupe, lemon, and anise. The hops add character and body; John Scarborough believes that most Arizona Sauvignon Blanc vintages are rather plain.

Pairing: I would treat this wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and pair with fried fish tacos, with coleslaw and pico de Gallo; Baja-style. A tofu style dish of similar mode would also work quite well.

Impressions: As experimental as this wine is, I have to say in a very odd fashion, I’m not sure this wine is experimental enough. The hopped Verdehlo I have had at AZ Hops N’Vines was more intense, hop wise, more reminiscent of an IPA.

That being said, I detest most IPA-style beers and do like the 2016 Skyfire. In terms of beer, I would argue that this wine would appeal most to lovers of Saison and some amber or pale ales. In terms of wines, this wine is more like a traditional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (though a little more grassy), and those who enjoy that style should grab a bottle.

I feel the personification of this wine would be a laid-back surfer artist living in Baja California who does street art for tourists with various colors of spray paint on cardboard.

Javelina Leap: 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon


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The ominously named Skull Valley, located near Prescott, Arizona is the site of two vineyards at this current time.  These vineyards are Painted Lady, and the Hassayampa Vineyard, now owned by Javelina Leap. While I’ve not set foot in Skull Valley yet, my sources tell me that the rich alluvial soil holds the potential for further vineyard development in the region, which is slightly warmer than nearby Paulden/Chino Valley.  The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is the first red wine I’ve tasted from this area. I actually did get a chance to taste this wine in the barrel a couple years ago, so I’m excited to see how it’s progressed.  Suffice it to say, I am very excited both to revisit this wine in the glass, and for future vintages coming from this site.

2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon in a light flurry.

The Wine: The Hassayampa River apparently flows next to this vineyard, hence the name; for what it’s worth, it’s a river with a lot of folk stories attached to it.  This wine aged for two years in barrel, but I’m uncertain as to which oak was used. I would guess based off of taste that it was aged at least partially in new French oak.  This wine won several medals at the Grand Arizona Wine Festival.  Chris Whitehorn and Cynthia Snapp were the winemakers for this vintage. The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is dark maroon in color; not as dark as California Cab Savs, but still darker than any Arizona Merlot.

The Nose: Just out of the bottle, the 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon smells of blackberry, black cherry, cedar, anise, marionberry, cassis, and granite.  Associated notes of paprika, vanilla, and chocolate round out the opening salvo. After a three-hour decant, the nose of this wine is more subtle: notes of caramel, truffles, sea-salt, and rosemary emerge from the glass, while the bright purple and black fruit notes change to a more subtle elderberry.

The Palate: The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red with a big, velvety mouthfeel.  Just out of the bottle, this vintage is big and muscular with lots of big, leathery tannins and granite earth, intermingling with notes of coffee, marionberry, blackberry, blueberry, and cassis.  Subtle notes of violet also can be found. The finish at this point lasts for 45 seconds, filled with notes of black cherry, leather, and granite. After decanting, this wine gains notes of cranberry, rosemary, cavendish pipe tobacco, and black tea.  The finish of this wine at that time lasts for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

The Pairing: Steak! Use that most classic of Cabernet Sauvignon pairings with this wine; steak and potatoes.  For a vegetarian pairing, portobello mushroom and mashed potatoes will do the trick.

Impression: The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich, muscular Cabernet.  This is a wine that should cellar well for the next few years.  At this juncture, I strongly recommend decanting this wine for at least an hour or more. I am unsure which characteristics of this wine are a result of terroir; this being the first wine from this vineyard I’ve tasted.  I look forward to future vintages of wine from this site.  I also feel that I really should take a look at the site as well, to get a sense of the geology on the ground.

Personified, the Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is a muscular professor of political science.  Imposing and terrifying in the classroom, but once you get to know him, he’s rather nice–and also oddly apolitical.