Keeling Schafer Vineyards is a Willcox winery that is a bit of a very interesting anomaly: They don’t grow on the Willcox Bench at all. While their Tasting room is located right in downtown, next to Flying Leap and across from Carlson Creek and Aridus, they’re growing in a novel environment; the foothills of the Chiricahuas. The rich rhyolite-based soils, formed from ancient supervolcanic eruptions create a very unique terroir which shows up in many of their wines, and they specialize in Rhone varietals. They have 21 acres, located along Rock Creek, which is on the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains, at about 5000 feet in elevation. (Colibri, Page Spring’s Chiricahua vineyards, are located on the Eastern slope)
The Wine: Known affectionately as “The Lip-Stinger” in Languedoc and Rhone, Picpoul Blanc is a Rhone varietal that many people have never heard of, but seems to be gaining some popularity. It is also known as Piquepoul de Pinet Due to the fondness this grape has for long, hot summers, it grows very well out here; though it surprises me that only two vineyards seem to be growing this grape; Keeling Schafer and Calligan’s. It has a lot of potential out here, and I think more should be planted. This particular wine, while it is varietal in percentages, is technically a blend: 82% Picpoul, and 18% Viognier. It is an intense lemon-yellow in color, almost neon in its intensity.
Nose: There is a strong lemon-citrus note to the nose. There’s also hints of mineral water, sea salt, sage, and some quite lovely minerality.
Palate: There is an intense acidity to this wine. Hints of herbs and earth intermingle with an intense lemon-lime citrus flavor on the palate that reminds me of my childhood desire for lemon jolly ranchers, sprite, or lemon drops. There are also hints of sour apple and sage. There seems to be a slight effervescence to the wine which is not a bad thing in the slightest.
Pairing: This wine, being a bit of an acid bomb, needs something to balance it out. The perfect pairing for this wine would be tortilla chips and guacamole. No, seriously. It’s perfect for that.
Impression: It was really hard to nail down a personification for this wine, as it struck me as terribly androgynous. Not only that, this wine is clearly Mike’s Hard Lemonade for grown-ups. As for a personification, the best I can come up with is Tilda Swinton. I liked it, but I really think it would be best either on a day where the thermometer is creating 100 degrees, or with food. It’s a good pre-gaming wine for your party.