We finally “meet” the elusive Sand-Reckoner here on The Wine Monk. Spoken of in hushed whispers, Rob Hammelman is considered by many in Arizona to be one of the best winemakers here in Arizona, having trained for a while in France. (As for myself, I definitely list him among the top five.) Growing and producing in Willcox, he specializes in small-batch wines, which can be found mostly in AJ’s, or various small retailers. Here in the Verde Valley, his work can be found at Indian Gardens and the IGA market in Oak Creek Village. The tasting room in Willcox is by appointment only. Rob Hammelman is also the chief winemaker at Aridus; as mentioned in my discussion about the Viognier from that facility.
We also finally meet a grape that is the closest thing I have to a girlfriend: Malvasia Bianca. More on that momentarily. (Hey, it’s lonely being the Wine Monk. It’s in the name. If I started dating, I’d have to change the name of the website, right?)
(I’ve also heard the 2013 Malvasia is even better, but I can’t find a bottle to lay my hands on. Alas. I’m looking forward to tracking one down, eventually.)
Malvasia Bianca is Arizona’s best white grape. Hands down. This varietal has a bit of a bloody history, also. Originally from Greece and Turkey, the heartland of the Byzantine Empire, this grape was pillaged and brought into Italy by the actions of the Fourth Crusade, and their plunder of Constantinople and parts of Greece. The arrival of Malvasia Bianca to Arizona wine country is, in my opinion (both as a wine critic and a former Byzantine historian), the ONLY good thing to come out of the Fourth Crusade. Also, adorably, when in high sun conditions, the grape gets freckles. Aww. More seriously, however, this Malvasia is a vibrant yellow straw color in the glass before me.
The Nose: The first thought I have in my head when I smell the bouquet of this wine is of someone burning incense in a springtime garden, pregnant with the hope of new life. The second thought is, perhaps not too surprisingly, that of the ent-draught which Merry and Pippen are given from Treebeard during their respite in Fanghorn Forest. The intense floral notes of jasmine and lavender are prominent, intermingled with rosemary, gardenias, basil, hibiscus, and frankincense, with just a hint of fresh-cut grass.
The Palate: If yellow had a taste, like liquid sunlight or soft yellow velvet, Malvasia Bianca would be it. It’s a very complex palate, with hints of elderflower, jasmine, pineapples, lemon, tarragon, and just a few subtle hints of minerality; the latter, of course, echoes of the ancient lakebed which was the Willcox Bench. It’s a little bit hot, in terms of alcoholic content, but not unpleasantly so; and it forms a nice aspect to the food pairing.
Pairing: This wine is absolutely perfect for a medium-to-heavily spiced Pad Thai, whether with tofu or with chicken. The slight bit of extra heat provided by the higher alcohol content perfectly compliments that spice.
Impressions: I generally imagine Malvasia Bianca as being a granola crunchy hippie girl, hair blonde as the sun, a dancer, always running barefoot, with tattoos either on her ankle, sleeves, or on the back of her neck/upper shoulder. She will often wear long flowing dresses, has an extremely airy personality, but is incredibly brilliant, and an artist. She either does yoga (and has for years) or enjoys random long hikes. She lights incense in flower garden. She is generally willowy-thin, and bends with the wind.
However, the age on this Malvasia has made it a little bit more intense in some ways; mellower in others. Instead of dancing and yoga, this Malvasia Bianca prefers roller derby, and holds no punches back when in the rink, but is still classy as hell off of the playing field.