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You all have probably heard me muttering about Tannat here and there on podcasts, and you all know that I love it, or that it’s one of the varietals commonly suggested to be the most like me, but I really haven’t gotten into it much here on the Wine Monk yet. The fact is, Tannat is one of my favorite varietals, and as a precursor to the upcoming post of the Tannat Tasting Panel for the Dancing Apache Capra Tannat, and the upcoming article for The Noise in March for that particular wine, I thought I should introduce the varietal here formally.
So: without further ado (but with much ado yet to come for this grape as a whole), I introduce the 2012 Tannat from Stage Stop Vineyards. With some commentary. Stagestop Vineyards, as I mentioned before in my exploration of the Last Shot Mourvedre, is now Dancing Apache Vineyards. Page Springs, in 2012 had a majority control over most of the vineyard, and that is where the fruit for this particular wine came from. The varietal was chosen for the Dancing Apache ranch by Nikki Check, who is the director of the Yavapai College Viticulture Program. (It’s a great choice, and I agree with her on that entirely.)
The Wine: Tannat is a particularly interesting varietal, and a huge favorite of mine. It originated in Southwestern France in the Madieran AOC, near the Pyrenees Mountains, where it produces super tannic reds that sometimes need to be aged for up to twenty years to be enjoyable; therefore it is often blended with Merlot. It’s also grown in Uruguay, where it has become, more or less, that country’s national varietal, though there it produces wines that are far more approachable at younger ages. Here in Arizona, it produces wines which are in between the approachability of Uruguay, and the aging capabilities of France, which is why I firmly believe that this will be Arizona’s premier dark tannic grape. It also survives the spring frosts which can be particularly brutal in Arizona. This Tannat was the first harvest from these particular vines, at three years old, which makes it very light for this particular varietal, but it demonstrates the promise of these particular vines for the future of the Arizona industry. It was aged in neutral French oak. It’s a bit light compared to other tannats I’ve encountered.
Nose: The nose, while simpler than other tannats I’ve encountered, is still quite lovely. There are notes of pepper, cassis, cherry, Burley tobacco, vanilla, cedar, and roses, intermingling with woodsmoke and prickly pear.
Palate: The 2012 Stage Stop Vineyards Tannat wine is light for a tannat. It’s smooth, and supple, with cherry and prickly pear fruit notes, underlaid by sasparilla, pomegranate, nutmeg, and a little bit of espresso and mint. There’s some tannins here; but not as much as I’ve seen in this varietal in other vintages, or from other vineyards. The finish is about 6 seconds long.
Pairing: Steak or ribs with a coffee-based BBQ sauce, and a little bit of blue cheese, with a side of Onion rings. A vegetarian pairing for this wine would be Smoked portabello mushrooms, also with a side of Onion Rings.
Impression: As much as I liked this Tannat, I’ve had others that I’ve liked far more–including the 2013 Capra, made from the fruit of these same vines. But, for a first vintage coming from the first fruits, it is delighful; a tannat for the summertime, if there could be such a thing. It demonstrates, quite aptly, the potential this grape has in Arizona. This wine is a woman in her early twenties, with a sleeve tattoo, leaning against a brick wall, smoking a cigarette. She’s standing outside of a tattoo shop, about to get another one.