Arizona, Arizona Terroir, arizona wine, Arizona Wineries, Bodega Pierce, co-ferments, Cochise County, Côte-Rôtie, Four-Eight Wineworks, Michael Pierce, podcast, Red blends, red wine, red wines, rhone blends, Rhone varietals, Rolling View Vineyard, Saeculum Cellars, Syrah, viognier, Willcox, Willcox Bench, Willcox Grapes, Willcox Wineries, willcox wines, wine, wine podcas
Arizona is filled with dramatic landscapes, and the high desert plains of Willcox, where over 74 percent of Arizona’s grapes and wines are from is no exception. Here in the high deserts, every winter, thousands upon thousands of Sandhill Cranes from the far north descend upon the playa, their haunting prehistoric calls echoing across the vineyards and farmlands of the area. These same cranes have also found their way onto the beautiful, Japanese-watercolor inspired label of the 2012 One Stone Syrah, from Saeculum Cellars.
Syrah, like the Sandhill Crane, is ancient. This varietal, originally from the mountain valleys of coastal Lebanon and Syria, was brought first to the Rhone Valley by Crusaders, returning from the Holy Land. From the Rhone Valley of France, this grape has spread across the world, to places such as Australia (where it is known as Shiraz), Spain, California, and now here to Arizona. In Arizona, this grape has proven itself to be one of our best reds; a Syrah from another vineyard in the Southeastern corner of the state is the only 90 point Arizona wine, according to the crack tasting team at Wine Spectator. (My general view of the wine point-scale in regards to taste is “the points are all made up and it doesn’t really matter,” but in this rare instance, I agree with them.)
The One Stone Syrah is what is known as a Côte-Rôtie style blend of 94% Syrah co-fermented with 6% Viognier – a style made famous in the Côte-Rôtie AOC (a particular wine region) in the Rhone valley of France. The grapes for this vintage are from Rolling View Vineyards, down on the Willcox Bench–one of the oldest vineyards in that part of the state. Here, Michael Pierce and his family grow 17 different varietals of grapes on their 27 acres of land, and they are among the best grapes in the state. This Syrah was aged for 18 months in French oak barriques, and then for just shy of a year in the bottle. The interesting thing about this particular style of blend is that in many cases, the color of the wine becomes richer, and darker, due to chemical reactions that occur as part of the winemaking process. That is the exact case here; this Syrah is a fantastic, seductive, dark garnet red.
The bouquet of this wine is rich, languid and luxurious. The One Stone opens with an overture of strawberry jam, raspberry, deep currants, and boysenberry fruits; intermingled with a veritable spice cabinet of other aromas. Cedar, acacia, sandalwood, nutmeg, and allspice intermingle with mint, eucalyptus, hazelnut, latakia, Mexican Coke, dry earth, and leather. After opening up in the glass for some time, these notes are further enhanced by the subtle floral notes of lilac, and iris which appear, largely imparted by the Viognier in this blend. The palate of this wine is also really quite complex and exuberant. Dark fruit and berry notes continue on the palate, intermingling with Virginia Cavendish tobacco, tart cherries, Turkish coffee, nectarine, mint, allspice, cedar smoke, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and sarsaparilla. There is a subtle dusting of tannins. The wine has a luxurious and satisfying mouth-feel; the finish is long, lasting for about 27 seconds. There’s a light acidity on the mid-palate that lends itself well to imbibing with a meal. I’d recommend pairing the One Stone with some rosemary-herbed chicken with a light glaze smoked over applewood. For a vegetarian pairing, serve this wine with a butternut squash, curry, and carrot soup with fresh parsley on top, with some roasted parsnips on the side.
In short, it’s one of the most interesting and enchanting Arizona Syrahs I’ve encountered. Were this wine a person, it would be a curvy, nerdy and quite possibly tattooed pin-up model with long flowing auburn or red hair, lounging on a chaise lounge, smoking a meerschaum pipe filled with fine Syrian latakia tobacco. I feel that Michael Pierce is among the best winemakers in the state, and the One Stone Syrah is proof of this assertion. You can find this most excellent expression of Arizona terroir in two places: Four-Eight Wineworks in Clarkdale, or at the Bodega Pierce tasting room in Willcox, next to the vineyard where these grapes were grown, for $34. Drink this wine now, or you can cellar it for an additional five to ten years.
(Check out the Podcast I did with Michael Pierce about this wine here: http://azwinemonk.com/2015/02/10/2012-one-stone-syrah-podcast-with-michael-pierce-from-saeculum-cellars/)