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We’ve explored several wines from Caduceus before, including one of their Velvet Slippers Club rosés in podcast form, but it’s time we tackle one of their staples: the Lei Li Rosé… but with a twist. This vintage that we’re looking at is no longer in the tasting room. (That’s how long this particular vintage has been backlogged in my cellar.  I may have too much to drink through.  Then again, I suppose there are worse problems to have.  That being said, we’ll also use this to begin a (very scattered, I’m afraid) discussion of Nebbiolo in the state of Arizona, which will culminate in an eventual review of the 2009 Canelo Hills Nebbiolo.

2012 Lei Li at dawn

2012 Lei Li at dawn.  I love Arizona Sunrises.

The Wine:  This rosé is made from 100% Nebbiolo, coming from Bonita Springs Vineyard, located in Graham County not too far from Willcox.  The grapes in this wine were hand picked, and cold-soaked, so as to obtain as much color as possible.  It was also whole-cluster pressed, and then stainless steel aged for 9 months.  The color is, for lack of a better word, a sort of sunrise orange or burnished copper–this is to be expected from Nebbiolo, versus the pinkish colors imparted by Grenache.  The color has intensified with a little age, since the 2013 Vintage which is still in the Caduceus tasting room is a little lighter and pinker in color.

The Nose: The nose of this wine is filled with fruit and floral notes of apricot, cantaloupe, roses, gardenia, honeysuckle, globe mallow (a local wildflower), and lilies, intermingling with mint and white chocolate.  After being opened for a while, the cantaloupe notes intensify, and intermingle with notes of petrichor and blood orange.

The Palate: Cantaloupe notes repeat on the palate of this wine, along with the aforementioned white chocolate and mint notes, but these intermingle with notes of peach, lychee, frankincense, nutmeg, and over-ripe peach.  When left open for a time, the wine becomes markedly more earthy, with forest floor notes intermingling with the cantaloupe and white chocolate notes, with a dash of cardamom.  There’s still a good chunk of acidity here in this wine, but the tannins I recall from tasting this wine in the tasting room when I acquired this bottle a year ago are now mostly gone. It is still a little hot when first opened, but that disappears after the wine has been opened for a time.  The finish is pretty long for a rosé, lasting for about 18-20 seconds.

Pairing:  I feel like this wine needs to be paired with something light.  It’s got a unique flavor profile that’s quite fun to focus with on its own., but I do think a local greens salad with some pinion pine nuts and a light olive oil dressing and some dried fruits would be superb.  If you wanted a fuller meal with this wine, I think some smoked salmon, with a side of wild rice, and grilled asparagus would be a fantastic companion to this wine.

Impressions:  I honestly intended to drink this rosé last year, and then when winter rolled around, I intended to drink it in May.  Clearly, this did not happen.  However, as I guessed, Nebbiolo rosés seem to age well; they have more tannins than their GSM equivalents, due to the nature of that grape. However, it’s still lighter than I would have expected.  If you have a bottle of the 2012 Lei Li, I’d drink it now, though it will still last just fine until next summer (and probably into next year as well, but why on earth would you wait that long); I’d age the 2013 vintage another year before drinking.

Generally, I’ve noticed that Nebbiolo in Arizona is… odd.  It tends to be just as flavorful (sometimes more so) than Italian counterparts, but generally less tannic and much lighter in color. I’ve had a few other Arizona nebbiolos, but I haven’t written widely about them. I have in my cellar another Nebbiolo rosé from 433, as well as a full-on Nebbiolo from the same winery, and the Canelo Hills Nebbiolo from 2009 in my cellar which I will review at later points of time.

The Lei Li Nebbiolo Rosé specifically is a fun-loving and absolutely brilliant strawberry blonde agriculture professor who has a tattoo in Latin in a Carolingian-style font across her back that says “Agricolae illum super terram.”  (She also dabbles in binding books, and studied abroad in Italy for several years.)

And some a little later in the day.

And some a little later in the day.