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This is the August article for The Noise:

2014 Merlot Rosé and rainbow.

2014 Merlot Rosé and rainbow.

Located a mile off of Highway 260 at the confluence of Oak Creek and the Verde River near Cottonwood, Arizona, Alcantara Winery and Vineyard is among the most scenic vineyards in the whole state. On their land, Alcantara grows 13 varietals of grapes, and occasionally partner with Dragoon Vineyards in Willcox. The vines are rooted deep in the limestone left behind by the ancient lake which once covered the Verde Valley. It’s a little off the beaten track from the other tasting rooms in the Verde Valley, but their tasting room is quite lovely, reminiscent of a classic Tuscan villa, and well worth the visit. For the Wino with a wedding to plan, they also have a chapel on site to suit your purposes. But enough of chapels and weddings; The summer of rosé continues, and due to the monsoon, it continues in earnest! Today we will be examining their 2014 Merlot Rosé.

I know what you’re thinking: “After Sideways, am I allowed to drink Merlot? Isn’t it… not cool anymore?” Well, you said the same thing to me last year when I told you drinking rosé was cool too… and now all the Somms in New York and LA are raving about rosé, and we were ahead of the curve. Trust me. Let’s be a little more hipster, here, and indulge ourselves. This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot, and 15% Orange Muscat; the latter is an intensely aromatic white grape related to Muscat of Alexandria. I sense your confusion. The reason why this wine can be labeled as a Merlot is because a wine only has to be 75% of a given varietal to be called that varietal, according to US liquor label laws. The Merlot in this vintage was made using the saignée method of bleeding some of the juice off the skins, fermented as a white, and then blended with the Orange Muscat. This wine was made entirely of fruit coming from their estate vineyards: it is 100% Verde valley goodness. Aged in steel, the 2014 Merlot Rosé is a pale copper color.

The nose of this wine is quite intense. The vintage opens with intense floral characteristics of jasmine, honeysuckle, and a slight bit of mesquite blossom, along with mint, and a slight lime note which are likely imparted by the slight percentage of Orange Muscat in this wine. When left open for a few moments, the more standard Merlot characteristics emerge: raspberry, vanilla, and strawberries emerge from the glass to intermingle with the floral notes. The palate, on the other hand, I feel owes more to the Merlot. There are bright raspberry, strawberry and slight mulberry notes that are a little bit like biting into a ripe berry salad, along with a note that reminds me of sucking on a watermelon Jolly Rancher.

It is in the finish of this rose where the Orange Muscat comes into play once more. The finish, which lasts for about 20 seconds, opens with a sharp note like biting into a ripe lemon, which then intermingles with sage, raspberry, white tea, and the riverside limestone terroir common in Verde Valley wines. The best way to describe that particular flavor is that it’s almost like drinking fresh spring water coming from the river itself. It’s decidedly full bodied for a rosé compared to the GSM blends which are more commonly found here in Arizona, but with that same nice acidity that makes Arizona versions of this classic style so thirst-quenchingly delicious.

In terms of food pairing, I feel this wine is designed more as a sipper before the meal, or while sitting on your deck watching the monsoon storms sweep across the landscape, but it would pair nicely with hot wings with a mild buffalo sauce, or spicy small mushrooms in a lettuce wrap for a vegan pairing. You should probably drink this now while the summer monsoon rages, but you could easily hold onto it for next summer. I feel that the 2014 Merlot Rosé is a barista at a tea bar, specializing in making all styles of teas, fond of crazy concoctions for the discerning tea drinker; light, airy, funny, and at the same time, serious about what she does. She may also be an herbalist, which explains her encyclopedic knowledge of how to make the best teas. 66 cases of this great summer rosé were produced, and you can only get it at the Alcantara tasting room in Cottonwood.