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Carménère is a grape that, honestly, I’m kind of surprised not to see more of in Arizona. With the wide success of other Bordeaux grapes in Arizona, it’s kind of shocking that this is not popular to plant to me. But it’s a fun grape, with a cool history–thought to be the one extinct Bordeaux grape, then rediscovered in South America… and now it has made it’s way into Arizona in Chino Valley, thanks to Del Rio Springs.
The Wine: The 2014 Carménère is made from 100% varietal fruit coming from the Del Rio Vineyard site in Chino Valley. The wine was aged on medium toast French Oak barrels for 10 months. It was made at the Aridus facility by Rob Hammelman. It’s a lovely garnet red in color.
The Nose: The 2014 Carménère has a huge, juicy fruit nose. It reminds me of the way the cranberry-blackberry juice I used to drink at my grandmother’s house growing up smelled. Subtle notes of cassis, vanilla, and allspice can also be discerned. As the wine opens up, notes of leather and Cavendish pipe tobacco also emerge from the glass, and those fruity notes intensify .
The Palate: This wine is equally juicy and fruity on the palate, with notes of cranberry, blackberry, and cassis forming an opening salvo to the stereotypical spices I generally associate with this varietal in Chilean versions: a combination of cinnamon and red chili pepper. Leathery tannins intermingle with cranberry and rosemary on a finish that lasts for 55 seconds. The wine is on the low end of full-bodied. When the wine opens, these fruit notes intensify and blueberry also emerges.
The Pairing: I feel like this wine would pair well with Lamb, especially a recipe with herbs. You could give it a southwestern spin by using chili or another spiced rub. For a vegetarian or vegan pairing, serve this wine with some Mexican food that has a lot of peppers and beans.
Impressions: This wine fits, to a T, the traditional taste profile you’d expect from Carménère; bright juicy fruit and spice, but a little bit fruiter to the palate, which I suspect t0 be a terroir characteristic, but I need to drink far more versions of this grape to be certain. It should age well in the cellar; I predict future vintages will be more tannic as the vines age.
This wine in person would be a woman, a historian and archaeologist, black hair in a braid, focusing on interactions between the Inca Empire and various subject peoples. She’s just returned home from a long expedition abroad. I look forward to future vintages of this grape from this site, and, frankly, I’d like to see this varietal planted more in Arizona.