Those who know me well, or are simply long-time readers of my blog, know that my day job is working for the Passion Cellars tasting room in Jerome, Arizona and I don’t review the wines often for fear of being accused of bias. That proviso aside, Jason Domanico is making some dang good wines, and sometimes I even get to help out. (As long as I don’t get in the way!) One of the flagship blends for the tasting room is the Jerome Red, which, while the blend has varied from one vintage to the next, has always had one goal in mind: evoke the terroir of Arizona.
This vintage won a bronze medal at the San Fransisco International Competition a few months ago… and so I’ll be honest, I’m pretty pleased by that since I helped compile this blend with Jason one day while at the winery production facility in Willcox.
2014 Jerome Red from Passion Cellars, and the town of Jerome.
The Wine: The 2014 Jerome Red is a blend of 20% Aglianico, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Sangiovese, 16.66% Nebbiolo, and 3.3% Alicante Bouchet. The fruit for this wine is all from Willcox; coming from Dragoon Mountain vineyards, Fort Bowie Vineyards, and Zarpara Vineyards; the whole of the Willcox growing area represented in a single wine. (This is one reason I think this blend is really nifty, actually; a sampling of the terroir of each location all in one place, forming a unified whole). The Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in new French oak, while all the other wines were aged in neutral French oak. The individual wines were made by Jason Domanico, while the blend was decided on by a committee consisting of Jason Domanico, Jim Lynch, and myself.
Storytime: We were doing blending trials and had these 5 barrels left over, trying to make two different blends. Nothing was blowing us away, so we decided to take a break and get some lunch and try again afterward when our palates were rested. While at lunch, I suggested, based on individual flavor profiles, that we blend all the barrels together when we got back, and see what that would be like. We gave it a shot, liked it immensely, tried it again with one of the cab barrels that saw new French oak… and liked it even better. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Nose: The nose of the 2014 Jerome Red begins quietly and subtly, like a monsoon storm growing on a distant mountain, with soft notes of star anise, cinnamon,cherry, and roses, intermingling with monsoon petrichor and distant Willcox dust. As the wine opens, it explodes with bright notes of plum, vanilla, cassis, and pipe tobacco, melding with the aforementioned notes. It really does smell like an approaching monsoon storm in many ways; something most Arizona natives have picked up on in the tasting room.
The Palate: Like the nose, the 2014 Jerome Red starts off subtle and works to a crescendo on the palate. It begins with notes of plum, cherry, cedar, cinnamon, and star anise, then intermingling with sage, rosemary, and cassis as the wine opens, with a massive salvo of earth, coffee, and spicy, leathery tannins at the finish, with bracing acidity–like the climax of a monsoon storm roaring down from the desert. The finish of this wine is dusty, and earthy, with cherry, juicy plum, pomegranate, and bracing tannins, lasting for two minutes and 31 seconds.
The Pairing: I’d almost stick with drinking this wine without food, before or after dinner, simply to enjoy that flavor profile and to soak up that Willcox landscape hidden within the wine, preferably while you’re watching the monsoons build as you sit upon on your mountaintop perch. You could pair this wine with ribs, pork chops, or a nice ribeye steak. It occurs to me that lamb would also work well, with just a slight hint of paprika and rosemary, and a side of rice. For a vegetarian or vegan pairing, aim once again for something big with a lot of texture, like a slab of portobello mushroom and a baked potato.
Impressions: This wine will cellar well for another 10 years–if you wanted to wait that long, and if stored correctly. If you are going to drink it now, I do highly recommend decanting this wine for at least an hour, or pouring it through an aerator. I admit, I’m biased about this wine since I helped make it, but the medal from San Fransisco does speak to its quality.
As for personification, I feel like the 2014 Jerome Red is a gentleman who has many different facets. He’s quiet, and young, a man of few words at first, with intense bearing and gravitas, perhaps slightly nervous overall. He’s either a scientist or a priest, if not both at once; but either way, he dabbles in writing. Once you get him to open up, however, the shyness falls away and there’s an incredible intensity that kind of takes you aback, and he will go on about the topics which passionately interest him deep into the night.