Arizona Tempranillo, Dragoon, Dragoon Mountain Vineyard, Dragoon Vineyard, John McLoughlin, port-style blends, red, red blend, Red blends, red wine, red wines, Tempranillo, Tinta Barocca, Tinto Cão, Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Willcox, Willcox AVA, Willcox Bench, Willcox Wine, wine, Wines
Down in the south, John McLaughlin grows a bunch of grapes that aren’t really being grown anywhere else in the state. Among those, apparently, are several traditional port varietals–as can be seen in the collection of ports that are offered for tastings in the downstairs tasting room; one of which I grabbed for my December port review. But, on the flight upstairs is a particularly interesting blend known as The Chariot–those same noble port grapes, but done as a still wine, rather than as a port.
This I had to try… so I did. Research and all.
The Wine: As I mentioned above, The Chariot is a blend of the 5 “noble” port grapes: Tinto Cão, Tinta Barocca, Touriga Francesa, Tempranillo (in the Douro known as Tinta Roriz, but for sake of clarity here I’m going to refer to it as what everyone in Arizona knows it as) and Touriga Nacional. I do not know what percentage of each is in this blend, nor off hand do I know what the traditional blend of each is in ports… gah, sometimes I find gaping holes in my knowledge that I just fall into without warning. But then, that’s what research is for. As far as I am aware, the blend is Non-Vintage, and all coming from Dragoon Mountain Vineyard in the Willcox AVA. Most of the vintages made by John McLaughlin do seem to be aged in neutral French oak for 18 months, but I feel like this one received some newer oak down the line; there’s more oak on the palate for me, than what I’d expect for something that rested in a neutral barrel. The color is a deep red.
The Nose: What struck me the most about this wine on the nose was how incredibly floral it was. Rich scents of dark flowers such as violets, orchids, irises, roses, and even a little bit of jasmine intermingle with cacao, elderberry, plum, cedar, and cherry. As the wine opens up, additional notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and anise emerge from the glass.
The Palate: Notes of dried cranberries, cherries, and elderberries intermingle with violet, chokecherry, prickly pear, and nutmeg. As the wine opens, additional notes of cacao, leather, sage, and black pepper also emerge. The finish of this wine lasts for one minute and 2 seconds, and is filled with notes of Willcox dust, sage, and cranberry. There are some tannins here, but not nearly as much as I was expecting.
The Pairing: Because this wine isn’t nearly as tannic as some Portugese still blends I’ve imbibed over the years, I would argue that one could easily pair The Chariot with more delicate fare, such as quail or rabbit, or even your thanksgiving meal. I’d approach a vegetarian or vegan pairing in the same way as I would for Rhone-style blends; medleys of vegetables, casserole, or something with lots of olives. mushroom, and pasta.
Impressions: Drinking The Chariot reminded me of just how little I know about Portuguese wines. Sure, I attempted some research on the subject last year but got distracted by a whole host of other things. This blend does strike me as being similar to some blends from the Douro region, but it’s decidedly a quirky take on that style, with some peculiar eccentricities; namely it’s decidedly floral nature which is unlike any wines I’ve encountered from that part of the world myself, but then, since I know so little about wines from that region, perhaps that’s more normal than I realize.
If this wine was a person, he would be a 19th-century botanist in Britain, specializing in Orchids. He has a greenhouse filled with Orchids from around the world, and lavishes care on his beloved plants more than his poor wife (but then, he married her purely for the money anyway, which was a means to fulfill his botanical aspirations).