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The ominously named Skull Valley, located near Prescott, Arizona is the site of two vineyards at this current time.  These vineyards are Painted Lady, and the Hassayampa Vineyard, now owned by Javelina Leap. While I’ve not set foot in Skull Valley yet, my sources tell me that the rich alluvial soil holds the potential for further vineyard development in the region, which is slightly warmer than nearby Paulden/Chino Valley.  The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is the first red wine I’ve tasted from this area. I actually did get a chance to taste this wine in the barrel a couple years ago, so I’m excited to see how it’s progressed.  Suffice it to say, I am very excited both to revisit this wine in the glass, and for future vintages coming from this site.

2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon in a light flurry.

The Wine: The Hassayampa River apparently flows next to this vineyard, hence the name; for what it’s worth, it’s a river with a lot of folk stories attached to it.  This wine aged for two years in barrel, but I’m uncertain as to which oak was used. I would guess based off of taste that it was aged at least partially in new French oak.  This wine won several medals at the Grand Arizona Wine Festival.  Chris Whitehorn and Cynthia Snapp were the winemakers for this vintage. The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is dark maroon in color; not as dark as California Cab Savs, but still darker than any Arizona Merlot.

The Nose: Just out of the bottle, the 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon smells of blackberry, black cherry, cedar, anise, marionberry, cassis, and granite.  Associated notes of paprika, vanilla, and chocolate round out the opening salvo. After a three-hour decant, the nose of this wine is more subtle: notes of caramel, truffles, sea-salt, and rosemary emerge from the glass, while the bright purple and black fruit notes change to a more subtle elderberry.

The Palate: The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red with a big, velvety mouthfeel.  Just out of the bottle, this vintage is big and muscular with lots of big, leathery tannins and granite earth, intermingling with notes of coffee, marionberry, blackberry, blueberry, and cassis.  Subtle notes of violet also can be found. The finish at this point lasts for 45 seconds, filled with notes of black cherry, leather, and granite. After decanting, this wine gains notes of cranberry, rosemary, cavendish pipe tobacco, and black tea.  The finish of this wine at that time lasts for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

The Pairing: Steak! Use that most classic of Cabernet Sauvignon pairings with this wine; steak and potatoes.  For a vegetarian pairing, portobello mushroom and mashed potatoes will do the trick.

Impression: The 2014 Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich, muscular Cabernet.  This is a wine that should cellar well for the next few years.  At this juncture, I strongly recommend decanting this wine for at least an hour or more. I am unsure which characteristics of this wine are a result of terroir; this being the first wine from this vineyard I’ve tasted.  I look forward to future vintages of wine from this site.  I also feel that I really should take a look at the site as well, to get a sense of the geology on the ground.

Personified, the Hassayampa Cabernet Sauvignon is a muscular professor of political science.  Imposing and terrifying in the classroom, but once you get to know him, he’s rather nice–and also oddly apolitical.