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One of the cornerstones of the Arizona wine industry, I would argue, is experimentation. We are not restricted by the rules like so many different wine regions in the Old World, and without the patina of respectability gained by California’s immense marketing budget, we have a bit of freedom with our small batch productions to do some strange and fun stuff.  A great example of this is the 2016 Skyfire, the latest release from Fire Mountain Winery in Cottonwood, Arizona.

2016 Skyfire

The 2016 Skyfire from Fire Mountain Wines is a unique take on Sauvignon Blanc

The Wine: The 2016 Skyfire is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, dry hopped with Cascade and Azaca hops. The grapes were from Carlson Creek Vineyard. The wine was aged in stainless steel; though not for very long.  The wine was hopped after fermentation for four days, then filtered and bottled. The 2016 Skyfire was made by John Scarbrough; the hops were provided by Ryan Sandlin of Dark Sky Brewery in Flagstaff, Arizona. The label painting was done by a local painter who also works in the local wine Industry. The name combines Dark Sky Brewery in Flagstaff with Fire Mountain.  Worthy of note: this wine received no sulfites other than what was naturally produced in the fermentation process, as hops have anti-microbial qualities. This wine sits a pale straw color in the glass. 16 cases of this wine were produced.

The Nose: The 2016 Skyfire opens with notes of lime peel, apricot, grass, and cantaloupe, with just the barest hint of hops. After aeration in the glass, additional notes of flint, baking spice, peach, vanilla, and lychee emerge from the glass.

The Palate: The 2016 Skyfire has exactly the sort of body you would expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. The palate opens with an explosion of hops, limes, lemongrass, and apircot. The wine has a higher acidity, but is not an acid bomb. After sitting in the glass for a while, the grassy notes intensify, intermingling with honeysuckle and anise. The finish lasts for 1 minute and 13 seconds, and is filed with notes of flint, cantaloupe, lemon, and anise. The hops add character and body; John Scarborough believes that most Arizona Sauvignon Blanc vintages are rather plain.

Pairing: I would treat this wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and pair with fried fish tacos, with coleslaw and pico de Gallo; Baja-style. A tofu style dish of similar mode would also work quite well.

Impressions: As experimental as this wine is, I have to say in a very odd fashion, I’m not sure this wine is experimental enough. The hopped Verdehlo I have had at AZ Hops N’Vines was more intense, hop wise, more reminiscent of an IPA.

That being said, I detest most IPA-style beers and do like the 2016 Skyfire. In terms of beer, I would argue that this wine would appeal most to lovers of Saison and some amber or pale ales. In terms of wines, this wine is more like a traditional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (though a little more grassy), and those who enjoy that style should grab a bottle.

I feel the personification of this wine would be a laid-back surfer artist living in Baja California who does street art for tourists with various colors of spray paint on cardboard.