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I’ve had this bottle with its hauntingly apocalyptic label in my stash for a while, and I decided on the morning of April 5th that it would pair quite well with the vegan chili I had decided to make… and therefore, I had no choice. (For the recipe exploits, follow the series on Instagram. I tried to make it humorous. Hopefully, I succeeded.) After spending the day revisiting Verde Valley vintages of Tannat from the same year, with two glasses at D.A. Ranch, I then drank the Flying Leap 2014 Tannat bottle in the evening.

The real reason I did this, for the record, is because I wanted to see what particular flavors could be construed as artifacts of differing terroir within those regions, not just because I really felt like drinking most of my day off.  I felt that comparing the same grape from the same vintage might provide some definitive clues about what constitutes specific terroir within different regions of Arizona.  Not only that, Tannat is a fascinating grape, and decidedly among my favorites worldwide… let alone within Arizona. This particular vintage also recently won a gold medal at a wine competition in San Diego, so it’s been in the news lately.

2014 Tannat

The 2014 Tannat from Flying Leap, gains floral notes after decanting for a few hours.

The Wine: Sourced from Flying Leap’s Willcox block 2 Vineyard, the 2014 Tannat aged for 14 months in barrel, sleeping in a selection of mixed new, 1, and 2-year-old French Oak barrels. The label design, according to a conversation I had with Mark Beres a year ago, was purposely designed to be somewhat apocalyptic in appearance–and I really dig it. As I mentioned above, this Tannat won a gold medal at a recent competition in San Diego. This wine was made by Rolf Sasse and the Flying Leap team in their winery in Sonoita. Like most Arizona Tannat vintages, this wine is a dark, brooding violet in the glass.

The Nose: The nose opens with notes of dark fruit: cassis, pomegranate, dark cherry, plum, and the telltale scent of Willcox dust.  Hints of mint and petrichor also emerge from the glass, intermingling with subtle notes of lilac, vanilla, and violets.  As the wine opens up, additional notes of perique pipe tobacco, rosemary, black pepper, and cinnamon emerge, making for a rich sensory experience.

The Palate: The palate upon opening the bottle is rather tightly-wound. Notes of sour cherry, prickly pear, and cassis intermingle in the opening with star anise, elderberry, and pomegranate.  There are intense tannins that bind the wine together. It has a more abrupt midpalate just out of the bottle than the earlier two Tannat wines we’ve been examining.  The acidity of this wine is less prominent than the Verde Valley vintages as well.  The finish just out of the bottle lasts for exactly 1 minute, with notes of Willcox dust, prickly pear, and cassis with an intense tannic backbone. After decanting for two hours, this wine gains notes of cedar, and the fruit notes separate from the tight, leathery tannins, which are still present.  Floral notes also emerge on the palate at this time. The finish, after decanting, lasts for a minute and 10 seconds.

The Pairing: I paired this wine with the spicy vegan chili I made, which I will one day actually write down the recipe for… or probably write it down and post it in my friend’s vegan food blog… anyway, the point is, I more or less designed this recipe around what I remembered this wine to have tasted like, and it worked beautifully: the combination of spices and savory flavors meshed well with this wine, so that particular combination is what you should seek.  A carnivorous option would be lamb or steak… or a non-vegan chili with the same collection of spices: rosemary, chili, paprika, basil, and garlic.

Impressions: In the same way that I have been collecting Capra vintages from D.A. Ranch for a vertical tasting, I am planning on doing the same for Flying Leap Tannat vintages.  I still have one bottle left.  I have heard hints that the 2015 vintage tastes even better.  I may need a new wine fridge soon for all this research.  I digress.

I strongly recommend cellaring this vintage for another few years, or at least decanting for two hours if you’re going to drink this wine now.  The 2014 Tannat from Flying Leap will only get better with age.

Personified, this Tannat is lurking in between our other vintages in our research binge; more mature than the 2014 Capra, but less professorial than the reserve. Think part-time associate professor of history or literature, rather than a full-time tenured one.

2014 tannat

Beware the Tannat in the Tall Grass.

Thoughts about Arizona Tannat in General:  Overall, Tannat seems to be the one grape that does great in the three major wine regions of Arizona: the Verde, Sonoita AVA, and the Willcox AVA. I would be intrigued to see what this grape might do in Chino Valley, but due to the colder environs, I am unsure that this would be a wise course.  (Then again, since Tannat does tend to bud out later than some other varietals, it might pass through unscathed).  As for specific terroir, I’d argue that while Willcox Terroir can be decidedly parsed by the specific flavor and scent of the dust of the Willcox Bench, for the Verde Valley, it’s more of an impression of higher acidity. More research is required on my part.