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Laramita Cellars is a new wine label (relatively speaking) in Arizona, that just had its inaugural release party last month at AZ Wine Company in Willcox. While I wasn’t able to attend the release party, I did make it down to Phoenix the next day to get a bottle of his Rosé, and Greg Gonnerman, the owner, and producer, was kind enough to give me a bottle of his 2016 Roussanne as well. Readers may know Greg as the owner-grower of Chiricahua Ranch Vineyards also, though I don’t think I’ve reviewed anything that’s come from fruit he’s grown yet, other than the podcast I recorded with Amber Gates and the Sand-Reckoner Vermentino last fall.

The name of the winery connected to an obscure piece of Arizona history: the small town of Laramita was once the first port of entry into Arizona from Mexico. Eventually, the town went defunct, and now only exists as a concrete marker in the desert somewhere near Douglas. (Also, expressed in two words, it means “the twig.”)

2016 Roussanne

The 2016 Roussanne from Laramita Cellars, against a morning sky with gathering clouds.

The Wine: The grapes for the 2016 Roussanne were sourced from Greg Gonnerman’s vineyard, Chiricahua Ranch Vineyards. It is 100% Roussanne. The wine itself was made at the Sand-Reckoner Vineyards production site. Greg made the overarching decisions, while Rob Hammelman oversaw the daily winemaking tasks throughout fermentation and aging. I feel like this wine may have undergone a partial MLF but I could be wrong. The wine was fermented and aged in neutral French oak, and is a vibrant straw gold color.

EDIT: Greg Gonnerman reports the following: “The Roussanne was partially fermented in neutral oak and partially fermented in stainless. After fermentation everything went into stainless. Based on the fluctuations of pH post primary fermentation we believe that it went through a partial MLF before being sulfured.”  

The Nose: Apple and baking spices are the predominant opening notes to the nose of the 2016 Roussanne. These notes intermingle with honey, peach, Juan Canary melons, Meyer lemon, and floral notes of chamomile, and cliff rose. As the wine opens up, a scent like crushed flint emerges.

The Palate: This full-bodied white wine opens with explosive flavors of green apple and vanilla baking spices, which intermingle with starfruit, melon, crushed flint, chamomile, and white tea. There is a touch of thyme on the mid palate along with a creamy vanilla texture that I suspect owes more to the barrel fermentation than any sort of malolactic fermentation on the finish which fades into flint and flowers, lasting for 40 seconds. This wine has a medium acidity.

The Pairing: I want to pair the 2016 Roussanne with duck tacos, or fried fish tacos, but it will pair with a wide variety of foods.  I myself accidentally paired this wine with a slightly spicy orange sesame chicken and it worked very well.  For a vegetarian pairing, I would use jackfruit as a fake bbq dish.

Impressions: In the past, honestly, I’ve been kind of on the fence about Roussanne; wanting to like it, but usually finding it underwhelming.

To me, this vintage is the first vintage of this varietal that actually lives up to the hype of this grape. I don’t know whether it’s the quality of the fruit that this wine was made from (Greg Gonnerman does grow some beautiful grapes, from all accounts), or that I just prefer Rob Hammelman’s winemaking style over others who have made wines from this grape, but I dig it.  I’m looking really forward to drinking the Orange wine Rob made from grapes from the same vineyard, harvested the same day to see how it compares (and frankly, because I love Orange Wines).

Personified, the 2016 Roussanne would be a stellar photographer and photojournalist, who is down to earth and dabbles with fusion cuisine in their spare time.