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I’ve been getting into Counoise lately thanks both to the little bit in the blend for the 2014 Supernova from Deep Sky Vineyard, as well as the excellent Rosé from oDDity I tasted at the Verde Valley Wine Festival (which will be getting its own entry later, as well as being one of the featured wines in the next issue of The Noise). I remembered I had this bottle of the 2014 Counoise I obtained after a day of bottling at Page Springs and decided to finally give it a taste.

2014 Counoise

The 2014 Counoise from Colibri, made by Page Springs Cellars. Note that pale color.

The Wine: The Page Springs Cellars 2014 Counoise is 100% Counoise, sourced from Colibri Vineyard in the Chiricahua Mountains, between the towns of Paradise and Portal.  I’ve talked a bit about this vineyard and it’s unique geological setting and terroir in the past. I’m not sure what this wine was aged in, but judging by the palate, I would have guessed new oak of some kind; more on that in a bit.  The wine was made by the PSC team at the cellar and production facility for PSC in Cornville, AZ.  It is a very rustic, pale, translucent rose-red color.

The Nose: Counoise, from what research I’ve done, is often described as a delicate grape. The biggest thing I get on the nose of this wine off the bat is an overwhelming (for such a delicate wine) aroma of cedar, which clouds much of the other scents in this wine. This is an aroma I normally associate with the use of new oak, which is something I feel should not have been done in this vintage–unless this is the typical white pepper aroma normal to Colibri taken up to an extreme. (Which I doubt because I seem to be getting entirely separate notes of white pepper, unless I really have no idea what white pepper is like.) Additional notes of forest floor, blueberry, rosemary, papaya, strawberry, and clove emerge from the glass when the wine is left to sit open for a few minutes. On day 2, the oak notes are more muted, allowing for the fruit to emerge.

The Palate: This light-bodied red has very high acidity–which apparently is the norm for Counoise. The wine opens with notes of cedar, sandalwood, and white pepper, with notes of cherry, boysenberry, mint, and dragonfruit.  The finish lasts for 1 minute and 3 seconds, with notes of blueberry, sour papaya, white pepper, clove, and cinnamon.  As the wine opens further, it gains a sort of juicy-fruit flavor bubble gum note that reminds me a lot of the Idiopinkracy.

The Pairing: I paired the 2014 Counoise with some cheeseburgers, which worked really well; the high acidity of this wine cut through the fat. You could also pair this wine with brisket or ribs, depending on the spices and sauces used.  For a vegetarian pairing, a stew or chili might work, as might gardenburgers.

Impressions: If this wine was aged in new oak, whether French, American, or Hungarian, I feel like it was a bad call.  My personal opinion is that a grape this delicate should probably be treated like a Pinot noir–but then so many American Pinot Noir vintages from California are also getting slammed with new oak.  Now, that being said, Colibri is known for having a unique spicy character, so it is possible that I’m misreading these characters differently in this 2014 Counoise because I’m more used to how this particular spice characteristic manifests in Syrah, Grenache, or Mourvedre coming from this site, and perhaps Counoise is affected differently.

That being said, there are some flavor notes in common with this vintage, the latest vintage of the Incanto Rosé (which has some Counoise), and the Idiopinkracy Rosé from oDDity Wine CollectiVe: a sort of bubblegum/passionfruit/papaya note on the palate and the nose. Furthermore, as much as I like the idea of Counoise as an alternative to Pinot Noir in Arizona over Grenache, my understanding (courtesy of Bryce Strickland of Deep Sky) is that it is really difficult to farm and doesn’t like the monsoons too much.

Personified, the 2014 Counoise makes me think of a renegade hipster chef, fond of fusion cuisine.  You might not always like what she’s offering up on any given day, but it’s always interesting, novel, and unique, and worthy of exploration.

In The Vineyard: Bryce Strickland, head of farming at the Deep Sky Vineyard (which I think has the largest planting of this grape in the state), has the following to say about farming this varietal: “It’s actually kind of a challenge to grow this varietal in the sense of when to pull the fruit off at the right brix. It just seems to kind of want to keep going and going…the monsoons seem to mess it up more than other variety. Soil type and irrigation regimes appear to make a big difference in quality. [It’s] Also very prone to fungus due to cluster density combined with big ass grape size.”

2014 Counoise

Another view, at sunset, you can see just how pale this wine is. This, from what I’ve heard, is normal for Counoise.