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In the Midwestern United States, there is one grape that seems to reign supreme for semi-sweet and sweeter white wines: Vignoles. In Arizona, however, there is (so far) only one vineyard growing this varietal: Del Rio Springs, in Paulden.  The 2015 Dolce Bianco is the first wine in Arizona to be made with this varietal. I’m a little late on the uptake for this review, as I wanted to see how this wine would cellar for a while… which means there are only five bottles left at the winery if dessert wines are your jam.  Oops.

2015 Dolce Bianco

Vignoles is a grape with a secret history… kind of like Carmen Sandiego, actually.

The Grape: Vignoles, as I mentioned before, is a pretty common grape grown throughout the Midwest and Eastern US, often made into dessert wines. (It is especially common in Missouri and the Finger Lakes.) It is a complex hybrid cross that has a bit of a mysterious character, as nobody is quite certain what grapes were used to create this varietal (Genetic testing has seemingly disproven the theory that Pinot Noir and Seibal. It is cold-hardy, and of course, a white varietal.  This cold-hardiness is what allows this grape to grow rather well in the Paulden area.

The Wine: The 2015 Dolce Bianco is technically a blend of mostly Vignoles and a tiny bit of Riesling, sourced from the Del Rio Springs Estate Vineyard in Paulden, Arizona.  This Medium-bodied dessert wine was fermented in stainless steel.  The wine itself is a bright lotus yellow in shade.  I am not sure off hand how much residual sugar is present in this vintage, but I know this vintage was a late harvest.  Based on the palate, I would guess this vintage has about 5% residual sugar.

The Nose: While Vignoles is not a grape I am extensively familiar with, I have had a few from Missouri and Kansas, and overall, the nose of the 2015 Dolce Bianco is quite reminiscent of those few vintages I’ve experienced. Striking aromas of pineapple, key lime, mango, acacia blossom, and mango.  As the wine opens up, additional aromas of honeysuckle, vanilla, and apricot emerge.

The Palate: Again, this wine is pretty much standard compared to the few Vignoles vintages I’ve tasted over the years. Bright flavors of Pineapple, Mango, Apricot, and Starfruit create an opening salvo in this medium-bodied dessert wine, intermingling with notes of acacia blossom, honeysuckle, and a creamy meringue character on the finish, with just a hint of petrol.  What does make this wine noticeably different from the 2015 Dolce Bianco’s bretheren is a distinct, ashy/clay note on the finish, very reminiscent of the geological makeup of the vineyard–a hint of local terroir.  The finish of this wine lasts for 40 seconds, with notes of pineapple, honeysuckle, apricot, and that aforementioned clay character, along with the sweetness as you’d expect from a dessert wine.

The Pairing: Pair this wine with Creme brulee, or better yet, Indian food.  Anything with a fair amount of coconut, such as Thai dishes, will also work well with this wine.

Impressions: Vignoles is a grape that seems well-suited to the cooler climates in Arizona, such as Paulden.  I suspect it may also do well along parts of the Mogollon Rim, so I’m glad that Rick Sklazdien is pioneering the ground with trying out this grape at his vineyard site.  If you like unusual dessert wines or are a Midwestern transplant that misses the wines of their homeland, I recommend trying to track down a bottle of the 2015 Dolce Bianco.  The combination of high acidity and residual sugar should also allow this wine to age reasonably well over the next 5 years or so if you wish to cellar this wine.

Personified, this grape is a woman who spent some time as a spy.  She is blonde, and fond of big hats and tan coats. She is *slightly* less mysterious than her sister who got her very own PBS Show, but is also far more friendly.  She now works as a high school history teacher.