Burning Tree Cellars is one of the most unique tasting rooms in Arizona. Devoted to chasing the best possible fruit, wherever it comes from, their winemaker always provides a great wine, and their tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood is one of the most spectacular around. It’s a great space to hang out and have a glass.
Today we’re going to be examining The Bear, which is a great Côtes du Rhône style blend with a unique twist.
The Wine: The Bear is a 2012 vintage blend of 52% Syrah and 48% Grenache. The Fruit was sourced from several vineyards in both Arizona and California. The Syrah in this blend is, coming from Sam Pillsbury’s vineyard on the Willcox Bench, along with the Melange du Rhone Vineyard in Templeton, California. The Grenache in this blend is coming from Dragoon Vineyard (also on the Bench), along with the Carriage Vineyard, also in Templeton, Calfornia. The percentages by state come to 64% Arizona fruit, and 36% from California. This blend of fruit from two different states and regions makes this wine a unique blend to me, and it’s fun trying to parse the different terroir notes from the two different landscapes. The Bear was aged for 14 months in 20% new French Oak. 168 Cases were produced. It’s dark, garnet color is quite inviting.
The Nose: The nose of this wine is incredibly luscious, which is bringing out a little bit of the poet in me. (Or maybe it’s the booze? Whichever.) It smells a little like a raspberry rhubarb pie sitting on a windowsill next to a pepper mill while a monsoon storm rages outside, bruising the sagebrush and creosote outside the window. Soft notes of clove and rich, deep plums, jammy candied strawberries, vanilla, and boysenberries intertwine with the classic Latakia notes of Arizona Syrah.
The Palate: The spice must flow; the entire spice rack is here in this blend. There is an overwhelming sense of clove, nutmeg, tarragon, white pepper, sage, heavy vanilla, and rosemary that almost overwhelms the fruit at first examination, but after opening up, the fruit appears. Violets also intermingle with raspberry, huckleberry, jammy and sandalwood notes, along with the Latakia notes provided once again, by the Arizona Syrah in this blend. The Bear has a voluptuous mouth-feel, and a long finish which lasts for about 16 seconds. There’s also a nice acidity here, likely lent by the Arizona fruit, that would make this pretty good with food. There seems to also be a little tannin here, also, but not in overwhelming quantities.
Pairing: My first thought is to pair this wine with a green chili cheeseburger, with some muenster cheese, or a kielbasa/Polish Sausage, slow-smoked and cooked over applewood coals. A vegan pairing for this wine would be a tempeh-quinoa spaghetti sauce over bowtie pasta, with some crushed basil and chopped mushrooms.
Impressions: The Bear is quite reminiscent of a classic Côtes du Rhône, and comes across as superficially similar in flavor profile and nose to wines coming from the Vacqueyras AOC in Rhone (At least, to me). This is because I feel like the fruity characteristics clearly imparted by the Grenache in this blend really drive the Syrah into the shadows, where it provides the spice components and latakia notes that form the backbone to the nose and taste. The slight tannins in this vintage mean that you could easily cellar this for another five years if you wanted to, but it’s also great to drink now.
Because of the way the Grenache in this blend seems to take over the taste profile, this wine feels decidedly masculine to me. This wine makes me think of a younger brother, who has a penchant for long distance travel, and always brings the coolest gifts to you for Christmas, even if he does have a tendency to drop off the face of the earth from time to time. Last Christmas, he brought for you a tin of rare Turkish pipe tobacco; this year, word is he’s going to bring you a chair made from used wine barrels.