I had a very, very ambitious 5th of April. I had decided to make my special vegan chili recipe (it is lent, after all… or was, still, when I did this excursion), and decided I wanted to drink Tannat with it. I had chosen the 2014 Flying Leap Tannat to be the pairing, but I also wanted to compare it with the same grape, grown in the same vintage from right here in the Verde Valley. To that end, I went to Dancing Apache and revisited both the 2014 Capra and the Reserve 2014 Capra, side by side… before returning home and sipping on Tannat from Willcox.
Gosh, my life sucks sometimes. Also, when I was there, they only had about 6 bottles of this vintage left so… this might now be gone when you visit. Sorry. The ambitious day apparently didn’t include writing.
The 2014 Capra here rests on the swing in front of the lodge at D. A. Ranch
The Wine: The 2014 Capra was sourced from 100% estate-grown Tannat, grown on the estate. There are two Tannat vintages sourced from this fruit per year, currently–there is a discussion about making a third vintage yearly, in the long run as a rosé, which I would be totally down with. For those in the know, 2014 was the same year as the huge Slide Fire, which burned over 21,227 acres in May-June. Smoke from this fire settled across most of the Verde Valley, which left a slight smoke taint in many red vintages of that year. This provides a slight, unique texture in this vintage, and as I mentioned in one podcast, I think smoke taint is a character that can enhance some vintages–or at least provide a unique hint of what conditions were like in that particular year.
The wine was aged in French Oak, though I’m not sure how long, or how much new oak vs. neutral, compared to the 2014 Reserve Capra, which we’ll get to in a separate entry. The wine was made at the AZ Stronghold facility but bottled at Chateau Tumbleweed. It is a deep rich purple-red in the glass, almost black.
The Nose: The nose of the 2014 Capra opens with notes of violets, Prickly pear, plum, and cassis. There are more subtle hints of anise and vanilla, sandalwood, along with incense and a slight bit of woodsmoke courtesy of the Slide fire. As the nose opens, more floral notes of iris and lilac emerge from the glass, alongside herbal notes of rosemary.
The Palate: This wine is super tannic, with a bright acidity. Sharp notes of prickly pear, raspberry, and cherry intermingle with espresso. Plum, cassis, and anise intermingle with leathery notes and smoke on the mid-palate. After opening, floral notes of lilac, along with bay leaf and white pepper emerge on the palate. The finish lasts for 1 minute and 32 seconds, with notes of black pepper, sandalwood, cherry, rosemary, and lots of tannins.
The Pairing: I want to pair this wine with grilled lamb with a prickly pear and rosemary-based marinade. For a vegan pairing, serve this wine with a lavender and rosemary infused three-bean chili.
Fun Fact about Tannat #1: Tannat is responsible in minor part for the micro-oxygenation fad, as the winemaker who invented it, Patrick Ducournau, was from the Maderan AOC. In 1990, he was experimenting with adding small, controlled amounts of oxygen into the Tannat he was fermenting, which ended up creating his process for micro-oxygenation.
Impressions: This Tannat is wild and brambly, and a lot of fun. I like it more than the 2013 I reviewed previously, and the smoke notes from the Slide fire add an additional, wild dimension to this vintage. If you’re going to drink your bottle, I recommend decanting this vintage for at least two hours; it will age for another 20, I think.
It makes me think of some sort of adventuring king who is lost in exile; brooding and bright, temperamental, shrouded in purple, plotting to retake his throne. after being ousted after some crazy adventure that got him in trouble. He is a jack of all trades, master of none (save maybe words), and you’re sitting with him in front of your campfire.
Willcox AVA Versus Verde Valley Terroir Notes: As we’ll meet the 2014 Flying Leap a little later in the blog, I’ll give some spoilers now. The main difference, I think, in terms of terroir, is that this wine lacked the dusty note I associate with Willcox. Instead, however, there was a much higher acidity, and notes of black pepper. I’m unsure whether the pepper is a note of terroir, but I’m going to say this now: the acidity is. It seems to me that wines made from Verde Valley grapes have a higher acidity on average, than those from Willcox–at least to the palate.