Southwest Wine Center: 2016 Sunlight


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As I’ve mentioned before, the Southwest Wine Center is a fantastic resource for future winemakers in Arizona, with a full production winery and vineyard for students to get hands-on practice with the specific viticultural conditions within the state of Arizona. The 2016 Sunlight is, to my knowledge, the second wine made with estate Verde Valley fruit, and the first white! Let’s dig in.

2016 Sunlight

The 2016 Sunlight, from the Southwest Wine Center, at dawn.

The Wine: The 2016 Sunlight is a blend of 62% Malvasia Bianca, 38% Viognier, sourced from the vineyards at the Southwest Wine Center.  It is the second estate wine released by the college. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, and then aged in neutral American oak. It is a bright straw yellow in color.

The Nose: The nose of the 2016 Sunlight is heavily influenced by the Malvasia in this blend.  This wine has aromas of fresh green growing things, apricot, flowers, grass, peach, quince, jasmine, and cliff rose, intermingling with a hint of white pepper and meyer lemon.

The Palate: While the nose is Malvasia influenced, the palate is heavily influenced by the Viognier. The 2016 Sunlight is a medium-bodied white wine with medium acidity. Notes of apricot, siltstone, citrus, white pepper, and apple intermingle with honeydew melon, guava, and the telltale floral notes of Malvasia.  The finish has notes of baking spices, guava, limestone, and lasts for 40 seconds.

The Pairing: I want to pair this wine with enchiladas, made of chicken and green chili. It would work with Thai food, but not as well as most full Malvasia vintages.

Impressions: The 2016 Sunlight is an intriguing blend that holds much promise, though I personally found it a little underwhelming and disjointed, and was missing something; maybe acidity, maybe something else. The Viognier and Malvasia, I feel, did not integrate terribly well with one another, but it is possible that this wine will further integrate over time, and I imbibed this wine too young.

Furthermore, I feel that if this wine had an additional varietal, say Picpoul, this wine would have totally been a rock star. I know that Picpoul is grown at the college, but I’m unsure when the ETA for the first harvest of that crop is. A similar blend with even 10% Picpoul would truly shine like a beacon, in my opinion.


Update: A Weekend in Willcox


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So life took a strange, unexpected turn last week, and things did not go nearly as well as I planned. As a result, I ended up in Willcox for the weekend, visiting a few friends, tasting a few wines, and also helping the winery I work for as my day job (Passion Cellars) get ready for our first grapes of the year.  Suffice to say, I needed to take my mind off a few things that went dreadfully, shockingly wrong.

Here are a few highlights; Wine reviews should resume next week.

Gary Kurtz, of Greater Than Wine, is doing an Orange Chardonnay this year; here’s a punchdown on said fruit.

Here, Gary is checking a hydrometer to measure residual sugar content, to see if the wine has finished fermenting. He plans to leave it on the skins for an additional two weeks after fermentation is complete.

Malvasia Bianca grapes and the 2016 Vintage at Bodega Pierce

A weekend in Willcox

Fearless and Fun Wine Folk on the Bench. From Left to Right: Gary Kurtz, Robert Carlson, Dan Pierce, and Jeff Hendricks.

Lisa Strid, of Aridus, running me through a barrel tasting.

A weekend in Willcox

Cleaning barrels and bins at Passion Cellars

A weekend in Willcox

Chardonnay grapes at Carlson Creek Vineyards

A weekend in Willcox

Vermentino at Chiricahua Ranch Vineyards

Jason lifting off a tote of Chardonnay, pressed and ready to begin fermentation soon, sourced from Carlson Creek

A weekend in Willcox

Dry Ice Clouds

A weekend in Willcox

A friend of mine came up and shared their bottle of the 2015 Colibri GSM Rosé, from Burning Tree Cellars. It is a blend of 37% Syrah, 35% Mourvedére, and 28% Grenache.


Zarpara Vineyards: 2013 Odisea


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Zarpara Vineyards, on the heart of the Willcox Bench, is one of my favorite vineyards. It has been well known for a while when it comes to producing really great wines, but they are vintages which are difficult for me to get ahold of here in my mountaintop lair.  I picked up this bottle way back in January during the AWGA awards Gala and wine festival.  I was craving Tempranillo this week, especially considering the recipe I was planning, and I remembered the 2013 Odisea being quite good when I tasted it at the festival… so I decided to crack my bottle open.

2013 Odisea

The 2013 Odisea against a wine-dark sky. Homer the Poet would be proud.

The Wine: As one might expect from a Vineyard who’s name comes from the Spanish word for “set sail,” the name of the 2013 Odisea is a nautical theme: derived from the second of Homer’s epic tales. This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Syrah, and 10% Garnacha, from the Zarpara estate vineyard in the Willcox AVA.  The Tempranillo in this blend was on the skins for 21 days. Then, it was aged in new American (Appalachian) oak for about 6 months, while the rest of the time was spent in neutral oak, with a total of 20 months in barrel. The Syrah and Grenache in this blend were both aged in neutral oak. 65 cases were produced, and at 14.5%, this wine is pretty big.  The 2013 Odisea is a rich, deep, ruby-red.

The Nose: When the bottle is first opened, prior to decanting, this wine opens with notes of coffee, chocolate, petrichor, and plum, with hints of lilac, lavender, and frankincense.  After a two hour decant, the floral notes on the nose fade, and notes of nutmeg, star anise, plum, cassis, and eucalyptus emerge, intermingling with the earlier notes I mentioned, along with that classic Willcox dust.

The Palate: Prior to decanting, the 2013 Odisea opens with notes of vanilla, cedar, plum, and cherry, with hints of rosemary and dust. There are a hefty dose of tannins to be found on the palate as well, and the acidity in this full-bodied red wine is pretty high.  Early in the game, the finish has notes of rosemary, cherry, lavender, and dust, lasting for only 28 seconds.  After a two hour decant, additional notes of cinnamon, eucalyptus, nutmeg, lilac, and coffee emerge on the palate, and the finish lasts for 41 seconds. After an extended decant (open for a day), additional notes of Cavendish tobacco, dark chocolate, and coffee emerge, intermingling with all the aforementioned characteristics, and the finish lasts for a full minute.

The Pairing: I paired the 2013 Odisea with a pork roast I made in my crockpot, with green chiles, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and potatoes, and it worked beautifully.  Any sort of Spanish-style pork dish will work well with this wine, as that is the traditional pairing for Tempranillo-based vintages in general.  It is big enough to work with steak, or roasted mushrooms.  Heavy, vegetarian-themed Mexican food would also work really well with this wine.

Impressions: If you try to drink this wine without decanting, you’re going to have a bad time; it’s still good, but more one dimensional at that time. The 2013 Odisea needs at least a two hour decant to really shine forth, or an aerator.  In fact, I felt this wine was at its best after being open for almost two full days.  Patience is going to be your friend with this bottle.  Savor it, slowly.  I would even recommend cellaring this bottle for at least another three years, if not more.

I would even recommend cellaring this bottle for at least another three years, if not more. But your patience will be immensely rewarded, and if you love Tempranillo (especially vintages coming from Ribero del Duero rather than Rioja), this wine is NOT to be missed. While I don’t normally place value judgments on the wines I drink publically in this blog, I’d rank the 2013 Odisea as among the top 4 Tempranillo vintages currently being offered in the state.

The 2013 Odisea wears a bright red dress that hugs her curves, revealing a tattoo on her back shoulders in Sanskrit. She likes singing opera, sea-shanties, and Homer in its original Greek Hexameters.  She carries a knife inlaid with mother-of-pearl and turquoise.  She’s difficult to get to know, but once you do, she’s a lot of fun to hang out with.

2013 Odisea

Another shot of the 2013 Odisea against a monsoon rainbow.

Bodega Pierce: 2015 Rosé


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As much as I hate to say this, the summer of Rosé reviews is almost over; I have just a few more vintages of Rosé in my stash. (Now that being said, there are plenty of fantastic Arizona Rosé wines I just won’t have time to get to, either because I don’t have them or because I just don’t have the time to examine almost 50 different vintages of this fantastic style.) That being said, I have saved this bottle for towards the end of this exploration, due to the high accolades the 2015 Bodega Pierce Rosé obtained at the Arizona Republic/AWGA gala all the way back in January.

2015 Bodega Pierce Rosé

The 2015 Rosé from Bodega Pierce in the refreshing waters of Bitter Creek.

The Wine: The 2015 Bodega Pierce Rosé is made of 100% Grenache, sourced from Rolling View Vineyards, in the heart of the Willcox AVA. According to Michael Pierce, the winemaker, this pick of Grenache was made earlier than the remainder of the fruit which was destined to be made as a red wine. The purpose for the slightly earlier pick was to retain acidity. The fruit went straight to press and was settled in stainless.  This vintage then underwent fermentation in barrel, with no ML and with a few weeks sur lie aging. The wine is a salmon pink hue. This wine won Best Rosé in the AWGA/Arizona Republic competition last January (if I’m remembering right; I can’t seem to find the actual award listing anywhere.)

The Nose: The wine opens with notes of apricot, peach, nectarine, and raspberry, intermingling with hints of mint, goji berry, and crushed grass. As this wine opens, additional notes of hibiscus and rosehips emerge from the glass, as well as a scent reminiscent of toasted sourdough bread, and a hint of citrus.

The Palate: The 2015 Bodega Pierce Rosé is a full-bodied Rosé with medium acidity. Apricot, peach, and raspberry notes are repeated on the palate, with additional hints of vanilla, grass, and mint. The finish of this wine lasts for about 30 seconds, with notes of apricot, pomelo, sea-salt, and limestone rounding out the palate.   

The Pairing: Since this is a fuller-bodied Rosé, this wine allows for a different suite of pairing options. I personally would pair this wine with some sort of quiche featuring a trinity of gruyere, green chile, and bacon…. or a really nice gyro. I could also envision this wine pairing well with salmon, or some sort of lighter, mushroom-themed pasta dish.  Suffice to say I feel this wine will be very versatile.

Impressions: The 2015 Bodega Pierce Rosé is a beach bum, who prefers to spend his time searching for sunken pirate treasure throughout the summer, and works as a chef in the off season, when it’s too cold to be at the Beach. Once he strikes it rich, he hopes to build his own restaurant.

You *could* cellar this wine for another year, but personally, I’d serve it with a nice summer brunch right about… Now.

2015 Bodega Pierce Rosé

It was really hard to decide which of these photos to use… so why not both?

Sand-Reckoner: 2014 Malvasia Bianca


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I still have a few rosé wines left to poke at for the summer, but since my bottle of the Sand-Reckoner rosé is earmarked for a Nebbiolo podcast to happen at a later date… I decided to drink something a little different. Besides, you all know me, I can’t say no to Malvasia. With that in mind, I decided to trek to the Verde River near Perkinsville and crack open my bottle of his 2014 Malvasia Bianca. (Hopefully, Heather will review her bottle of this soon; it was part of an Arizona Wine Evangelism pack I sent her a while back, along with a few other fun bottles.)

2014 Malvasia Bianca

Here, we see the 2014 Malvasia Bianca from Sand-Reckoner in its natural habitat, at the edge of the Verde River.

The Wine: Sourced from the Willcox Bench, the 2014 Malvasia Bianca is a blend of 50% Malvasia Bianca from Rob’s Estate vineyard, and 50% from Rolling View Vineyard, down the road.  The grapes spent an average of 12 hours soaking on the skins.  This vintage was barrel fermented in neutral oak, and aged on the lees for 8 months. This wine is a bright, cheerful straw or sunflower yellow in color.

The Nose: The nose opens up with notes of straw, elderflower, honeysuckle, jasmine, grass, and vanilla, intermingling with notes of pineapple and apricot.

The Palate: The palate is also intensely grassy, with additional notes of jasmine, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, wood, Meyer lemon, with high acidity.  The finish is short, lasting for 44 seconds, but packed with floral notes, mango, and the intense minerality I associate with white wines from Willcox.

The Pairing: As with most Malvasia vintages, you can easily pair this wine with Thai Food. However, Hatch Green Chilis are in right now, and the flavor profile of this unique southwestern food would go well with this unique southwestern wine, so why not make some green chili chicken enchiladas or some fancy mac and cheese with green chili?

Impressions: The 2014 Malvasia Bianca is another home run from Hammelman, a great summer wine. As many of you know, I dearly love Arizona Malvasia, and I feel that Rob is a master with it. This wine is bright and refreshing, like green growing things in the desert, or ent-draught in the morning at Wellinghall.  I also suspect this vintage will age quite well, and as it ages, the grassy notes will fade, being replaced by notes of honey, figs, and apricots.

As many of you know, I dearly love Arizona Malvasia, and I feel that Rob is a master with it. This wine is bright and refreshing, like green growing things in the desert, or ent-draught in the morning at Wellinghall.  I also suspect this vintage will age quite well. As it ages, the grassy notes will fade, being replaced by notes of honey, figs, and apricots.  You could probably cellar this bottle for about six more years quite easily.

Personified, this wine is a hippie gardener, fond of lush, growing herbs and flowers.

Callaghan Vineyards: 2014 Sonoita Grenache Rosé


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Many of you know that, by and large, I’m not a huge fan of Arizona Grenache as a stand-alone varietal wine, but there are some exceptions to that rule. Most of those, in fact, come in the form of rosé. In fact, I feel that Grenache is probably one of the top rosé grapes for Arizona production. One of those aforementioned exceptions this year is the 2014 Sonoita Grenache Rosé, from Callaghan Vineyards. Kent’s rosé is pretty good; long-time readers may remember my review of his 2013 vintage.

2014 Sonoita Grenache Rosé

The 2014 Sonoita Dry Grenache Rosé: a fun wine to sip in the mountain forest.

The Wine: This wine was made with 100% Grenache, sourced from Kent Callaghan’s estate vineyard in the Sonoita AVA.  The wine was on the skins for 18 hours, before press, and then underwent fermentation and aging in neutral barrels. The wine is a lovely salmon pink, with a slight orange tinge.

The Nose:  The biggest note in the aroma of this wine when first poured into the glass is blood orange, which I found to be pretty awesome.  Additional notes of raspberry, apricot, rosehips, intermingling with gardenia, honeysuckle, and cliff rose.  Hints of vanilla, petrichor, and bay leaves round out the nose.

The Palate:  This wine has lots of juicy acidity, with notes of tangerine and pomelo, intermingling with honeysuckle, apricot, and sage. The 2014 Sonoita Grenache Rosé has an earthy mid-palate as well.  The finish lasts for 38 seconds, with notes of sage, sea salt, rosehips, and blood orange.  It is a unique flavor profile.

The Pairing: Because of the unique flavor profile of the 2014 Sonoita Grenache Rosé, my first instinct is to pair this wine with Korean BBQ, more than anything else. It would also work with bratwurst and other summer cook-out foods as well. You could also pair this wine with a mountain forest on a mid-summer’s day like I did.

Impressions: I really dig the 2014 Sonoita Grenache Rosé, more than the 2013 vintage. It’s also completely different from the Waverly Rosé, also in Kent’s tasting room right now, which is also good.  (I’ll likely be reviewing that before the end of summer.)  I’d drink this now if you have it, but the acidity should allow it to age for another year or so.

This wine, personified, *is* the woman on the label.  It is a fantastic personification of summer. Sometimes, you just need to lay down on your back in a mountain forest with a good glass of Rosé.

Podcast: Flying Leap Vineyards Unión de Tres Rojos, with Richard Barrett


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This Warning: this might be the nerdiest podcast I’ve ever done. EVER. But those who are geeks about music history, Byzantine chant, Bordeaux Blends, Orthodox Theology, Baroque Music, or all of the above will probably like this episode quite a bit.

Unión de Tres Rojos

The Unión de Tres Rojos is a lovely Bordeaux-style blend made from grapes from both Sonoita and Willcox, AZ

In this episode, my girlfriend and I sit with Richard Barrett, a member of Capella Romana, and his wife Megan Barrett. Along with wine, (the Unión de Tres Rojos, from Flying Leap Vineyards) we also talk Byzantine music, focusing (sort of) on the evolution of said music from Greco-Roman Roots, the flexibility of Byzantine Chant… and why if it’s not Baroque, you shouldn’t fix it. And a lot of other things!

The reason for the choice of the Unión de Tres Rojos, as you might expect, was theological in origin: what better choice of a wine to drink when we’re chatting about topics tangential to Eastern Orthodox Theology?

For those interested in Byzantine Music/Chant, Richard Barrett will be starting his own podcast soon on Ancient Faith Radio, which I will link here as soon as it’s started up.

Cellar Dwellers Wine Co: 2016 Cicada Rosé


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The hot Arizona summer is typified (to me, at least) by the loud buzzing of cicadas hidden in what greenery remains alive as the sun burns its way across the landscape, and the fruity bite of a chilled glass of rosé as I try to beat that heat. The 2016 Cicada Rosé neatly forms the center of a Venn diagram for me. Therefore, this wine to me strikes me as a potential archetype for “summer rosé,” which is why I’ve saved this wine for towards the end of our Summer of Rosé.

2016 Cicada Rosé

The 2016 Cicada Rosé, at Watson Lake, near Prescott.

The Wine:  The 2016 Cicada Rosé is made from 100% Sangiovese, sourced from Carlson Creek Vineyard in the Willcox AVA.  The grapes were cold-soaked for about three days, then pressed.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel, then aged for four months in barrels of Neutral French Oak. The winemaker was John Scarbrough. It is a light, yet vibrant rose-pink shade.

The Nose: This wine opens with floral aromas of Gardenia, honeysuckle, and lilac, intermingling with more prosaic notes of rosehips, strawberry, and raspberry.  As the wine opens, additional notes of sea salt and toasted marshmallow emerge from the glass.

The Palate:  The 2016 Cicada Rosé opens with notes of crisp red apple, intermingling with notes of raspberry, white cherry, yeasty character, rosehips, vanilla, and rosemary. This wine is light and airy, with good acidity. The finish lasts for 39 seconds, with notes of bitter herbs, notes of bee mint, red fruits, limestone minerality, rosehips, and lilac.

The Pairing: I want to pair this wine with a shrimp-based pasta (scampi, or some sort of garlic parmesan number). Sharp white cheeses will also work, as will salmon or scallops.  Or, a hot summer day.

Impressions: The 2016 Cicada Rosé is a great rosé that actually reminds me a little of Muscadet, due to that slight yeasty character on the palate.  It is a fun summer Sangiovese; something not to be sneezed at.

A little light, a little airy, this wine makes me think of an artistic hippy fond of wearing pink, who has an entomology background.  She makes homemade jewelry on Etsy from dried iridescent beetles, or hand-forges insects from silver and gold using the lost-wax method.


This wine is delicately feminine

delicately feminine.

Verde Valley Wine Consortium Podcast #1: Marselan


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Marselan! In this podcast, sponsored by the Verde Valley Wine Consortium (and hopefully the start of a new sub-series), a few of us sat down and explored this fascinating Cabernet Sauvignon x Grenache cross. We drank three bottles; two from Page Springs Cellars, and one from Jerome Winery. Take a listen!