Long ago in Sonoita, there was Canelo Hills Winery. The estate vineyard there, along with the facility, were bought by Flying Leap years ago, and up until a few years ago, bottles with the old Canelo Hills label were still being sold at the Willcox Flying Leap tasting room. That’s where I picked up this bottle, almost two years ago: before I even considered starting this blog. Even then, I found myself curious about Arizona Nebbiolo, so I picked this bottle up to age for a bit.
And then I forgot about it. And I’ve kept meaning to get to it eventually, which I’ve even mentioned on this blog. But when Gary called and said that he was going to watch Silence of the Lambs, and was going to cook up some goat liver… Well, I couldn’t say no. (In the book, the pairing for the census taker was not Chianti, but Barolo, which is proper. Well, for liver anyway…)
So how well does the 2009 Canelo Hills Nebbiolo hold out? Let’s find out.
The Wine: I know pathetically little about the production of this wine, I am somewhat ashamed to admit. What I do know is that the grapes for this vintage came from what was then known as Sweet Sunrise Vineyard, on the Willcox Bench. The vineyard is more famous now under the new name: Sand-Reckoner. The wine was made by the previous owners of the Flying Leap facility, Tim and Joan Mueller. If anyone has any information on the production of this wine, please let me know.
This wine is darker than most Arizona Nebbiolo wines I’ve encountered over the years, with the exception of the Paciencia, from Caduceus. That wine was a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo, though, so I’m wondering if this wasn’t technically a blend as well.
EDIT: Tim Mueller himself has commented on this post and provided me with a wealth of information on this wine. Be sure to read the comments! (Thanks, Tim, I greatly appreciate it.)
The nose: This wine is pretty subtle. But it does have the classic nose of a Barolo to me: eucalyptus, cherry, cassis, cinnamon, allspice, and anise. As the wine opens, notes of the Willcox monsoon petrochor also emerge from the glass.
Palate: The palate of this wine is as equally subtle as the nose at first, and equally as remenicent of its Italian cousin. The wine itself is quite juicy, and still holds great acidity. It’s not nearly as tannic to me as a Barolo of similar age would be, however. Mint, eucalyptus, cherry, cassis, cinnamon, and cedar, form the opening salvo of the palate. As the wine opens, the flavor notes intensify, and more classic terroir notes that I associate with Willcox emerge on the palate; tobacco and earth. The finish of this wine is acidic, earthy, slightly tannic, with notes of cherry, tobacco, mint and black tea, lasting for 1 minute and 9 seconds.
The Pairing: Treat this wine as you would a true Barolo of an older vintage. Yes, that does mean liver and fava beans are an option. (As are corndogs and onion rings, which is what we actually ended up with when we decided liver was not our jam.) For a vegetarian pairing, serve this wine with a truffle-based dish, possibly even a macaroni and cheese with melted manchego, romano, and gouda would do the trick. (A full on vegan pairing could be a nice risotto.)
Impressions: I won’t lie, I honestly expected and worried that this bottle was going to be past its prime and had brought a Sangiovese just in case. Instead, I found myself pleasantly suprised. I feel like this wine is peaking now, so if you have this bottle, drink it now (or in the next few months). The reason why I say that is because this reminds me a great deal of a 2001 Barolo I drank last year that was supposedly peaking at the time. On that note, the Canelo Hills Nebbiolo is, by far, the most Italian Nebbiolo I’ve encountered in AZ, and is better than most Barolo style wines I’ve drank coming from Mexico.
While I personally feel that Arizona should do its own style of wine from this grape (and I dig our rosé wines made from this grape quite a bit), it’s nice to see that we can do the classic Italian style some vintages.
As for the personification of this Old-world style wine? I feel this wine is a writer, long celebrated, trying a new form to his story. Something silly, that raises points about how we view the world. I was reminded a little bit of Baudolino, by Umberto Eco as a result of this thought process so, I’m going to go with that. His writings have held up as well as this wine has, so far.