Malbec is, despite its popularity in the general market, is not a grape you see being made or grown very commonly in Arizona yet, but it is becoming more commonplace. It also is, admittedly, a grape that, with all the love and excitement I give to Malvasia and Sangiovese and Graciano, I tend to forget about. (No, really.) So when Sam Pillsbury in a recent article from the Phoenix New Times mentioned that the most underrated Arizona wine he’d tasted was a Malbec from Coronado Vineyards, I said, “Wait… I have that bottle. I forgot I had it. I don’t know why I’ve been saving it. I mean to drink it months ago. Oops. Silly me. I should drink it and take some notes.”
So, readers, I did. Out in the desert (and then with a friend a few days later).
Coronado Vineyards 2014 Malbec with ruins in the desert.
The Wine: This vintage is 100% estate Malbec, grown on site. Coronado Vineyards grows off of the bench, on a deposit of Precambrian granite, so the terroir here is slightly different than the Willcox Bench, but we’ll get into that in a bit when we talk about the taste. I am unsure how long the wine was aged in barrel, or how it was fermented, but if I had to guess, I would venture to say this wine was aged in at least 20% new French oak. This wine is a very dark, rich, plum-purple in color.
The Nose: The nose of this wine is filled with aromas of plum, cherry, mulberry, and coffee, intermingling with notes of Virginia Burley tobacco, leather, and black pepper. As the wine opens, notes of granite gravel and anise emerge from the glass. I suspect this wine was aged in French oak, due to the rich aromas of vanilla and butterscotch I get on the nose of this vintage.
The Palate: The overall impression of the palate is that this wine tastes purple. No, really! Black cherry, Pomegranate, Plum, Raspberry, Blackberry, and Blueberry notes all are present, intermingling with nutmeg, cinnamon, leather, earth and coffee notes. As the wine opens, notes imparted by the oak: vanilla, wood, and earth, dramatically intensify. The finish of this wine lasts for 2 minutes and 3 seconds, and is filled with notes of tobbaco, cherry, anise, and granitic gravel. There’s still a decent amount of tannins here. It also feels a little hot on the palate, but at 14% alcohol, this is perhaps not terribly surprising.
The Pairing: I ended up pairing this wine with brisket and potato salad, and it worked pretty well. I’d also pair this wine with buffalo or elk, whether in steak or burger form. For a vegetarian pairing, a rich lentil and mushroom stew with potatoes would compliment this wine rather well.
Impressions: Arizona malbecs tend to lie dead center on the gradient between Cahors (French) expressions of this varietal and Argentinian malbecs, and the Coronado Malbec is no exception to this rule. Furthermore, the dusty flavor and aroma which I associate with wines coming from the Willcox bench are absent, but the geology of this vineyard is much different than the Bench anyway since these vines are planted upon Precambrian deposits, rather than the lake sediments of the bench. Different terroir imparts different tastes, after all, and the granitic soils of this part of the AVA definitely seem to impart a granite note to the wines at Coronado. Cellar this wine for another five years, or decant for an hour prior to drinking.
Overall, my impression of this malbec is that if purple was something you could drink, this wine would be it. Which again, makes me think of lent and purple vestments. But, this wine is more joyous than the Cellar 433 malbec I drank last winter. Still masculine, still muscular, but not priestly, this wine is an archaeologist, specializing in the collapse and rebirth of civilizations.
another shot of the same malbec