Autumn has finally arrived here in Northern Arizona; that beloved season filled with falling leaves, cooling temperatures, and pumpkin spice infused EVERYTHING. It is also a season for transition; time toring out the bottles of red for cold winter nights. It is the season for finishing up fermentation and racking everything in barrels to wait for the bottle and the shelf. Most importantly, however, October is time for Halloween, which means candy. Lots and lots of candy. In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d pair some of our fantastic Arizona wines with candy you can steal from your child’s trick-or-treating haul. Or… you know, buying aforementioned candy yourself since you’re a grownup and don’t need to rely on stealing candy from a baby to get what you want. Without further ado, let’s get started. All pairings are based on a combination of the flavor of the given candy, and texture of the sweet item in question, and how well it goes with the flavor and mouth-feel of the featured wine. All wines are from Verde Valley wineries.
Chardonnay is often touted as the premiere pairing for the often-maligned dark horse candy of Halloween: Candy Corn. This actually makes a great deal of intuitive sense, as Chardonnay often has the same sort of reputation in many circles. Sourced from Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard in the Willcox AVA, the 2016 Trademarked (formerly called The Matriarch) is a stellar example of this often-ridiculed grape. Winemaker Corey Turnbull elected to take a Burgundian approach to his latest vintage, aging this wine in 10% new French oak for 10 months, and inhibiting malolactic fermentation. On the nose, rich aromas of vanilla intermingle with smoked Meyer lemon, grapefruit, green apple and apricot, with a slight hint of limestone dust. On the palate, the vibrant acidity of this vintage stands like a granite monolith against a backdrop of rich apricots, sliced pears, limestone, cliff rose, peaches, and starfruit. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 10 seconds. The Burgundian-style flavor profile of the 2016 Trademarked will also pair rather well with a few other Halloween candies, namely Butterfingers, and Starbursts. Grab your bottle from their tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood for $28.
For fans of the peanut buttery goodness of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, look no further than the 2015 Chupacabra. This Rhone-style Blend has been a staple of MJ Keenan’s Merkin label for many years; the 2015 vintage is a blend of 45% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, sourced from Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard, in the Willcox AVA. Aged in both neutral and new French oak barriques, the Chupacabra is a classic take on the GSM blends we do so well here. On the nose, this wine opens with notes of cherry, rhubarb, petrichor, vanilla, violets, latakia pipe tobacco, anise, and rich earth. The palate of this medium-bodied red is a bit young and very tight at first, with cherry, leathery tannins, and tobacco notes. After the wine opens, additional notes of anise, black pepper, dust, and violets emerge on the palate. The finish of this wine lasts for 50 seconds, and is filled with notes of anise and raspberry. A bottle of this wine will run you $24 at the Merkin Osteria in Old Town Cottonwood.
I love Shiraz, and Shiraz-based blends. This côte-rotie style co-ferment of 97% Shiraz and 3% Symphony from Pillsbury Wine Company is one of my favorites to be found in any tasting room of the Verde Valley. Sourced from Sam’s vineyard in the Willcox AVA, the 2014 Guns and Kisses is a stellar example of the Shriraz/Syrah wines (it’s the same grape, sort of) that we make here in Arizona. The nose of this wine is rich, with aromas of petrichor, lilac, black cherry, plum, and orange blossom. On the palate, this wine is a rich medley of medium tannins, vanilla, dark cherry, cedar, frankincense, and incense. The finish of this wine lasts for 56 seconds, filled with dank, rich earth, explosive, bright fruit, and lilac. This vintage was made by James Callahan and Sam Pillsbury working in tandem. The rich flavor profile of the Guns and Kisses will work quite well with Snickers and Tootsie Rolls. A bottle of this wine will be $65.
Malbec has been gaining in popularity quite a bit lately, and it’s good to see some Arizona versions of this Argentinian mainstay. Considering the climate and soil geology of the Willcox region, it is perhaps no surprise that this grape seems to be here in Arizona to stay—great news if you’re trying to pair with Hershey’s Chocolate or M&Ms. (Fun Fact: Malbec is originally from Bordeaux!) Made by John Scarbrough, the 2016 Fire is technically a blend of 87% Malbec (Sourced from Carlson Creek Vineyard), and 13% Merlot (sourced from Paso Robles). The nose of this wine opens with the classic Malbec notes of jammy plum, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, and black cherry, intermingling with notes of vanilla and petrichor. This full-bodied red wine has some big, leathery tannins, and rich mulberry, blackberry, and cedar notes on the palate, intermingling with violets, plum, and black pepper. The finish lasts for 57 seconds, with nice acidity and rich tannins, intermingling with earth and petrichor. A bottle of the 2016 Fire will cost you $33.
The 2013 Dala is a stellar example of Cabernet Sauvignon from Arizona Stronghold that will be great with the Twix and Kit-Kats in your stash. Sourced from Bonita Springs Vineyard on the other side of Willcox from the Bench, this wine was again made by Corey Turnbull in his stint in the cellars. This big, bold red opens on the nose with aromas of rich vanilla and cedar, intermingling with black cherry, cassis, anise, and Willcox dust. On the palate, this full-bodied red seems at first only lightly tannic, but this is a deception. Instead, this wine saves its big, leathery tannins for a robust finish. Additional notes on the palate include anise, cherry, rhubarb, and strawberry, intermingling with woody vanilla, those aforementioned tannins, and sage. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 4 seconds. The 2013 Dala is the only wine in this article that will be easily acquired away from the tasting room, as it is distributed in many Arizona supermarkets, such as Safeway. The tasting room price for this bottle is $18.00. Pair this wine with the Kit-Kats and Twix bars in your stash.
The Cellar 433 Tasting room overlooks the dramatic vista of the Verde Valley, providing one of the best views of any tasting room in the state, pairing well with their unique blends. If you are seeking to pair your tart candy, such as Sweet Tarts, Red-Hots, Skittles, and Sour Patch Kids, The Moon from their Bitter Creek label will seem tailor-made for this purpose. This non-vintage blend of equal parts Gewürtztraminner, Malvasia Bianca, and Pinot Grigio is sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyard, and was made by John McLaughlin. On the nose, this light-bodied white wine opens with aromas of rose petals, tangerine, pears, and honey, with just a hint of limestone minerality. On the palate, this wine contains hints of orange peel, white tea, green apples, and pears, intermingling with allspice, honey, and that classic Willcox minerality. The finish of this wine lasts for 54 seconds and is filled with striking acidity, honey, and white tea. A bottle of The Moon will cost you $18.
Nebbiolo is a grape much beloved by wine geeks the world over, as it is known for producing some of the most famous Italian wines in the world. Made by Jason Domanico, the 2014 Nebbiolo from Passion Cellars is a uniquely Arizona take on this grape that will pair well with any Crunch bars or Krackel that you acquire on All Hallow’s Eve. These grapes were sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyards, near Willcox, and the vintage was aged in French oak for 24 months. While ghostly pale in color, this wine is a lot more than meets the eye. The classic aromas of “tar and roses” associated with this grape emerge on the nose, intermingling with notes of anise, petrichor, dust, strawberries, and raspberries. This wine has a hefty load of woody tannins and bright acidity, which play well with other flavor notes: mint, raspberry, cherry, anise, and earth. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 4 seconds, and is filled with dust, anise, and hints of vanilla. If you like Nebbiolo, this is a wine that should not be missed. A bottle of this wine will cost you $35 in the tasting room, located across from the House of Joy in Jerome