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Carménère is a grape which I honestly wish that was more widely planted in Arizona. As of right now, I am only aware of two vineyards in the state growing this fascinating varietal; Chiricahua Ranch Vineyards, down in Willcox, and of course, Del Rio Springs Vineyard in Paulden. I’ve been holding onto this bottle of the 2015 Carménère Barrel Select for some time now, and since it is another varietal that often makes me think of fall, I decided I should finally open it while taking a jaunt among the quaking aspens in all their fall glory. It is especially sad to drink this vintage for me, considering that it will be quite a few years before we see another vintage of this wine coming from Del Rio, as most of the Carménère block got accidentally nuked by a neighbor spraying herbicide on a windy day.
The Wine: The 2015 Carménère Barrel Select is made from 100% Carménère, sourced from Del Rio Springs vineyard in Paulden, Arizona. This vintage was made in the Aridus facility in Willcox, Arizona, by Leah Shanker (I think, but it could also have been Marc Phillips). The wine was aged in medium toast French oak barrels for somewhat longer than their non-barrel select, but I am unaware off hand just how much longer. It is a rich crimson red in color, partially translucent.
The Nose: This wine has a rich nose, with aromas of cherry, Perique tobacco, anise, blackberry, cassis, red currant fruit, plum, and violets. As the wine opens, the wine gains rich earthy notes as well, intermingling with additional notes of lilac and green peppercorn.
The Palate: Like the nose, the palate is a rich sensory experience, especially after decanting. This medium-bodied red opens with notes of cherry, plum, raspberry, strawberry, and cassis, with firm, leathery tannins. As the wine opens, additional notes of anise, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, lilac, vanilla, and tobacco emerge, along with intense, rich earth. The finish of this wine lasts for 55 seconds and is filled with intense earthy characters, green peppercorns, plum, anise, allspice, and rich tannins and tobacco.
Pairing: I want to pair this with venison or elk stew or steaks, or even wild boar. A roasted vegetable casserole would also work well. Savory is your key with this wine, I think, but it would also be great with a cigar on the patio on a fall evening.
Impressions: This wine will actually be a very good medium-bodied red wine to pull out for Thanksgiving dinner, and may well be a delight for Cabernet lovers in your family–it will work while Cabernet Sauvignon won’t. The 2015 Carménère Barrel Select is a rich and savory wine that is an intense flavor experience once it has opened fully–this to me indicates this wine has not quite peaked yet. I would consider cellaring this vintage for at least another 2 years or so, but it also is great now, if you’re patient.
This wine feels distinctly masculine to me; I feel its personification to be that of a Biologist who specializes in discovering rare tardigrades and other microbiotic fauna in rich earth.