Malbec is currently one of the most popular grapes in the world. Originally known as Côt in its home in Cahors, France, Malbec is one of six grapes used in Bordeaux blends. Malbec of late has become a sort of international superstar, thanks to successful plantings of this grape in Mendoza, Argentina. There is also a fair amount of acreage of this grape being grown in California and Washington now as well. Yet, despite the conditions of Willcox being rather similar to Malbec’s adopted new homeland, there are only three vineyards which are growing this grape in the state of Arizona; Dragoon Mountain Vineyards, Deep Sky, and there are six lone Malbec vines at the Passion Cellars estate vineyard.
Today, I’m reviewing one of them; the 2013 vintage sold at Cellar 433 from their Jerome Winery label. I’ve mentioned their scenic tasting room before, so we’re going to jump right into the wine.
2013 Malbec from Jerome Winery. In these weather conditions, it should be called the Misty Mountain Malbec
The Wine: The 2013 Malbec was aged for 12 months in a blend of new French and American oak; the proportion of oak between the two is a proprietary secret. Like most wines in the Cellar 433 complex, this wine was open-top fermented, rather than barrel fermented. This Malbec is particularly dark in color, more reminiscent of the few wines from this varietal I’ve had from France, rather than Argentina; a brooding dark purple, almost black in the glass. The winemaker was John McLoughlin for this vintage. Only one barrel of this vintage was produced.
The Nose: The nose of this wine is pretty broody, dark, and purple as well; overwhelming notes of lilac, hyacinth, cassis, currants, blackberries, fresh-cut lavender, and black cherries meet the nose upon first examination. Once this wine opens up, more subtle notes begin to appear on the bouquet. These notes include hints of vanilla, cedar smoke, tarragon, pepper, musk, cinnamon, incense (specifically that used during Lent) and anise.
The Palate: Purple, once again, dominates the palate, with Blackberries, currants, black cherries, and lavender being the opening salvo of this wine. These flavors are interlocked over a strong tannic backbone, with subtle notes of cedar, frankincense, hyssop, hyacinth, geranium, vanilla, and baking spices. The wine has a full mouthfeel, with a slightly bitter edge thanks to the tannins. The finish is long, and consists of explosive blackberry and cedar, intermingled with herbaceous notes, lasting about 27 seconds.
Impressions: I fully admit, I am not at all fond of Malbec coming from Argentina. By and large, most Argentinian Malbec reminds me of making out with an 18 year old–all flash and passion, but with no lasting power, finesse, or skill, and with way too much tongue. They largely are flashy and bright to me, meant to be drunk quickly, without much thought; this style, frankly, annoys the hell out of me.
This Malbec, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of Argentinan ones. More than anything else, the note I get is masculine, as opposed to the normal feminine aspects I get from most Malbecs from elsewhere in the world. It’s dark, broody, and shrouded in purple, and there’s incense burning somewhere nearby. The mood of this wine is somber, yet hopeful. In other words, this wine is TOTALLY an Orthodox Priest, serving a Pre-Sanctified Divine Liturgy during Lent, in Greek-style dark purple vestments with golden trim.
Unlike Argentinian Malbecs, this wine should cellar quite well, thanks to the aging in dual-oak and the tannins evident in the taste profile of this wine. A bottle of this vintage of Malbec will run you $67 at their Jerome tasting room, or you can buy a full case future for the 2014 vintage (which I’ve not tasted, since it’s still in barrel) at $41 per bottle. As mentioned above, only one barrel of this wine was produced, so you probably should act fast to acquire this good Malbec.