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Chateau Tumbleweed is a really fun place to drink, with fun wines and fun blends. This is particularly the case with the 2015 Topper Harley, a red wine blend that defies definition. Named for the main character in a (now) obscure parody film from the early 90’s (Hot Shots!), this wine is a unique expression of Willcox AVA terroir.
The Wine: The 2015 Topper Harley started off life as a barrel of topping wine. (As wine evaporates from the barrel, it needs to be refilled just a little bit every so often.) But, it turns out, according to Kris Pothier, that the random blend filling this barrel was so good, the quartet at Chateau Tumbleweed bottled it on its own. It is a blend of four red grapes: 42% Grenache, 39% Merlot, 14% Graciano, and 5% Syrah. The Grenache and Syrah are from Cimmaron Vineyards, the Graciano from Juan Alba’s vineyard, and the Merlot is sourced from Rolling View Vineyards.
The grapes were all destemmed but not crushed to open-top 3/4-ton bins. The Grenache was left 15% whole cluster. Everything was cold-soaked for 24 hours and then fermented with specially selected yeasts. The wine underwent punchdowns 3-4 times daily, and pressed at dryness after 9 days of skin contact. Malolactic fermentation was induced. The Topper Harley was aged for !0 months in neutral oak, and one month in new French oak. The wine was made by Joe Bechard. It is a rich garnet red color.
The Nose: The nose opens with soft cherries, peaches, mulberries, raspberries, petrichor, and the omnipresent dust of the Willcox Bench. In fact, this nose reminds me a great deal of the nose of the Jerome Red; another wine sourced from grapes which arrived from multiple vineyards. As the wine opens, additional aromas of vanilla, anise, tobacco, douglas fir, and blackberry emerge from the glass.
The Palate: Overall, the palate is very similar to the nose. The 2015 Topper Harley is a medium-bodied wine, with very low tannins but high acidity. The palate opens with flavor notes of cherries, blackberries, watermelon jolly rancher, and cigar tobacco. As the wine opens, notes of Willcox Dust, eucalyptus, and blueberries emerge. The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute and 26 seconds and is filled with notes of watermelon, raspberry, dust, mint, and slight leathery tannins.
The Pairing: Pair this wine with some bacon cheeseburgers with cheddar or pepper jack cheese, with a side of BBQ kettle chips. The 2015 Topper Harley is a good cookout wine in general, so you could use veggie/boca burgers as your vegan equivalent. Something about this wine just makes me think of the Fourth of July, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Impressions: I admit, the 2015 Topper Harley isn’t my favorite wine in the Chateau Tumbleweed tasting room right now, but it is one of the most interesting vintages there currently. Why? This wine is intensely terroir-driven. The more Arizona wines I drink, the more I find is that the crazy blends demonstrate our terroir best. Yes, Rhone, Spanish, and Italian-style blends work well in Arizona, but they don’t always demonstrate what makes our landscape so unique. They are not always the best at revealing our terroir to the world. Oddball blends like this, or the Jerome Red, really excel at that.
Were the 2015 Topper Harley a person, she would be a former military helicopter pilot who has now retired into a career of farming.