Cellar 433’s many-label selection of wines (Sultry Cellars, Jerome Winery, Bitter Creek Winery, Arizona Angel, and still others) is always a great place to find some wine, no matter what your palate preference is. I especially feel that their strongest suite are blends, and the wine I’m about to review is no exception. Dark and brooding, with an iron fist hidden inside a velvet glove, The Emperor is a wine that well fits the name for this blend.
The Emperor–Bitter Creek Winery. It does not sit on a throne of lies. Long live the Imperium!
The Wine: The Emperor is a blend of Grenache, Blaufrankisch, Marselan, and Petit Sirah. This nonvintage blend was clearly aged in both French and American oak. We’ve already encountered Blaufränkisch, that most interesting of single-serving friends, when we explored the Cat’s Meow, from the same winemaker, and we know Grenache pretty well here in Arizona; it’s one of our main varietals. Petit Sirah, also known as Durif in France, is a dark, jammy, and bold red. The most interesting grape in this blend, however, is Marselan. Dragoon vineyard is the only place in Arizona that grows this red grape, which is a hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache and has the tannins of the former, and the fruit of the latter. This wine is a deep garnet red in color, again laying in the glass like blood.
The Nose: The nose of the Emperor is big and complex, with hints of Cedar, bourbon, and cola, which intermingles with dried currants, cloves, cherry, and the classic blue cheese notes of Blaufränkisch. There are also hints of sage, rosemary, chalk, and river stone, intermingled with the notes of the petrichor of winter–a completely different scent than that of the monsoon–one that’s cold and broody.
The Palate: There’s a fair bit of fruit here; jammy cherry, currant, plum, raspberry, which is again intermingled with those classic blue cheese and cheddar notes of Blaufränkisch. There are also notes of cedar, smoke, clove, and a little bit of bourbon and rosemary. The finish is a bit abrupt, but pleasant–and I feel this wine would benefit from being decanted for an hour.
Pairing: I feel like this would be best paired with a brisket, or some BBQ tri-tips, perhaps with some teriyaki sauce. If you wanted to go and do a vegan/vegetarian pairing, cook some tofu in teriyaki or BBQ sauce and serve with some asparagus on the side.
Impressions: This wine is both dark, brooding and tannic at the same time that it’s quite bright and fruity; it clearly has an iron fist inside a velvet glove. This wine is decidedly masculine and broody. The scent of chalk on the nose hints at this wine’s identity, however. This wine is a slightly crazy medieval studies professor with chalk dust on his coat, but on weekends, he hangs out with the local branch of the Society of Creative Anachronisms, fencing with a broadsword or hard suit fighting, and has played kings in several Shakespearean productions. Most recently he played Richard III.
Or, this is the wine equivalent to Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, who was probably the closest thing the world has ever seen to a Philosopher-King. That’s an apt comparison, too.