2015 Naugal del Agostina in the meadows of Mingus Mountain
“Hello stranger, Can you tell us where you’ve been? More importantly, how ever did you come to be here?”–Puscifer, The Green Valley.
It is perhaps not terribly surprising that I have a list of recently planted grapes that I’ve had my eye on. These grapes will have their first full vintages released either this year or next. These are grapes which I’ve spent some time imagining would do well here, under open Arizona skies. One of the grapes on this list is a somewhat obscure Italian and French varietal called vermentino (or rolle in France). In its homeland, this grape produces crisp, bright, acidic white wines. When I heard a few years ago that Maynard had planted some vines of this varietal near Cornville, I was excited and awaited the first vintage. This vintage, the 2015 Nagual del Agostina, was recently released in the Caduceus Cellars tasting room, so I grabbed a bottle and sat under my favorite tree atop Mingus Mountain to meet the new grape in town.
The 2015 Nagual del Agostina is technically a blend of 90% vermentino and 10% malvasia bianca, though according to American liquor laws, this qualifies as something that could have been labeled as the majority varietal. The grapes for this wine came from the Agostina vineyard block, not terribly far from Oak Creek, at about 3,300 feet in elevation. The grapes for this wine were whole-cluster pressed, and cold-soaked. This wine was partially fermented in stainless steel at 52 degrees Fahrenheit, and partly in neutral oak puncheons at 65 degrees. These different styles of fermentation add a great deal of complexity and character to this vintage. The wine was aged in stainless steel. Very similar to the typical Italian expression of this varietal, this Arizona vermentino is a bright, almost transparent yellow-green in the glass.
On the nose, the 2015 Agostina is deeply reminiscent of its Italian brethren. Bright and refreshing, the nose opens up with a fragrance akin to a mountain meadow in springtime, intermingling with honeydew melon, apricot, green apple, and lime. As the wine opens, hints of mint, vanilla, limestone, and distant desert rain emerge from the glass, along with just a hint of baking spices. Surprisingly, the only malvasia influences which are noticeable in this wine are very subtle notes of jasmine and gardenia.
The palate of this wine doesn’t have any noticeable characteristics of malvasia, which normally makes itself very explicitly known. Notes of lime, peach, and green apple intermingle with subtle hints of sea salt and limestone. (This limestone note is not something I recognize in Italian expressions of this grape, which leads me to believe it is an artifact of the local terroir; remains of the ancient lakebed which once covered the valley.) As the wine opens, honeydew melon and lychee notes emerge, intermingling with some absolutely stunning acidity. The finish of the 2015 Agostina lasts for 1 minute and four seconds, filled with notes of honeydew melon, vanilla, and sage.
I have to say that I’d be hard-pressed to find a better pairing for this wine than the approach I took: a warm summer’s day in the mountains, among the wildflowers, leaning against a ponderosa pine. It would also pair really well on a porch, watching monsoon storms sailing across the landscape, while smoking some aromatic pipe tobacco. If you must insist on a food pairing, the vibrant acidity of this wine lends itself to a host of varied options. My first thought is to pair this wine with grilled salmon with rosemary and lemon, with a side of saffron rice. For more Southwestern flair, serve this wine with some great grilled chicken tacos, with a squeeze of lime, a tiny bit of chili powder, and just a smidge of avocado. If you’re seeking a vegetarian or vegan pairing for this vermentino, make some falafel with a side of tabbouleh; the flavors in such a dish should meld well with the wine.
The 2015 Agostina is, in a nutshell, the perfect wine for the hot summers here in the Verde Valley. It is a classic vermentino with some local Arizona flair. Light, and airy, with a nice kick of acidity, this is a wine that will quench your thirst in the hot summer sun, whether on a romantic picnic date, or sitting alone under a tall pine tree swaying in the wind. This wine is a blonde photographer, light on her feet, who prefers wilderness photography over all other things. She is kind, a little aloof, but a good friend. I would be remiss to not note that this wine is one of the very first to be approved by the new Arizona Vigneron’s Alliance, an organization specifically devoted to promoting vintages made from Arizona grapes. Grab your bottle from the Caduceus tasting room for $40.
Cody V. Burkett is channeling Omar Khayyam, and bids you remember that you need is a bottle of wine, a picnic lunch, and your own damned self, singing in the wilderness. Follow him on instagram at @theazwinemonk if you like pretty wine and sunrise photos.