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Arneis is an interesting grape that comes from the Piedmont Region of Italy, most commonly found in the hills of the Roero. The name comes from the Piedmontese dialect for “Little Rascal,” since it is apparently very difficult to grow. Historically, this grape was often blended with Nebbiolo, to lighten the tannins of that grape. Interestingly, it was also planted alongside Nebbiolo both for use in field blends and with the (dubious) with the aim of having the sweet scent of ripe Arneis berries attract birds and bees, so as to keep them away from the more valuable Nebbiolo clusters. (The reason why this is a dubious aim is that most birds do not have a strong sense of smell, though I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for the bees.)
In Arizona so far, only one vineyard has planted this intriguing white grape: Dragoon Mountain Vineyard. So far also, only one winery has had a chance to play with this particular varietal–Chateau Tumbleweed. We’ve taken a look at the 2012 vintage once before, now let’s take a look at the 2015 Arneïs.
The Wine: The 2015 vintage is made from 100% Arneis. These grapes were harvested on August 18th, at 23.1 Brix. The grapes were cold-soaked for 24 hours, then whole-cluster pressed. The resulting must was chilled and settled 48 hours prior to racking and innoculation. The wine was then barrel-fermented in two neutral French oak barrels at 65 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 days. This wine did not undergo Malolactic fermentation and was aged for 6 months in stainless steel. The 2015 Arneis underwent minimal cold-stabilization, no heat-stabilization, and was filtered, but unfined. The wine finished with less than .10 % residual sugar. The final numbers for this wine came in with a TA of 5.6 g/L, and a pH of 3.39. The winemaker, as for all Chateau Tumbleweed vintages, was Joe Bechard. As one would expect for a full-bodied white wine, the color of this vintage is a rich, golden yellow.
The Nose: The nose of the 2015 Arneis is quite voluptuous. Rich aromas of apricot, peach, pear, nutmeg, and orange blossom form the opening salvo. As the wine opens, additional slight citrus notes emerge also.
The Palate: The 2015 Arneis is a full-bodied, balanced, acidic white wine. Notes of peach, apricot, vanilla, and pear intermingle with notes of acacia blossom, Meyer lemon, mint, papaya, and a touch of limestone minerality. The finish of this wine lasts for 44 seconds, with notes of limestone, lemon, papaya, and peach.
The Pairing: The full-bodied texture of this wine combined with its high acidity to me just screams to be paired with poultry dishes. Indeed, one immediate thought was Thanksgiving dinner. Meals based around duck will also work really well with this wine. For a vegan pairing, a jackfruit-based dish will work quite nicely. Chinese takeout is also not a bad option, as would some sort of roasted chicken pasta dish.
Impressions: If you are a red wine drinker who insists that all whites should be shunned, give this vintage a try. This is a white wine which has as much body as many Barbera vintages I’ve encountered over the years, so this may be something you will like. Arneis is a geeky grape that doesn’t get nearly enough street cred, but I’m happy to see that it is getting more popular, and it is a grape I think everyone should try. You could age this for another couple of years, but it is drinking great right now.
Personified, I feel like this wine is a friendly and exuberant pastry chef. She is known especially for her cakes, and always has flour on her nose. She is also blonde and curvy, and gives fantastic hugs.