Podcast: War of the Ports


, , , , , , , , , , , ,


Portugal versus Arizona. Who will win?

As I mentioned in the article which I posted two days ago, there was an associated podcast… and here it is!  In this episode, Dina Marie Ribaudo, Gary Kurtz, Dave Meyers, and myself sit and drink the Six Grapes, and the Bastardo port while smoking cigars.

Also, in this one I get actively corrected and schooled by Gary about something, so be sure to listen to this podcast for that reason alone.ūüôā

Port off: Cellar 433 Bastardo Port vs. Six Grapes (December Noise Article)


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’d like to welcome you all to the new, expanded version of the Wine Monk. With this expanded article series, I can bring you more information about the history of a particular style of wine, or the genetics and origins of an individual grape varietal, or the specifics of a winemaker and their pedigree and connections to the industry in a wider field; or all of the above. As you’ve noticed, the wine industry in Arizona is bigger than just the Verde Valley; we do not exist in isolation. I hope to also make clear the connections between the wineries and winemakers here with those down south‚ÄĒand beyond. I hope to interview great figures in the history of the local industry also; to know your past is to have a map to the future. Friends, my gut instincts tell me that this is the start of the golden age of wine-making in Arizona. Let me take you along for the ride; I’ll bring the drinks.


Portugal versus Arizona. Who will win?

On my 21st birthday, long ago, I bought two bottles of wine. The more interesting of the two bottles was a 1983 vintage port from Dow, one of the oldest sellers of port wines in the world. I wanted to drink something older than I was, to put myself into a wider perspective. I sipped on the wine while watching the monsoon storms build over the Black Hills and smoking a cigar – a good ending to the day. Perhaps the most famous style of fortified wine to be found in the world, port is unique in the wine world, a relic dating back to the age of wooden ships and iron men. Port and port-like wines have a long history in the English-speaking wine world, thanks to a quirky treaty loophole that allowed for these wines to be shipped to England and overseas to her American colonies much more cheaply than French vintages. Due to their fortification with brandy, they could be shipped long distances with ease, but this was not why they proved so popular‚ÄĒsimply put, fortified sweet wines fit the British palate of the 16th-19th centuries.

Somehow, along the way, the cultural association of port shifted from British aristocrats smoking cigars while pontificating over maps to decide arbitrary political boundaries, and became tied with winter and Yuletide festivities. With this association in mind, I decided to take a look at the Bastardo Port from the Jerome Winery/Cellar 433 complex. A couple friends and I drank it over cigars alongside one of its Portuguese brethren: the Six Grapes from W & J. Graham’s Port House, which was also largely made from the same grape. Made by John McLaughlin, the Bastardo Port is a very conscious effort to connect to the long history of traditional port wines and their modern Portuguese versions, since he uses a grape known as Bastardo to make it‚ÄĒa grape very common in Portugal today. Bastardo, known as Trousseau Noir in France, is related to the far more common Chenin Blanc, which is a staple of many Arizona white wines. Somehow, along the way, the grape journeyed to the Iberian Peninsula, and now a total of 3,010 acres are planted there, largely for the production of port wines. As part of Dragoon Mountain Vineyards in the Willcox AVA, John McLaughlin planted this varietal, along with several other classic Portuguese varietals for use in the production of still wines (one fine example being The Chariot) and ports such as this Bastardo Port.

Port wines are relatively rare in Arizona. They are even rarer in the Verde Valley, where only Clear Creek Vineyards and Cellar 433 offer them on a regular basis. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that making port is often more expensive than making regular wines due to the necessities of the fortification process. Until recently, in order to make a truly Arizona port-style wine, a winemaker would often have had to sell wine through a bond agreement to a distiller. The distiller would then distill the wine into neutral grape spirits or brandy, and then sell it back to the original winery. The law has recently changed, allowing such wineries as Flying Leap Vineyards in Sonoita to build distilleries to make spirits on site from Arizona grapes. (I tasted their first barrel samples while visiting the South recently; Rolf Sasse and Rose Suntken are making truly magical stuff down there.)


Playing with the still at Flying Leap during a brandy run. This is one of the most amazing pieces of technology I’ve ever seen.

The other option prior to the law change was to import already made neutral grape spirits from California, which were often made of poorer quality grapes (often French Columbard). Wherever the origin, these neutral spirits are essential to the process of making port, as they are added to the fermenting grape must to slow yeast activity. As more spirits are added, the fermentation process eventually stops, thereby preserving residual sugars, and boosting the alcohol content. In the case of the Bastardo Port, the result comes to rest at 18.5% alcohol. The high alcohol content resulting from the fortification process allows for long-term aging. Most ports in Portugal are non-vintage. As wine evaporates, wine from the next vintage is poured in as a top-off, re-ferments, and then continues the stasis. I am told this is how John makes his ports also.

In the glass, our Bastardo port broods a dark maroon red, and you can sense the thickness of the wine by how heavily it lays, like a deceptively calm sea before a storm. As you’d expect from spirits with a high percentage of alcohol, the nose is decidedly hot. After a brief decant, however, aromas of anise, black cherry, earth, and myrrh emerge from the glass. On the palate, black cherry, black pepper, and plum notes intermingle with myrrh and rosemary. There are no tannins present in this wine, and the finish lasts for 40 seconds, filled with notes of cherry, myrrh, and the omnipresent dust I taste on most red wines coming from Willcox. Pair this port with cigars, steak, or a decadent chocolate or red velvet cake.


Bastardo port in the Desert

What of our Bastardo when compared to its Portuguese cousin? I must sadly inform you that it did not compare well to our Portuguese example, which was unanimously declared by all present to be superior. Palates change over time from the years of our youth, and I must admit I’m not as fond of ports as I was when I was young. The other fact of the matter is that Arizona winemakers are only now beginning to learn skills which have been a staple in the Douro for almost 600 years now; skills which, had Prohibition not tragically struck Arizona as hard as it did, we would likely have in spades. But we’ll get there. The hot, dry climate here in Arizona with those chilling desert nights is great for these varietals, and in time, our local winemakers will be able to release port-style wines that stand up against the giants of Portugal. As it is, in the 10 years since I’ve been drinking Arizona wine, I’ve been absolutely amazed at the exponential quality increase of our vintages, which are now turning heads on a world stage. Port-style wines like the Bastardo will only get better over time. ¬†In the meantime, though, grab a bottle of The Chariot from Cellar 433 for your Winter Holiday feast instead.

(The Podcast with all of us drinking ports and smoking cigars will be uploaded in the next few days. Stay tuned!)

Flying Leap Vineyards: 2014 Sangiovese Reserva


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a while since I reviewed anything from one of my favorite vineyards from down south, Flying Leap Vineyards. ¬†I spent a day down there helping at the Still with Rose and Rolf which will be a whole other post when I get around to talking about it–it was not only a lot of fun, but I learned a great deal and even got a poem out of it. ¬†Also, for the record, this is going to be an image-heavy post (and depending on if there’s snow tomorrow, there might still be more…) ¬†One of the last times I was in the Willcox tasting room, I grabbed a bottle of the Sangiovese Reserva. ¬†I tasted both… but I ended up liking the Reserva just a bit more, so that’s what I took home to review. But for those who took the other bottle, I didn’t want to leave you hanging on that harvest data, so I’m including that here. ¬†(And knowing me and my love of Sangiovese, I’ll probably grab a bottle of the Classico eventually.)


2014 Sangiovese Reserva from Flying Leap Vineyards.

The Wine: ¬†The fruit for this wine was sourced from Block 1 of the Willcox Bench vineyard owned by FLV, in the Willcox AVA. ¬†The clone of Sangiovese which Flying Leap is growing is VCR 06, and these grapes are growing on their own roots, rather than on any particular rootstock. ¬†The Reserva forms part of a pair of Sangiovese wines found currently in the tasting rooms for Flying Leap, the other being the Classico. The grapes for the Reserva were harvested on September 14¬†at 25.5 Brix, and a pH of 3.57. ¬†The grapes for the Classico were harvested on September 21st, at 23.8 Brix. ¬†The Classico was aged in stainless steel, while the Reserva was aged in French Oak barriques for 12 months. ¬†The idea was to demonstrate two different styles of making wines from the same grape; a classic European style which is light and acidic, and a more “American” style (for lack of a better word). The Reserva has an absolutely lovely light garnet-purple color, not nearly as dark as the 2013 Sangiovese I reviewed previously.¬†The wine was made by the FLV team of Rolf Sasse, Mark Beres, and Marc Moeller.


2014 Reserva and Classico in the Willcox tasting room

The Nose:¬†On the nose, the Reserva opens with rich scents of cherry, raspberry, hazelnut, pipe tobacco (squadron leader–what else), Willcox dust, and sandalwood. ¬†As the wine opens, additional notes of rosemary, plum, monsoon petrichor, and lilac intermingle with the opening notes. This is a wine that benefits from being decanted, or simply by taking some time sipping your glass.

The Palate: The 2014 Reserva is a fuller-bodied Arizona Sangiovese, opening with explosive notes of juicy black cherries and blackberries underlain by leathery tannins, sandalwood, vanilla,  pipe tobacco, and Willcox dust.  After decanting, additional notes of rosemary, plum, rosehips, lilac, and sage dance on the palate. As one would expect from Arizona Sangiovese, there is a refreshing acidity in this wine that will lend itself well to pairing with food, though it is not as acidic as the Classico.  The finish of this vintage is filled with notes of plum, vanilla, dust, and a stern backbone of tannins, lasting for 1 minute and 17 seconds.

The Pairing: I want to pair the 2014 Sangiovese Reserva with some sort of savory pork recipe, preferably some sort of garlic and pepper rubbed pork loin with a side of scalloped potatoes with parmesan and cheddar cheese with a little bit of truffle oil and grilled artichoke hearts. For a vegetarian pairing, stick with a five cheese lasagna, also with truffle oil. ¬†I feel like you’ll need something richer with this wine, and the truffle oil will add just that nice touch. ¬†Vegan pairing? ¬†A portobello mushroom sandwich with green and red peppers.

Impressions: ¬†With Sangiovese being one of my favorite grapes, it is hard for me to find one I don’t like (and when I do, I want to throw said winemaker down a mineshaft for somehow botching it–you just shouldn’t botch Sangiovese, ever), but there are expressions of this varietal that do stand out more than others. ¬†I will say that consistently, the expressions of Sangiovese made by the FLV team stand out even amidst foreign brethren, and the Willcox Bench seems to be the best place for this grape in the state, as shown by other examples such as the Kitsune from Caduceus, the various vintages of Sangiovese from Zarpara, and from barrel-tasting at the winery I work at. I’ve not been as pleased at Verde Valley vintages on the other hand, such as that from¬†Freitas. The takeaway from all this rambling is that the Reserva is a fine example of an Arizona Sangiovese, one I would readily recommend to anyone wanting to explore one of (I think) Arizona’s best varietals.

This particular Sangiovese is your platonic opposite-gendered best friend, dressed up in a little black dress joining you for a night on the town to a fancy party where she knows she’ll run into your ex, and therefore, wants to help you make her jealous.


How can you not love the color of Arizona Sangiovese? ¬†It’s truly the blood of the desert.

Mogollon Vineyards: 2015 Chardonnay


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

North of the Mogollon Rim lies a vineyard that promises to explore the terroir of a unique part of the state, in the town of Snowflake, Arizona.  So far on site, they’ve planted Cabernet Franc, and I want to say Seyval or Vidal Blanc, and one other grape…. but I can’t rightly remember which right now, dang it.  (They are also involved with a few plantings of Barbera located near Dewey, which I also am very curious to taste eventually.) In the meantime, while their vineyards north of the Mogollon Rim grow and develop, they are sourcing fruit from Rolling View Vineyards to make their first vintages.


2015 Mogollon Vineyards Chardonnay with stormy Jerome skies.

The Wine: The 2015 Chardonnay is made with 100% Willcox AVA fruit coming from Rolling View Vineyard, near Willcox, AZ.  I get the impression this wine was fermented in and aged in stainless steel, though the possibility of neutral oak does exist.  It’s a bright straw color in the glass.

The Nose:  Bright green apples, peach, cinnamon, and gardenia form the opening salvo of this wine’s nose.  As the wine opens, notes of honey, passionfruit, and flint dust emerge from the glass.

The Palate: Notes of red and green apples intermingle with notes of peaches, honey, and Meyer lemon.  This wine is crisp, with some nice acidity which will lend itself well to pairing.  The finish of this wine lasts for 46 seconds, and is filled with notes of limestone dust (which one would expect coming from Willcox fruit), lemon zest, and apple.

The Pairing:  The acidity and bright flavor of this wine worked really well with the Lumberjack Hash from The Mine Cafe, in Jerome: a breakfast dish made with jackfruit in BBQ sauce and russet potatoes with a few other vegetables.

Impressions: It never fails to strike me how different and unique Arizona Chardonnay is from anywhere else in the world, or maybe it’s just that I don’t drink much of this varietal in general, to form a comparison between my fair landscape and those farther afield where this grape seems to be more popular (Napa and Burgundy, especially).   This wine is nothing like anything coming out of California save for one or two stainless steel Chardonnays coming from the Russian River Valley; I’ve not had enough White Burgundy in recent memory to comment one way or the other.  (Maybe that’s something I should attempt next year)

This particular vintage is bright and friendly; like that exuberant person in the office that is always cheery and positive–authentically so. He just wants you to be happy too, and often brings in cookies for his coworkers.

Right now, the tasting room for Mogollon Vineyards is open by appointment only, so be sure to make an appointment at their website.


Southwest Wine Center: 2015 Estate Tempranillo


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was originally going to review the 2015 Mogollon Vineyards Tempranillo yesterday. ¬†Then Elizabeth-by-the-Sea suggested I review their Chardonnay¬†since I had just posted a podcast on Tempranillo, so I should do something different. ¬†Before I could get either bottle open, though, Philip Brown, the manager of the tasting room down at the Southwest Wine Center, suggested I come down the mountain and visit. ¬†He mentioned they had the first estate vintage made from college fruit open in the tasting room, and it was a Tempranillo. I wasn’t about to say no to that, so I rushed down the mountain as soon as I could. ¬†That, and I so rarely have a day off that coincides with their open hours anyway… so I rushed down the mountain.

So, there you have it, two Tempranillo posts in a row. ¬†I really think Tempranillo is one of our best grapes in the state of Arizona; and now I’m really wishing I had a full-on Sonoita AVA Tempranillo in my cellar to review next, as a comparison between regions, but I fear I cannot oblige you guys at this time. ¬†But I couldn’t resist this exploration into one of Arizona’s best grapes.


Southwest Wine Center’s 2915 Tempranillo. I wish I could get better photos, but the lighting there is so difficult.

The Wine:  Like all wines at the Southwest Wine Center, this is a wine that was grown, harvested, made, barreled, aged, bottled, labeled, and will be sold by the students who are part of the Viticulture and Enology program at Yavapai College.  This is a Big Deal.  An even Bigger Deal is that this was the very first vintage produced and made from estate fruit on site.  This wine was aged on 2 year old American oak (effectively neutral oak), and aged for 9-10 months.  The wine itself is a lovely cherry color.Student Valerie Wood took the photo that adorned the label on the day of the harvest, and wrote the haiku which graces the back of the wine label:

“A Sunrise Harvest

Awakens the First Vintage

Cheers Tempranillo.”

The Nose: This wine strikes me as having a very complex nose. ¬†Notes of cedar, plum, and cherry intermingle with intense floral notes of violets, iris, rose, and calla lily. There’s also hints of earth, pepper, and vanilla.

The Palate: This wine is still very, very young, with vigorous, gripping tannins.  Notes of deep plum, cranberry, rosehips, and raspberry intermingle with notes of cedar, violets, frankincense, pepper, and vanilla.  The finish of this wine lasts for 1 minute, four seconds, containing notes of nutmeg, earth, cherry, violets, and monsoon petrichor.

The Pairing: My first thought was Thanksgiving dinner as a pairing (vegan or carnivorous), but this will also work well with smoked or cured pork, chile rellenos, or a five-cheese lasagna.

Impressions: ¬†I strongly recommend decanting this wine for two or three hours at this juncture. ¬†It is a wine with a lot of subtle nuances, so be sure to also take your time with this vintage, as it rewards a watchful, careful drinker. ¬†It is also going to be an affordable Verde Valley Tempranillo, so if you love both the terroir of the Verde Valley and Tempranillo as a grape, but can’t swing a bottle of the Judith from Caduceus, this should definitely be on your list.

This wine is incredibly young, vibrant, and sexy, and will cellar beautifully for 10+ years. I can’t help but think of the classic young woman in a sexy red dress when I think about this wine, but she’s also working on a Ph. D in astrophysics and biology.

Halloween Podcast: Christine and Erik Pope and Tempranillo.


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I love when Christine and Erik Pope come to visit the Verde Valley from their new lofty abode near Santa Fe.  Great friends of mine, and I can totally count on spending a fantastic time geeking out with them while drinking awesome wines.  This time, we focused on one of the best grapes Arizona has to offer: Tempranillo, focusing on the 2013 El Coraje from Saeculum Cellars, and the 2013 The Bigness from Chateau Tumbleweed.


The two Tempranillos drank that night, both made by masters of the craft.

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards: 2012 Lozen


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I decided after the news from the election that it was time to open up something fancy from my Apocalypse Stash in my cellar–or rather, the fridge of wines that I’ve been aging for various events–the “do not touch” part of my collection. ¬†I needed something to deal with all the various vitriol that’s been thrown out by both sides after this divisive election…and many people do dig Bordeaux-style blends so it seemed a safe choice. (I’m rather Treebeard when it comes to politics, after all) ¬†So I decided to pull out my bottle of Lozen which I’ve been aging and give it a whirl. ¬†It was a good choice.

2012 Lozen, complete with J.J. Abrams lensflare.

The Wine: ¬†The 2012 Lozen is a Bordeaux-style blend, made of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. ¬†The grapes were sourced from Bonita Springs Vineyards, in the Willcox AVA. ¬†The wine was aged in barrel for 18 months, and I’m guessing it was a mix of new and neutral French oak. ¬†Overall, it strikes me as very reminiscent of some classic Left-Bank Bordeaux blends.

The wine is named after a particularly famous woman war-leader and prophet of the Chihenne-Chiricahua Apache. ¬†She’s an utterly fascinating character, so you should check her out. ¬†As it reads on the back of the bottle: “Strength of a Warrior and Complexity of a Nurturer. ¬†Rarely do these contrasting qualities find the balance in their intersection as seamlessly as they do in Lozen, the Chihenne-Chiricahua Apache warrior, shaman, and seer. Her brother, Bidu-ya, is quoted to have said, ‘Lozen is my right hand… strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. ¬†Lozen is a shield to her people.'”

I also love the simplistic iconography of the bottle, even if it is a little White-Hand of Sauroman. ¬†(I really want to help on the bottling line the next time a Lozen is bottled… just so I can sync up a video of the bottling to the Fighting Uruk-Hai. ¬†Okay, I’m done with Lord of the Rings references in this review, I promise.) ¬†The wine was made by the Arizona Stronghold team of 2012; I’m not sure who was working in the cellar that year. (I want to say it was Tim White and Michael Pierce that year, but I’m not really sure, so don’t quote me on that.)

The Nose:  Cassis, black currant, vanilla, and cherry notes form a thunderous opening to the nose, and as the wine opens in the glass, notes of petrichor, Willcox dust, anise, and plum come to the forefront.  After the wine has been decanted for a few hours, further notes of rosemary, blackberry, and cedar emerge.

The Palate: ¬†Lilac, lily, black currant, blackberry, and black cherries form the forefront of this wine’s palate, intermingling with notes of plum, vanilla, and hints of anise and that oh-so-common Willcox dust. ¬†This wine still has a heavy load of tannins, and after decanting, notes of graphite and raspberry also emerge, with just a bit of rosemary. The finish, before decanting, lasts 45 seconds. ¬†After decanting, the wine’s finish lasts for 1 minute 5 seconds.

The Pairing: ¬†Steak and potatoes are something that you really can’t go wrong with for this wine; or a nice big portobello mushroom with a side of roasted chestnuts would work well. Buffalo burgers are going to be another good pairing idea.

Impressions: ¬†Bordeaux blends are hard to do in Arizona, it seems, compared to Rhones, and you don’t see so many of them. ¬†I admit, I am not as fond of the Lozen as I am the Gallia, but it’s still really dang good. ¬†(My palate prefers Cabernet Franc over Cabernet Sauvignon, I can’t help it.) ¬†I’d stand this up against several French Bordeaux blends, but it does have a completely different style than most Bordeaux-style blends from California (many of which I don’t like)

Overall, I’d say this wine is a fitting tribute to a fascinating historical character who doesn’t get nearly enough street cred, and while having a wine named after you may be a dubious honor, it does encourage people to learn, I think, about some of the historical events associated with the Indian wars in the American Southwest.

I don’t know if there’s any 2012 Lozen left anywhere; but the ’13 can be found in the Arizona Stronghold Tasting room currently.

Sand-Reckoner Vineyards: 2014 Ros√©


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By now it should be patently obvious that I am a tremendous fan of Arizona’s Ros√© offerings, across the board.  There’s nothing like a good bros√© day with my gentleman friends, and with that in mind, as the cold temperatures rapidly approach and the leaves turn to gold and flames upon the trees before falling to earth, let’s drink a ros√© from one of my favorite winemakers in the state.

Also for the record, I had way too much fun shooting photos of this wine that it’s hard for me to choose just a couple for this post.  I will be uploading a photo album soon on facebook.

Sand-Reckoner Vineyards: 2014 Nebbiolo Rosé

The Wine: The 2014 Sand-Reckoner Ros√© is 100% Nebbiolo, from Cochise County.  I am awaiting further production notes from Rob Hammelman at this time before saying more, but I am pretty sure this wine was fermented in stainless steel, and also I’m guessing spent three days on the skins prior to press.  It has that lovely salmon pink color I’ve come to expect from Nebbiolo ros√© in Arizona. The winemaker of course was Rob Hammelman.

The Nose: The 2014 Sand-Reckoner Ros√© opens with notes of rosehips, grapefruit, apple, and strawberry.  As the wine opens, additional notes of Willcox dust, cinnamon, and raspberry emerge.

The Palate:  The palate of this rose is filled with bright notes of persimmon, rosehips, grapefruit, and, surprising to me, apple.  As the wine opens up, notes of limestone and raspberry intermingle with a slight hint of anise and rosemary.  There are light tannins present–which is to be expected from Nebbiolo-made .  The acidity is decent; not as high I feel as previous vintages, but that gives this wine a unique quality and different pairing options.  The finish lasts for 1 minute and 12 seconds, and is filled with persimmon, anise, and limestone dust.

The Pairing: I first paired this wine with a nice hike to a local waterfall,  but day-drinking on the porch or the patio is definitely an option.  I also paired this wine with some hot wings with ranch and blue cheese and was not dissapointed.  As per my rules for rose, pair this with finger foods.  Salmon with some Spanish rice would also likely work brilliantly.

Impression:  I’m decidedly inclined towards Nebbiolo being one of Arizona’s best ros√© grapes, along with Grenache and Sangiovese. and this is one of the best examples out there.  It could cellar until next summer… but why, why would you ever wait?

This wine is a very friendly, polite, and fun astrophysicist, who also is a great cook. She’s fantastic company, and is fond of incorrigible space puns, much to the consternation of everyone around her.  She also enjoys hikes in the woods on fall days. Overall, this wine is intensely personable.

Podcast: Drinking oDDity Wine CollectiVe with Gary


, , ,

In honor of the release party for oDDity Wine CollectiVe later today… here’s Gary and I drinking a bottle while cooking. ¬†Rather, while he cooks.

(My favorite part: when he asks if this is going to be a podcast and I say “no. ¬†Well, maybe.”)


oDDity Wine CollectiVe’s first white release: 2015 Changeling, Riesling and Viognier.

The oDDity Wine CollectiVe: The Changeling (November Noise Review)


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


oDDity Wine CollectiVe’s first white release: 2015 Changeling; a blend of¬†Riesling and Viognier.

Sometimes I get the uneasy feeling that my friends in the wine industry are a lot more successful than I am. I don’t really mind this; winemaking is hard work, after all, and I’m not quite ready to make that plunge yet. But for my friends Aaron Weiss, Briana Nation, and David Baird of the newly-formed oDDity Wine CollectiVe, former graduates of the Southwest Wine Center, the timing was perfect. On November 4th, they are releasing their first three vintages at Four-Eight Wineworks, in Clarkdale. Devoted in their manifesto to ‚Äúpush[ing] the boundaries of the expected, and to experiment as much as our tiny budget will allow,‚ÄĚ these first three vintages are decidedly unique takes on Arizona wine. All three of their releases deserve closer examinations, (and I deeply encourage you to drink them all) but since I only have room to talk about one right now, and Thanksgiving is coming, we’re going to focus on The Changeling.

The Changeling is a 2015 vintage blend of 76% riesling and 24% viognier; in fact, the name of this wine partly comes from the ‚Äúling‚ÄĚ in riesling. This wine was made from the very first fruit that the trio received. The viognier came from Rolling View Vineyards, while the riesling came from Al Buhl Memorial Vineyards, making this wine 100% Willcox AVA fruit. This wine was made from the very first fruit that the trio received. The riesling comes from some of the oldest vineyards in the state. The viognier was de-stemmed prior to crushing and pressing, and fermented in a neutral French oak barrel. The resulting wine was blended with the riesling in tank after fermentation. In fact, Aaron describes the rapid fermentation of the viognier in barrel as their first ‚ÄúOh crap, what are we doing?‚ÄĚ moment. (The answer, in case you are wondering, is ‚Äúmaking an absolutely lovely wine,‚ÄĚ as far as I’m concerned.) The wine is a beautiful pale yellow-green in the glass.

The nose on this wine begins with a delicate side, opening with intense floral notes of iris, violets, orange blossoms, and roses, imparted from both grapes in the blend. After swirling the wine in the glass, notes of key lime, apricot, and peach emerge from the glass. The barrel-fermentation of the viognier in this blend also adds a lovely light vanilla and limestone bass note, through which all the other aromas playfully intermingle. On the palate, The Changeling continues to be novel and intriguing, and is quite fruit-forward. The wine opens with notes of kiwi, key lime, peach, and apricot, with floral notes of violet and rose. This vintage is light, with a silky-smooth mouth feel. A nice kiss of acidity rounds out the palate. The finish of this wine lasts for 46 seconds, and is filled with notes of limestone, apricot, key lime and rose.

One of the reasons why The Changeling is so neat in my perspective is that I would never have thought about blending these two grapes together. The result is a fascinating, easy-going white blend that is going to be great for your Thanksgiving meal, whether you approach it from a turkey tradition, or a vegan perspective. Your family and in-laws who prefer the sweeter side will also enjoy this wine due to its fruit-forward palate, which will not leave your mouth as dry as Arizona in June. Be sure to grab your bottle at Four-Eight Wineworks starting November 4th. The release party promises to be a lot of fun, so endeavor to be there. Also make sure to check out their other two wines which are both red blends: the SGZ and Unsanctioned. I look forward with great joy to seeing what this new label will produce!  (And be sure to listen to the podcast I recorded with The oDDity Wine CollectiVe team as well!)

EDIT: Sam Pillsbury reports that his Wildchild White blend is also similar, with Riesling and Viognier blended together. ¬†It’s been a while since I tasted it, but I think it would be fun to compare the two!