Kevin and I have a thing. If we visit a new state, we need to visit a winery within that state. (I have no idea how I'll handle this when I head to Las Vegas.) A year ago we went to Arizona, which was one of the best, and most needed, vacations I've taken.
We used Tucson as our jumping off point and from there, we toured a lot of the state. We took a couple days and drove up to the Grand Canyon, staying overnight in Flagstaff. On our way home, we used a map and our trusty GPS to get to Cornville.
You see, when we think of Arizona, we think desert, but that's the south. As you head north, you enter into mountains, chock full of evergreens. It's gorgeous. And in November of 2007, we had flurries in Flagstaff as we loaded our hiking boots into the rental car. Arizona is a beautiful example of multiple microclimates all along a single highway. Offer me a job and I'd move to Arizona in a heartbeat.
Cornville, Arizona is in this wonderful intersection of moutain and stream, off the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff. It's where you can find wineries owned (and operated) by Maynard James Keenan (apparently of the band Tool), his mentor at Page Springs Cellars, and the wonderful and entertaining Javelina Leap. We also visited Alcantara, which at the time seemed even more off the beaten path, but worth it.
For me, our visit to Alcantara was akin to visiting a friend's house. I felt as if the tasting room was simply a bar, outside the kitchen and adjacent to the living room. At Alcantara I was introduced to a coffee table book for which I searched over a year (and found in Healdsburg), Vineyard Dogs. I was also introduced to a beautiful, and very pregnant, German Shepherd, who stands in my mind as the mascot for the winery.
I always say that a wine tastes better under either (or both) of two conditions: 1) when you meet the winemaker and 2) when you visit the winery. You see, atmosphere has a great influence, for me at least, on taste. And so it is with Alcantara.
Now, the 2006 Petite Sirah that we drank this evening was blended in Arizona, but made from California grapes. I would think that this year, if not in 2008, most of the Arizona wineries we visited are now able to harvest their own Arizona grapes. I know that Maynard James Keenan is sourcing his own grapes from both Cornville and further south in the state. At the end of 2007, the fantastic Javelina's Leap was close to harvesting Arizona zinfandel. So take our review with a grain of salt – these aren't Arizona grapes. I would encourage you – if you get the chance – to visit as many Arizona wineries as you can. We were impressed with the depth and breadth of knowledge, the wines and blending techniques, and the incredible friendliness of each winery we visited.
2006 Alcantara Petite Sirah
Petite Sirah is usually the Durif grape, but doesn't Petite Sirah sound so much prettier? A lot of times, Petite Sirahs are a dark purple-y color, and are characterized by black pepper, some herbs, and tannins. But this wine was a lot softer. As a Petite Sirah, we thought we could age it a little longer but tonight, this wine didn't show any tannins. I wish I had my notes from our initial trip to the winery to know what we'd thought a year ago.
When Kevin first opened the wine tonight, his reaction was "Woo! Smell that wine!" It did have a strong nose of fruit and herbs. The attack mirrored that, with strong berries and plums at first taste, but, well, it sort of died mid-palate. Yep, in the middle of my tongue there was suddenly nothing. But as you swallow – the finish – suddenly the flavor rallied. There were fruits and spices all over the place.
I can't help but wonder if we should have uncorked this wine in early 2008. However, we're still thrilled to have tried a wine from the up and coming Arizona wine industry. I hope we can go back and try wines made from Arizona grapes.
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