Back in 2007, Kevin and I toured several wineries in Arizona. Here’s a quick review of a Petite Sirah and a rundown on the Arizona wine country.
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.) In 2007, 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.
The nice folks at Arizona Stronghold Winery sent me a bottle of their rosé as a sample back in the fall. I actually reviewed it in November. However, we’ve had a recent death in the family, in Arizona, so I thought I’d pull out some of the Arizona reviews and repost … it’s both in memory of Uncle Greg and in celebration of where we’ll be spending the upcoming weekend.
The 2009 Arizona Stronghold Dayden Cochise County Rosé is a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc from three different vineyard locations in Chochise County, Arizona. They chose to make this rosé in the saignée style. Saignée is a method of rosé production that involves bleeding off the juice after limited contact with the skins. The juice only takes on a little of the color of the grape skins, due to the short time in which they had contact, leading to the pink color. The color is a nice medium-dark pink, nothing so peppy that you’ll be embarrassed to hold your glass in public. You can tell immediately that the wine has some heft.
The first thing we noticed was the rose petal nose. I hate saying that a rosé smells like roses, as it seems rather cliche, but there’s no denying that Kevin & I both got a floral aroma. The flavors are full of fruits and flowers, with some light strawberries wrapped in with some sour cherries and crushed flower petals. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but trust me. At only 11.9% AbV, this wine goes down fast and we powered through our bottle. It’s very balanced – you’re not overwhelmed by any one specific flavor or characteristic, and instead enjoy the entire delicate blend of flavors.
The Dayden has structure and heft – it’s not just a back-porch summertime rosé. The winery recommends pairing it with grilled vegetables, cold meats, and salads. I think we may have overchilled it, so that’s something you really need to watch with this one. While we enjoyed it right out of the fridge, it had a much sweeter finish when it was cold. As it warmed up a bit, it had a fuller, less sweet finish and we liked it even better. Definitely chill this wine, but you might want to pull it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you drink it, just to get it up to optimum temperature.
I was hoping this wine might go well with Thanksgiving dinner, and while it might pair nicely with the cranberry portion, I don’t know about the rest. However, it is probably the perfect wine to pull out when you’re having a cold turkey sandwich on Black Friday, after a long day of shopping in the crazy local mall.
You’re probably thinking I just reviewed a wine you need to fly to Arizona to get your hands on. Not true. Recently the good folks at Dep’s Fine Wines have started carrying Arizona Stronghold, so head over there and pick up a bottle for around $12.99.
Small Gully Mr. Black’s Concoction 2004 Shiraz Viognier, Barossa Valley, Australia:
I first had this when we went to Bouquet in January 2008. I loved it and searched everywhere for it. Currently you can find it at Dep’s, Party Town, and Party Source, I believe. Back in 2008, I picked up several bottles of the 2004 vintage and I just finished off the last of them.
Mr Black’s Shiraz-Viognier Concoction consists of 4% Viognier, 96% Shiraz, and it has a powerful and fragrant bouquet. This is a high-alcohol fruit bomb. I don’t know why I like it so much – it’s not my normal style at all. I find it to be well-balanced; I could certainly feel the alcohol but I couldn’t taste it. The fruit seems to contain the wine and it didn’t seem “hot.” To say it is fruit-forward is an understatement, though. There are all sorts of berries and cherries and dark fruits, all racing to get to your tongue first. It’s definitely jammy. This Concoction is a big wine, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s also a fun wine. I’m not sure how it would work with a meal, but it pairs well with cheese and I enjoyed it while munching on my favorite, Parmigiano Reggiano. In Northern Ky, Mr Black’s Concoction retails for around $20.
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