The Zonda or “witches wind” sometimes called the Huayrapuca and Viento Zonda is a wind that travels to parts of Western Argentina on the Eastern slope of the Andes, striking the wine regions of La Rioja, San Juan and Mendoza.
The humid air coming off of the Pacific Ocean moves over the high Andes Mountains in Chili and then rushes down into these areas wreaking havoc. Due to the humidity, it assists in creating snow over the winter months, thereby affording additional water to the South American Vineyards.
The Zonda has a tendency to drive people crazy. First, it has a strange whistling wind that is very eerie, next, it causes temperatures to rise as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit and then frequently causes freezing temperatures to follow. It also travels in speeds from 25 miles an hour up to 120 mph.
Tremendous frost damage and raging wind can severely damage vineyards due to this phenomenon, something we in Arizona are very accustomed to. Usually occurring between May and November, the Zonda can last as little as an hour and as long as 12.
So beware, it you hear a whistling wind tonight, the Zonda may be coming for you.
If you like a dry Riesling or Albarino, you’ll probably enjoy a Torrontes from Argentina. For my class wine of the week I chose the 2016 Piattelli Torrontes, from the Cafayate Valley in Salta.
It had a very pale lemon color and 14% alcohol. The grapes for this wine are grown at 5900 feet! The nose and palate reminded me of a few of our local Arizona Albarinos.
The nose smelled sweet with lovely floral notes and tropical fruits such as lychee. The palate had a light creamy mouth feel, with refreshing flavors of vanilla, honeysuckle, grass and minerals. It was quite dry with medium acidity and the finish came in at around 35 seconds. 20% of the wine was aged in American oak. This complex wine will pair well with Asian and spicy Indian food. At around $16 a bottle, I felt it was a very good buy.
What makes Argentinian grapes so special is that they are subjected to the largest diurnal shift of the International wine growing regions. Arizona comes pretty close with our major temperature swings.
Take a close look at the photo on the bottle. It looks like it has Saguaro cactuses growing at the base of the mountains. These unique cacti are only found in the Southern part of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, so it was quite surprising.
When I visited Argentina, I spent time in Mendoza and Buenos Aires, but never made it that far north to Salta. Next trip, (if there is one) I hope to go to Iguazu Falls and then visit Salta.
The Mudshark Brewery Havablue Wheat, which is brewed and bottled in Lake Havasu, Arizona was my latest beer sampling. This unique beer has a light golden amber color, with a frothy white head. There was vanilla on the nose and on the palate, and it had a blueberry finish without a bitter aftertaste. The flavor had mild hops and medium carbonation. It was relatively dry which really surprised me and was easy drinking. The vanilla and blueberry notes did not overpower the flavor. The alcohol content was 4.5% and the IBU’s fell close to 15, which is relatively standard for a wheat beer.
If you have never been to Lake Havasu, it’s in Western Arizona, close to the Nevada and California border and is home to the old London Bridge, which was transported there in 1967 in pieces and reassembled by 1971. The temperature in the area in the summer is so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, so this beer would be very refreshing for a hotter day.
This week’s wine of the week is a Meritage pronounced like “Heritage”. I chose the Kirkland, Napa Valley 2013 Meritage, which was cellared and bottle by DC Flynt MW Selections, Hopland, California (Mendocino) AVA. It is a classic style Bordeaux blend with 61% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot. The wine has 14.5% alcohol and a beautiful garnet color. The nose showcased notes of earth and dark fruit. The palate was powerful and fruit forward with flavors of oak, dark cherry, plum, earth and berries. The tannins were smooth and velvety and the finish ran around 38 seconds.
I found it extremely difficult to pair this wine. It should have gone well with my steak, but the flavor was way too overpowering, competing with the meat and not in the least bit complementary. It would probably work better with a strong cheese. I’ve had some great Bordeaux blends that are predominately Merlot and this did not do the blend justice.
Trying to find a dry German Riesling from the Mosel in the Verde Valley was really a challenge. However, on a trip to Prescott I found one from Rheinhessen at Trader Joes for my class.
The Emma Reichart came in the classic Riesling bottle. This 2016 dry Riesling from the Rhine Valley area of Rheinhessen is a Qualitatswein wine with 12% alcohol. It had lovely aromas of apricot, and grapefruit. On the palate there was a creamy mouth feel, with mineralistic notes plus almonds and herbs. It was very complex with a 34 second finish. It paired beautifully with my Teriyaki salmon and would pair well with other Asian dishes. At less than $6 it was definitely a great buy!
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.