Last week I had the opportunity to spend 3 days in Temecula doing wine tasting. It had been over 20 years since I’d been in the area and I heard good things about their wines recently. Though I found a few good wineries, I was shocked at the quality of many of the wines I tried. At a famous winery, one of their wines had distinct aromas of Ethyl Acetate. (That’s a wine fault caused by a bacteria that smells like nail polish remover). Another wine was absolutely oxidized, and the server said well I’m not wild about the taste of this wine. It was so surprising that their staff was not trained to recognize wine faults.
Many of my guests are shocked that we grow grapes in Arizona, yet it was interesting that the Temecula temperature was hotter than the Verde Valley! Unfortunately, they haven’t planted many hot weather varieties of grapes that would grow well in the region. Though I love Central coast and the North Coast AVA’s of California, Temecula has not found its niche. It needs stop trying to emulate the other parts of California and start producing unique wine varietals that will do well in their area. Though Arizona is still in its infancy in terms of wine production, I feel that our wines Rock in comparison and good times are ahead of us!
Malvasia Bianca is one of Arizona’s star white grapes! Its origins are from the island of Crete, which is on a similar latitude to Arizona. It is planted in many areas of Italy and in Portugal is used in Madera Wines. This week, I had the opportunity to try the 2015 Malvasia Bianca from a new Verde Valley Winery in Camp Verde, called Salt Mine Winery.
The color was a pale lemon-straw and the wine had a light to medium body. The nose had Intense floral and tropical notes with a tad of lychee. Aromas of honeysuckle carried on into the palate. The palate was more subtle with notes of stone fruit such as apricot, and hints of lime. It had a nice crisp acidity. The finish was around 20 seconds and the wine had 13.9% alcohol. This refreshing white varietal is one of my favorite stars!
I frequently talk about our award-winning meads in Arizona. The question is: What exactly is Mead? Well at its most basic level it is honey, water and yeast and is one of the oldest fermented beverages in the world. Two locations in the Verde Valley feature the Mazer Cup award winning meads from Superstition Meadery. Our wine college also just created a dry mead, which I have not had the opportunity to sample. You’ll find meads from very dry to very sweet. Though I tend to like dry wines, I’m enamored with the delicious sweet meads from Superstition. They create unique flavors such as Tahitian Honeymoon-vanilla, Hera’s Orchard-apricot peach, Desert Monsoon-prickly pear, Marion Berry, and Peanut Butter and Jelly. So try an Arizona mead and you’ll be talking about it too!
As harvest draws closer our grapes are going through the process called Veraison. All grapes start out green. As they mature, three things happen during this time;The seeds inside the grape become hard, the grapes change from hard green pellets to a soft lush berry and the grapes change in color. The red grapes go from green to red and the white grapes go from green to a golden color and become more translucent. During this time, the sugar content also rises quite rapidly, and the acid content starts to drop. Berries change color one at a time so, in a cluster of red grapes, the colors are magnificent with both green and red berries in the same cluster. Verason is only a step away from harvest and our new Arizona Wines!
As a business owner, I work extremely hard to provide an outstanding level of service and enjoyment for my guests. Part of that service commitment is keeping my company vehicle in top shape and creating policies for our guest’s safety. One particular safety feature is our Zero Tolerance policy. Rest assured, that while you’re on our wine or beer tours, or utilizing our vehicle for livery service, our driver will not be drinking alcohol, or using drugs that may impair their judgement. We also maintain a regular maintenance schedule for our vehicle. We are very proud to have received a Certificate of Excellence from ADOT, the Arizona Department of Transportation, for a perfect compliance inspection this month and hope that it reflects another aspect of our commitment to your safety and pleasure.
For you Craft Brew lovers, this week I had the opportunity to sample a beer flight at That Brewery. This Cottonwood brewery is on Cherry Road, past the recycling center. Two of the beers I tasted were recently added to the list; the Dirty Verde IPA and the Coffee Stout. Though I adore Stouts and Porters, I started with the Strawberry Blond, which is one of my favorite beers at the brewery. I then tried the Backwoods Blonde, Dirty Verde, That Loco, Coffee Stout and Knotty Nut Brown. The new Coffee Stout absolutely wowed me; it’s so new that it wasn’t even listed up on the chalk board or menu! It was barrel aged and blended and had 6% ABV. The smooth and velvety flavors of coffee, chocolate and caramel blended together beautifully. This is one of the best Coffee Stouts I’ve had in a long time. So, if you’re a Coffee lover and Stout lover, it’s time to head to That.
New Wineries and Breweries are popping up all over the Verde Valley. This week, I had the opportunity to visit one such winery out in Camp Verde.
Salt Mine Winery is a beautiful property growing many grape varieties such as: Sangiovese, Aglianico, Primativo (Zinfandel), Malvasia Bianca, Montepulciano, Barbera and Moscato. They will be specializing in Italian wine varietals.
Currently on their wine flight they have a 2015 and 2016 Malvasia Bianca, a Sangiovese, Graciano and Tempranillo blend. This selection is being sourced from other vineyards mostly in the Wilcox Bench area while their vineyard grapes are maturing. The Norton brothers Kevin and Chip are the owners. Chip is also involved in the Sinagua Malt Company which was started as a river water conservation project and their malted barley is being used by local breweries. The Salt Mine Winery is currently open on Saturdays and Holidays, so stop on by.
I had the opportunity to do a tasting over at Page Springs Cellars, and one wine that I thoroughly enjoyed was the 2017 Vermentino Free Run. The grapes are from the Dos Padres Vineyard, which is on a hill, west of their property on the other side of Oak Creek.
The color was a lovely pale straw. It was dry, had nice acidity and showcased aromas of kiwi and melon on the nose. This complex wine had an amazing soft mouth feel and smooth finish which lasted for around 30 seconds. On the palate there were notes of lime, kiwi and stone fruit. The alcohol content came in at 13.6% and they produced 155 cases. This delightful Vermentino paired beautifully with my fish and is perfect for our hot summer months. There’s no need to travel to Italy to experience a lovely Vermentino. Since this wine is only for sale in Arizona, it’s time for a visit to Page Springs!
It’s National Lambrusco day and what better way to celebrate than to pop open a bottle? For my selection, I chose the Sei Amici, Dolce Rosso Lambrusco Dell’Emilia, IGT. Sei Amici is Italian for six friends, for you’re supposed to enjoy this wine with six friends. 😊
Lambrusco is actually a grape variety, grown in a few areas of Italy. This particular wine hales from the Emilia-Romagna area which is in Northern Italy, below Lombardy and Veneto. The nose showcased notes of earth, cherry, and liquorish, while the palate presented flavors of black cherry, tart cherry and a light effervescence. It was off-dry to semi sweet, had a medium body, 8% alcohol and was balanced. The finish was surprising long at 33 seconds. It would pair nicely with pasta and pizza. Though I’m not a big sweet wine fan, I felt that this wine was very drinkable and for under $8 a good buy.
Cheers to the Italians on Lambrusco Day.
Like many states, Arizona has been hopping on the Craft Brewery revolution. Many brew masters buy commercial hops for their consistency. It is the hops that adds the bitter flavor to beers which are rated in IBU’s (International Bitterness Units). There are two major categories of hops; aroma hops which add lovely aromas and bitter hops which help increase bitterness.
One of our commercial winemakers, Ignacio Mesa from Clear Creek vineyards, is growing hops and intends to brew beer in the future. Currently, he is trying out 3 different types of hops; Cascade, which is the most popular hops grown in North America, Mogollon, which is a wild hops from the Mogollon rim area and Neomexicana hops which is native to the Southwest, and pictured on the far left. As you can see, the Neomexicana seems to be thriving the best in the Clear Creek area. Each variety of hops has a unique taste, so it will be interesting to see which hops he chooses or if he tries a variety of hops when making his beers.
Have a hoppy day!
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.