Last night, my daughter and I decided to have an Old World vs. New World varietal contest. We chose Monastrell vs. Mourvedre. The Monastrell was the Honora-Vera 2016 from Jumilla DOP, Spain and the Mourvedre was the Hart 2015 from Temecula Valley, California. Interesting to note the Old World was 14.5% alcohol and the New World was just 12.8% alcohol. The Honora-Vera had a lovely purple/ruby color which was darker than the Hart. It was fuller bodied, had minerals, green pepper, unsweetened chocolate and dried herbs on the nose with additional flavors of dark cherry and dried cranberry on the palate. The Old world was bush trained in limestone at a 2300 foot elevation with low yields. The finish was longer than the Hart at about 31 seconds.
The Hart had a nice color of Garnet/Mahogany with aromas of berries, cherries, leather, oak and red pepper. The palate had additional cherry, mocha, oak and tannins. It was VSP trained and was medium bodied. Both had some earthy notes while the Hart was much more fruit forward.
We paired the wines with brisket, rice noodles and steamed broccoli. The Honora-Vera was an excellent, complementary, pairing for the brisket, while the Hart was too fruit forward and oaky for the pairing. Though in the case the Old World wine was higher in alcohol, it still was the better choice for food. In my studies, I frequently find the Old World wines complement food, while the new world wines are better drunk on their own.
I was hoping to have my contest with one of our delicious Arizona Mourvedres, but alas, in my wine storage, they were all drunk! This Old World- New World contest was a blast and I look forward to doing it again soon.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to sample a beer flight at our latest craft brewery, The Sedona Beer Company. Their custom flights normally include four beers for $10, however I added the 2 additional beers on the menu to my flight. The lineup included a Hefeweizen, 4.5 ABV, Golden Ale, 4.4 ABV, Session IPA, 3.6 ABV, Berliner Braunbier, 5 ABV, A Dark Mild, 4.3 ABV and an American Abbey Ale at 7 ABV. Kali, one of the owners, mentioned that they normally don’t include the ABV on the menu and never mention the IBU’s because they want their patrons to taste the beer without any preconceived notions and that true IBU’s can only be determined in a lab.
I especially enjoyed the Golden Ale and the American Abby Ale, however, I fell in love with the Berliner Braunbier (brown beer). Many of us have tasted a Berliner Weisse, but some of you might have thought the Berliner Braunbier was extinct. Not so in Sedona! This historic style Berliner Braunbier was not sour like some of the Berliner Weisse beers I’ve had. I adore their description of the beer which is perfect: “Rich layers of malt invite you deeper as they deliver warm flavors of caramel and firesides.” Put this on your to-taste list when putting together your flight!
Besides Beer, they also offer an alcoholic and non-alcoholic Wild Tonic Kombucha, plus many other non-alcoholic drinks. Their food menu includes appetizers, salads, burgers and desserts. The sweet potato Waffle fries are outstanding!
So check out the new beer and maybe the “old beer” in uptown at the Sedona Beer Co at 465 Jordan Road and open Thursday through Sunday. They’re on the web at www.sedonabeerco.com.
Today, September 21, 2018 is International Grenache Day. The Grenache grape is originally from Spain where it is called Garnacha and is frequently made into a single varietal wine. In Italy, it is known as Cannonau, and was also found early on in Sardinia. In the Southern Rhone area of France, it is called Grenache and is used as a blending grape in a Cotes du Rhone, where it is normally blended with Syrah and Mourvedre, though it can be blended with any of the approved grapes in the area. There is Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. It is also used in the making of a lovely Rose’ from the Tavel appellation in Southern Rhone blended with Cinsault.
You’ll find quite a bit of it in Australia and California. I recently listened to a wonderful podcast from the Guild of Sommeliers talking about Rhone Varietals in Paso Robles. They are producing Grenache as a standalone variety and having quite a bit of success.
In Arizona you’ll see a lot of Grenache. Though it is often used in a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), it is frequently produced as a single varietal wine and also as a Rose’.
Depending on where it’s grown, it can have amazing aromas and flavors including cherry, vanilla, jam raspberry, strawberry, pepper and other spices.
So crack open a bottle of Garnacha, a Cotes du Rhone, a GSM or an Arizona 100% Grenache and celebrate!
What is the Verde Valley Terroir?
One of my favorite descriptions of Terroir is “the Taste of the Place”. The taste of the place and more official description of terroir is determined by multiple aspects including where the grapes grown; on a hill, flat land, facing what direction, relationships to bodies of water, elevation, etc. Also included are soil type, climate, water and sunlight. Human interaction in viticulture practices has an impact as well.
In the Verde Valley we have six major vineyard areas and a variety of factors that affect our terroir in each area. For example, the Page Springs area sits on volcanic and lake bed soils and within each vineyard there are a variety of soils, geography, water and microclimates. At Page Spring Vineyards, soils include sand and clay layered over chunks of volcanic rock that is combined with chalky, alkaline, limestone-like deposits. The subsoils are alkaline, much like the limestone of the Rhône, other areas of Southern France and Burgundy. Hence, you’ll see in our area delicious Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Vermentino, Roussanne and Viognier.
In other areas along Page Springs you’ll find ash, chunks of volcanic stones, chalky clays, and limestone. Up the street by DA Ranch, we have the House Mountain vineyard, which was the home of a major volcano around 13-15 million years ago. The soils here include everything from basalt to pure limestone. Counoise, Grenache Noir, Petit Sirah grow here along with Pinot Noir, which is surprising considering our heat.
In terms of our weather, we have a very large diurnal shift, (the difference between the day time and nighttime temperatures vary considerably.)
which is excellent for growing grapes.
The other areas of the Verde Valley are also extremely diverse. In Clarkdale at our Southwest Wine Center Vineyard, there are 3 different soils that they have discovered so far and more sampling is being done. In Camp Verde, the fresh water from the Mogollon Rim offers a different taste profile.
So, if you’re in the Verde Valley, I hope you’ll sample wines from many of the different vineyards and find out about the “Taste of our place!”
Last night I tried a Furmint from Tokaj, Hungary. Furmint is an indigenous white grape that is not seen much beyond Hungary, Austria and Eastern Europe. The 2016 Evolucio had a very light pale color and was bottled with a screw top. The nose had lovely stone fruit aromas plus lychee and minerals. The palate was velvety showcasing notes of peach, apricot, green grass, minerals and mouthwatering acidity. It was medium bodied, had a nice long finish at around 40 seconds, and offered additional flavors of pepper and honeysuckle towards the end. This complex dry wine had a fruity nose, which might cause you to think its sweet. Try pairing this Furmint with sushi, salad and chicken. The alcohol content is 11.5% and at around $11 per bottle is an excellent value.
The Southwest Wine Center made a mead for the first time. One of the YC enology students was interested in how to make mead, so the director of the program said, why not? They ended up creating a Morat, which is a mulberry mead and falls under the category of a melomel, a fruit based mead. Two types of mead were created, a still version, and a sparkling version created with carbonation added. The Morat was created with 100% Arizona Desert Wild Flower Honey from Northern Arizona and Mulberry Juice. This off-dry mead was fermented in stainless steel, aged in Neutral American Oak, has 12% alcohol, and 1.5 % residual sugar. It has a light cranberry rose color, a delicious flavor and reminded me a tad of Kool-Aid. I was partial to the carbonated version. They suggest pairing it with salty and fatty foods such as aged parmesan cheese, noodles in a butter sauce or Manchego cheese. When exploring honey-based wines, lead with this mead!
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!
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.