Being in the wine touring business, it’s not always easy to catch up on all of the new wines and varietals that are being offered in the Verde Valley and Arizona. Therefore, I’m thrilled to be attending the Arizona Vignerons Alliance Symposium and Grand Tasting in Phoenix this weekend.
The first exciting event on Sunday will be the symposium on wild grapes. No, we’re not talking about those wild grapes known as Vitis Arizonica that grow along our riverbanks in the Verde Valley, but unique, indigenous varietals from around the world that we are growing in Arizona including Mourvedre, Vermentino, Petit Manseng, Aglianico, Graciano, Sagrantino, Tannat and Vranac. I’ve had the opportunity to try most of these, but am looking forward to learning more about each one.
Next on the panel is an Arizona wine competition, with our varietals being compared to the same wine varietals from other areas around the world. I’ve done some of these comparisons on my own, but I’m very interested to see which National and International wines will be placed against ours, and which Arizona wines will be chosen.
Finally, a beautiful Rose’ lunch catered by The Farm at South Mountain followed by a lively auction and a Grand Tasting of Arizona Wines and Wine Sale.
What could be better?
This week’s wine of the week is a 2015 bourbon barrel aged Chardonnay by Toasted Head. Around 70% of the grapes for this wine are sourced from their vineyards in Dunnigan Hill, AVA, in Yolo County, around 20 miles east of Napa with the rest from Mendocino County in California.
The color was a clear pale lemon. The nose had aromas of apple and bourbon. The palate tasted of oak, vanilla, spice, bourbon and a tad lemon. The mouthfeel was creamy and a little buttery with finish that lasted around 25 seconds.
I paired it with Asian style turkey lettuce wraps, but it competed instead of complemented the food. I know that bourbon barrel aging is all the rage these days, and I really enjoy it when done with coffee beans, however I’m not a fan of this barrel aged wine. The style makes the wine more challenging to pair with food. At the same time, I also opened a 2016 Cupcake Butterkissed Chardonnay from Livermore, California, and enjoyed the flavor and nose so much more. It also paired more easily with the food.
I was excited to try a new Pinotage for my wine of the week. Up to now the Nederburg Pinotage has been my go to Pinotage, but this week I tried the Spier 2015 Pinotage, which hales from Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Vineyard was established in 1692.
Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut or Hermitage which was developed in South Africa in 1925, yet the taste seems nothing like either wine and reminds me more of a Tannat. The juice was cold soaked for 2 days and fermented in stainless steel tanks. 20% was aged in French oak with the balance aged in stainless steel tanks.
The color was a beautiful inky ruby and the nose offered aromas of smoke, tobacco and cherry. It was quite tannic and the palate had similar notes with the addition of some earth. What was very surprising, was how the flavor and aroma really changed upon opening. After about an hour most of the smoke disappeared leaving a velvety wine with lovely flavors of blackberry and current. The wine has 14.5% alcohol and around a 22 second finish. I paired it with shredded beef and at under $12, this is a great buy.
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!
Spanish wines have always been at the top of my list, so I was very pleased when the wine of the week for my class was a Rioja Crianza. I chose the Palacios Remondo La Montesa 2013. This wine was rated number 52 on the Wine Spectator top 100 list. It had beautiful aromas of cherry, blackberry dried fruit and oak and the palate also had some plum and black pepper. The wine was off dry with medium acidity and a medium body and had 14.5% alcohol. I was surprised by the exceptionally long finish of over 50 seconds. You can find this wine at under $15 at Costco and it’s one I’m going to stock up on!
There is a wonderful story behind this Italian wine. Back in the 12th century a bishop was on his way to Rome for a meeting with the Pope. Being a discerning wine lover, he sent his servant ahead to scope out the best taverns or inns for wine. The servant was to write est, (“it is or there is” in Latin) on the door when he came across excellent wine. Close to Rome in the commune of Montefiascone, he found an inn and wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! since the wine was so outstanding. The rumor goes that the Bishop was so in love with the wine that he never made it to Rome and stayed there drinking away until he died.
This inexpensive white wine is a blend of Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano. I chose the 2016, Est! Est!! Est!! di Montfiascone, DOC from Pietro. The wine had 12% alcohol by volume was dry with medium acidity and was pale straw in color. The nose showcased kiwi, pineapple, flowers and peach and the palate had additional stone fruit flavors. It was crisp with a light, creamy mouth feel. It paired beautifully with my pasta and fish. At $10 a bottle from Total Wine, I’d highly recommend it!
Don’t forget to try our delicious Malvasia when you visit Sedona. You may decide not to return home!
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours and is studying for her CSW and sommelier certificates.