One of the newer vineyards in the Kansas Settlement of Wilcox, Arizona is Birds and Barrels; founded in 2015 by Chad and Monica Preston. The goal at Birds and Barrels is to “produce high-quality, hand-crafted wine.” One of their early releases was a 2016 Petit Verdot with a beautiful deep garnet color. The nose on their 2016 Petit Verde showcased lovely aromas of currant, earth black cherry and raspberry. On the palate there were additional notes of spice, blueberry, plum, chocolate and cedar. This dry red wine had a medium to full body with a 25 second finish. The wine had 13.4% alcohol by volume. Petit Verdot is used in Bordeaux, France primarily as a minor blending grape and it ripens late. It grows exceptionally well in Arizona since it has the ability to ripen fully and is fast becoming one of my Arizona favorite grape varieties. If you’re in the Wilcox Bench area, stop by and sip delicious wine on their beautiful patio.
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I just love Mourvèdre, which is used as a blending grape in Southern Rhone and known as Monastrell in Spain. I seek out different vintages and winemakers both from Arizona and across the world. Arizona Mourvèdres typically have strong pepper notes, however the Keeling Schaefer 2014 Mourvèdre was different from many of Arizona’s Mourvèdres and others they produce. These grapes are grown in Southern Arizona at a 5000 foot elevation in their Rock Creek Vineyard by the Chiricahua Mountains, (one of my favorite hiking areas in Arizona with gorgeous blue spruce trees!) This 100% Mourvèdre had a beautiful garnet color with a touch of mahogany. The nose showcased lovely notes of plum, prune, earth and spirits. The palate offered additional notes of cassis, raisin, chocolate and baking spices, but surprisingly, not the usual pepper notes you’d expect from an Arizona Mourvèdre. This delicious dry red wine from Cochise County, was complex with a medium body and had a finish of around 18 seconds. It had 15.4% ABV, was very food friendly and thoroughly enjoyable! You don’t have to keel over to try this delightful Arizona wine; their wines are available at many locations across the state including their tasting room in downtown Wilcox!
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Gewurztraminer is an extremely aromatic white grape and is renowned in Alsace, France and Germany. We’re starting to see more dry Gewurztraminers in our state and in other parts of the world.
This week, I had the opportunity to try the 2013 Estate grown, Balletto Gewurztraminer from Russian River Valley. The Balletto’s like many Arizona farmers utilize sustainable farming practices. The color was a beautiful pale lemon and the wine had 13.7% alcohol by volume. The wine offered lovely aromas of gardenia flowers, lychee, green apple and apricots. The palate also showcased tropical flowers, coconut and salted caramel. The finish was around 28 seconds. This delightful wine was very enjoyable on it’s on however, it needs to be paired with something mild due to its powerful floral flavors. While there are many bottles of perfume out there, this is the only one I would choose to drink!
Last week we had a blind wine tasting with wines from Temecula. Four whites and four reds were showcased. The favorite of the evening was the 2017 Arneis from Hart Winery. For those who have never tasted Arneis, it is an important white grape from Piedmont, Italy and one of my favorites.
On the nose we found delightful aromas of grass, tropical fruit, flowers and almonds. On the palate there were additional flavors of honeysuckle, hazelnut, and dried apricot.
This dry white wine had a beautiful pale straw color, a 23 second finish and 11.5% alcohol by volume. There were 326 cases produced. Arizona is also growing Arneis, so if you can’t make it to Northern Italy or the lovely Hart Winery in Temecula, I hope you have the opportunity to try some local Arneis.
Last week, I attended a VOCA wine and food pairing event at the Redstone Grill with the Mayor of Wine, Steve Bailey. Steve is a Certified Sommelier and is WSET 3 certified.
The lineup started with a delightful sparkling Brut CAVA from Campo Viejo, Spain. Next was the Canoe Ridge Pinot Gris from Washington State. After that came the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier Blend from Napa Valley, California, my favorite of the evening. The reds then started off with the Provisioner Red Blend from Arizona, the Wente Southern Hill Cabernet from Livermore, California and finally the Arizona Stronghold “Mangus” Red Blend, a combination of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet. I learned that “Mangus” was the Brother in Law of Cochise, a famous leader and Chief of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Cochise County is where many of our Arizona wines hail from. AZ Stronghold uses a variety of Native American names for their wines. Tazi, a Stronghold white favorite, is named after Cochise’s older son.
The food pairing done buffet style, started with a delicious dilled, creamed salmon, then onto assorted cheeses and crackers, a cucumber and ham canopy, shrimp with cocktail sauce and beef skewers. There were delicious eclairs and mini cheesecakes for dessert. Most of the food pairings went well as they appeared with the above wines, however the skewers being on the saltier side, did struggle with the Mangus blend and not bring out its best flavors.
If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these wine pairing evenings with the Mayor, I’d definitely recommend it!
Last year I blogged about the 2016 Picpoul Blanc from Chateau Tumbleweed. This week I had the opportunity to try the 2017 vintage which was also sourced from the Cimarron vineyard. The 2017 has 11.8 % alcohol; a little less than the 2016. The color was a very pale lemon and like the 2016 had a very soft mouth feel especially since it was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The acidity was surprisingly mellow since Picpoul, a.k.a. “the lip stinger” can frequently be highly acidic. It was fermented for 35 days in stainless steel and was aged in stainless for an additional 6 months. The residual sugar was .75%.
The nose had nice aromas of stone fruits such as apricots and peaches, minerals and limestone notes. The flavor profile had just a tad of sweetness with notes of stone fruits, eucalyptus and a hint of butterscotch. It had a medium body and around a 20 second finish.
I paired it with a delicious garlic chicken and was pleased with the combination. Just 59 cases of this delightful wine were produced so we’re all breathlessly waiting for our lips to be stung in 2018!
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!
I’m excited to announce our Exclusive, Private, Helicopter Winery Tour with Sun State Helicopter Tours, LLC!
Sun State and Sedona Wine and Beer Tours are rated 5 Stars on TripAdvisor! Fly over majestic Sedona with Sun State Helicopters, departing from and returning to Sedona's beautiful airport in the clouds. Then tour by private ground transportation with Sedona Wine and Beer Tours by Sedona Delivers, LLC, visiting a variety of vineyards or remote tasting rooms tailored to your taste preferences. Sample the best wines along the Verde Valley Wine Trail and beyond.
Your aerial tour of the Verde Valley is designed to give you a comprehensive perspective for understanding the size & layout of each winery, their grape varieties, and terroir as well. Experienced, professional pilots take you over the Verde Valley’s best wineries & point out the red rock formations along the way.
Travel from the Scottsdale Airport, and alternative landing locations can be arranged for an additional fee.
This unique wine tour combination is the experience of a lifetime!
Visit https://www.sunstateheli.com to learn more or call Sun State Helicopter Tours at (480) 993-3223.
To book your private, customized wine tour call Sedona Wine and Beer tours at 928-963-1866 or visit:
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To celebrate National Wine Day (there is also a National Wine Drinking Day), I decided to list many of the wine grape varieties we are now growing in Arizona. The list is extensive and by no means complete. So here we go:
Aglianico, Albarino, Aleatico, Alicante Bouschet, Arinarnoa, Arneis, Assyrtiko, Barbera, Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonel, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Counoise, Dolcetto, Graciano, Grenache, Gros Verdot, Lulienga, Malbec Bianca, Malvasia, Marsanne, Marselan, Merlot, Mission, Montepulciano, Mourvedre, Muscat Canelli, Muscat of Alexandria, Nebbiolo, Negroamaro, Petit Manseng, Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot, Picpoul, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Refosco, Riesling, Roussane, Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Souzao, Symphony, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo, Verdelho, Vermentino, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, Vranac, and Zinfandel.
Enjoy National Wine Day and I hope you get to try many Arizona wines and our unique wine varietals.
Viognier originates from the Northern Rhone Valley in France and has been gaining popularity worldwide in the last few decades. It is also the state signature grape of Virginia. However, an Arizona Viognier from Chateau Tumbleweed just won the top award in the Country for Viognier at the San Francisco Chronicles Wine Competition!
Arizona has a wonderful variety of Viognier and today I’m reviewing the 2017 Viognier from Clear Creek Vineyards in Camp Verde. Clear Creek recently won the Yavapai County SBDC 2018 Success Award.
All grapes used in Clear Creek wines are grown on their property. They utilize organic practices and do not filter or fine their wines. Many winemakers feel that by filtering or fining the wines, you strip various flavors out of the wine.
The wine color is a lemony apricot and being unfiltered, reminds me of many Old-World Wines. There is also a minuscule amount of effervescence. This Viognier has a subtle honeydew nose with lovely flavors of apricot, white peach, hazelnut and cantaloupe on the palate. It offers very smooth drinking and was lower in acidity than I expected. The alcohol content is 13.2% and the finish is around 22 seconds. It will pair nicely with chicken salad, a bold salmon or Mahi Mahi. I thoroughly enjoyed it with my grilled salmon.
You don’t need to travel to the Northern Rhone Valley to experience Viognier, since we have excellent ones in Arizona!
Over 75% of wine grapes grown in Arizona come from the Wilcox and Sonoita area. When traveling through Sedona and the Verde Valley, you’ll find grapes growing in Page Springs, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Clarkdale the Village of Oak Creek and Jerome, yet no commercial wineries exist in Sedona. It’s interesting to note, that the first commercial vineyard in Arizona was just outside of Sedona. The owner of Red Rock Winery, Henry Schuerman, a baker from Germany and his wife Dorette had 76 acres under vine close to Sedona. They planted Zinfandel and supplied miners and other locals with their single varietal wine. Unfortunately, Schuerman was arrested during Prohibition and lost his vines as Oak creek changed it’s course and ruined the vineyard, with few vines surviving.
It took until the 1970’s for the Arizona wine industry to reboot again and it’s growing almost exponentially in both the Northern and Southern parts of the State. Winning the “Best in Show” at the San Francisco Chronicles wine competition in both Viognier and Montepulciano, along with multiple Gold and Double Gold Medals, Arizona can be very proud of our growth. achievements and delicious wine.
Sue Schurgin, CSW, (Certified Specialist of Wine) is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She loves education and will also pursue her Certified Sommelier.