Grenache is a grape variety that does extremely well in Arizona. I frequently direct Pinot Noir lovers to try our Arizona Grenache. Grenache or Garnacha as it is called in Spain, is renowned in Rioja, Spain and the Rhone Valley of France. It also grows extensively in the United State and Australia. It is frequently used as a blending grape with Syrah and Mourvedre. However, you’ll frequently find it is a wonderful single varietal wine in Arizona.
I bought a bottle of the Keeling Schaefer 2016 Two Reds Grenache on my Wilcox trip, a blend of 92% Grenache and 8 % Syrah. The color was a beautiful Ruby Rose. It showcased luscious aromas of dark cherry, oak, smoke and melon. The palate had a delightful velvety feel with additional flavors of strawberry, raspberry and pepper. The finish was around 16 seconds. The winemakers also note additional flavors of sage, prickly pear and incense. The wine has 14.2% alcohol and is one of my favorite Grenaches in the state and 319 cases were produced. At under $20 a bottle, it’s a real steal! If you’re a Pinot Noir lover, it’s time to give this Grenache a try.
The 2016 Peasant from Burning Tree Cellars is a delicious wine with lovely aromas of cherry, raspberry, cinnamon and caramel. The grapes hailed from Buhl Memorial Vineyard in Cochise County in the Southern part of Arizona. It was produced and bottled in Camp Verde. On the palate I found additional delightful flavors of tart cherry, raspberry, toasted coconut and vanilla. The wine has 13% alcohol and the finish was lingering at around 32 seconds. This Grenache paired beautifully with my stir fry chicken.
Burning Tree has a fabulous tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood with a wide selection of single wine varietals and blends in both reds and white. They have won awards Statewide and Nationally and were awarded 90 points on a Syrah from The Wine Spectator. The co-owners or co-conspirators as they like to call themselves are Corey Turnbull and Mitch Levy. Corey also creates wines for Page Springs Cellars and Mitch is in the Southwest Wine Center degree program. So don’t let the name fool you, this Peasant is high on my list of excellent wines and you won’t pay High Society prices for it!
On a recent visit to the newly opened Bodega Pierce, I was thrilled to have both a light flight and bold flight. So what is a Bodega? It could be a cellar, grocery store, wine shop, bar, a place to store coffee or even a vineyard. Many of the vineyards I visited in Medoza, Argentina had Bodega in their names.
It was exciting to see the 2017 Malvasia Bianca on the light flight menu. The 2017 is quite different than the 16 for it has lovely notes of gooseberry. Also, on the light flight was a delightful Chardonnay ML, Grenache Rose’, the Athena, a delicious blend of Grenache, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo (one that I purchased) and the Emotiva, a super Tuscan style blend.
The bold flight included a GSM, Merlot, Graciano and Gallia, a Cabernet forward and Merlot, Bordeaux style blend. The other wine I sampled that was not on the bold flight was the 100% Cabernet Franc, which I also ended up purchasing. Each wine I tasted was excellent and I wish I had it in my budget to purchase all of them! Bodega Pierce is now open Thursday thru Sunday, so I hope you have the opportunity to stop by the new Bodega!
Last night for Thanksgiving, I decided to pair the Turkey and side dishes with a lovely Arizona Grenache. Arizona Grenache is a special treat and an excellent alternative to Pinot Noir. However, when I opened the Grenache it had cork taint! Cork taint is a mold called 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole or TCA with odors of mold and must. It sometimes smells like a moldy basement. This fault can occur in up to 8% of bottles. The mold is destructive and can also permeate any part of a winery including barrels and walls and even end up in a screw top wine!
Since the Grenache was undrinkable, I decided to open another bottle. This time I chose an Arizona Viognier, which should have paired well with the Turkey, however, this Viognier was smooth when it hit the tip of my tongue but the became quite harsh as it hit the back of my tongue. It was such a disappointment and did not pair well with the delicious dinner. At this point, after cooking all day, I was too tired and frustrated to open a 3rd bottle.
There are fabulous leftovers galore in the house, so tonight, I’ll either open a Pinot Noir, another Viognier or a French Rose’ which I have stashed away. So wish me luck! I hope you had better luck with your Thanksgiving wine and I hope that your leftovers enjoy a taint free wine.
The 3rd Thursday of November is the release of Beaujolais Nouveau in the Burgundy region of France. This year it falls on November 15th. Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape and frequently served on Thanksgiving. This year is purported to be an excellent year for Beaujolais in France. The grapes are fermented for only a few weeks and then bottled. The release of Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated in France with major festivities including music and fireworks. Georges Duboeuf is a popular brand seen in American stores, however this is not a wine that you want to age, so I’d recommend drinking it within a few months.
If you’re not a Beaujolais Nouveau fan, why not try a delicious Arizona Grenache, Pinot Noir or Rose. Yes, we do grow Pinot Noir in Arizona! Bodega Piece and Page Springs have excellent ones. For Grenache, try one from Pillsbury. For Rose, most of our wineries have a rose and Merkin has a variety of them. For my table, an Arizona Grenache will be accompanying this year’s turkey.
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!”
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.