When my guests visit the Southwest Wine Center, on the Yavapai College Campus in Clarkdale, there is always something exciting instore for them. Besides sampling fabulous wines and getting a tour of the amazing facility, they learn about winemaking techniques and sometimes guests will even get to sample wine grapes! On a tour last week, guests tried the Malvasia Bianca and Carignan wine grapes.
When you sample wine grapes they don’t always taste like the wine, however, Malvasia Bianca is one variety that can taste quite similar to the wine. Pictured on the right is the Malvasia Bianca, one of Arizona’s signature white grapes. It originated in Crete and if quite popular in Italy. It has been used in Chianti and Madera.
Carignan is a red grape found in Italy, Spain and Southern France and known by many names including Mazuelo and Samso and is pictured on the left. It produces full bodied reds, is often used for blending and grows quite well especially in hotter climates. The Carignan from our college vineyard was planted in 2015 and is already producing amazing fruit with a luscious, sweet fruit taste.
I look forward to tasting the wonderful wines that will be produced from these grapes. Starting next year, the College will be offering wines made from 100% estate fruit, meaning they will grow all of the grapes for the wines they produce on the campus.
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!”
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!
A cork made from sugar cane? Yes! These are plant-based synthetic corks made from non-GMO sugar cane and are manufactured by the Nomacorc company in Brazil. The manufacture has developed these as a natural cork alternative and states they offer a zero-carbon footprint. They also reference them to be 100% recyclable and have consistent oxygen control. They have a look and feel similar to synthetic cork.
These new innovative corks are now in use at the Southwest Wine Center in the 2017 Viognier and their 100% Malvasia. The college is also using them in the new Passport, a Viognier and Malvasia blend and expects to use them in and all of the 2017 whites to be bottled.
These corks as a choice of bottle closure are another addition to the mission of ecology and sustainability that is a major goal at Yavapai College.
The Southwest Wine Center is an adaptive reuse project, which is a process that adapts buildings for new uses while retaining their original features. The building where the tasting room, fermentation, aging and bottling are done was formerly a racquet ball court! One goal of their project is to use 50% less power than an average Arizona home. Their roof also collects rain water for irrigation and other uses. When I take my private wine tours to the facility, I love pointing out the rock walls, which were created utilizing rocks cleared out from the vineyard land.
The corks are currently being used on just the white wines. It will be interesting to see how this newer material will maintain the wines while supporting our environment.
Wednesday night was a fabulous Local First Arizona Event in Old Town Cottonwood at the State Bar. The State Bar was pouring some excellent Arizona wines including the Southwest Wine Center Monsoon, Sand Reckoner R and Page Springs, Mules Mistake. They have a fabulous outdoor patio and serve Arizona Wine, Beers and Mead. Small Batch winery which is right next door, is a unique company that has a excellent wine inventory and creates special wine events. They were pouring a bourbon barrel aged Chardonnay and a Red Blend from Beringer. In addition to these two wonderful businesses, one of the largest Vineyards in Arizona, Carlson Creek, had their winemaker pouring their Rule of three, GSM blend, of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. We are all very excited because Carlson Creek is moving into the space where Firemountain Winery was. They will be remodeling the interior and will be a new addition to the tasting rooms in Old Town, hopefully by sometime in July. Food was supplied by Little Moos which has a nice selection of gluten free options also.
Since I’m frequently taking guests on tours, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to try many of the new wine and beer releases. Yesterday, I had a break and decided to visit the Southwest Wine Center, which offers a Viticulture and Enology degree program in Clarkdale, AZ and has a lovely tasting room.
Their recently released 2016 Sunlight is 100% estate grown and is comprised of 62% Malvasia Bianca and 38% Viognier. It has 13.2% alcohol and was fermented in neutral oak for 8 months. This is the first 100% estate grown white blend that the Center has released, and a real gem. It has very pleasant, bright acids with a touch of floral, kiwi and butterscotch. The bottle also states tropical fruits and key lime notes. The price is $25 and with only 24 cases produced, you don’t have much time left to grab up this wine.
Other new estate releases slated to be released soon are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.
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Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.