Viognier is one of Arizona’s star white wine grapes and it has found its way into my heart and soul. Recently I was lucky enough to enjoy the Saeculum Cellars 2018 Viognier and was thrilled by this exquisite Arizona wine. The hue looked to be a pale lemon when poured into a glass and the ABV came in at 14.1%. The nose displayed delicate floral notes of gardenia and hibiscus as well as lemon pith and a nice minerality. The palate was extremely fruity with beautiful flavors of mango, cantaloupe, and hints of limestone. We paired this Wilcox white with a dish coming from a little further away, a Szechwan stir fry! The bright fruit notes of this Viognier contrasted and mellowed the spicy chilies and garlic in this stir fry. It did however complement the natural flavors of sweetness and minerality that Chinese broccoli always seems to contain.
One of the reasons that I think Viognier has taken off in Arizona is due to our success in growing Rhone Valley varieties. This state will always be able to provide potential customers with a large pool of GSM’s to choose from as well as a nice selection of Rhone whites to pick from as well. Arizona is blessed to have a great climate for growing Viogniers that tend to display more fruit and less minerality than its French counterparts. Though I am sure I will be exploring the grape for many years to come, I will often be following the way of Viognier!
Mimi Mahl – Guest Blogger
Many people have had the opportunity to try delicious wine varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, or Viognier, but how often do you have the opportunity to sample the grapes they are made from? One of the advantages of having a local wine college which teaches enology (the study of making wine) and viticulture (the study of growing the vines), is sampling local wine grape varieties during harvest time. When I visit the Southwest Wine Center during harvest and my wine tour guests sample the wine grapes, they are amazed at the delicious fruit! It also astonishes them how different the grapes taste from the wine. Our Wine College grows a variety of unique wine grapes including Refosco, Malvasia Bianca, Tannat, Piquepoul Blanc, Viognier and Barbera. It’s a wonderful time of year to be in Arizona and have the chance to sample our local wine grapes.
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When I attended a wine and food pairing event with the Mayor of Wines a few weeks ago, my favorite wine of the evening was a delicious white wine blend from Pine Ridge, California, so of course, I had to take home a bottle! Last night I enjoyed this lovely blend of 17% Viognier and 83% Chenin Blanc with a dinner of salmon, bok choy, and rice noodles.
The luscious nose of the 2017 Pine Ridge white blend was bold and beautiful, showcasing aromas of star fruit, apricot, minerals, and honeydew. The palate was rife with flavors of pear, apricot, cantaloupe, and freshly mown grass. The finish lingered for around 22 seconds and the wine offered 12.5 % alcohol by volume. This beautifully balanced white blend displayed a crisp acidity that wasn’t overpowering and paired extremely well with the slightly spicy Dijon salmon that I made with it. All in all, at around $13, I highly recommend enjoying the Pine Ridge Viognier/Chenin Blanc blend with dinner or even by itself!
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!
This year, The Southwest Wine Center won a Gold medal again at the Jefferson Cup and they recently won a Bronze and Silver medal for a Malvasia Bianca /Viognier blend and Syrah/Tempranillo blend respectively.
Their 2017 Viognier ML+, Yavapai College Vineyard, is an award winner in my book also. It has a clear pale lemon color and a delightful aroma of apricot, pear and Kiwi. On the palate you’ll find delicious flavors of honeysuckle, tangerine, almond and butterscotch. Though this viognier went through Malolactic fermentation, it still displays a nice acidity and balance. It is dry, complex with a light to medium body. The finish lingered for about 28 seconds and the wine is 12.2% alcohol by volume. I paired it with a garlic chicken, and it was an excellent combination.
This Viognier is still available for purchase at the Southwest Wine Center. Make sure to try this delightful viognier from our award-winning Wine College, which is located along the Verde Valley Wine Trail.
With this wine you’ll be tempted to Viognier all day!
Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and as a treat, I took her wine tasting. We started off at Arizona Stonghold and were delighted by their Port style wine. We then walked over to Burning Tree and tried the 2017 Architect, a delicious blend of Viognier, Riesling, Malvasia Bianca, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Roussanne which I highly recommend. Next, we visited Merkin so that Mimi could try their Shinola Orancia, a 100% Malvasia Bianca fermented on the skins. We then strolled over to Winery 101, imbibed and bought their 2015 Malvasia Bianca and the 2016 Super Tuscan. After Old Town, we headed up the hill to Bodega Pierce in Clarkdale and Mimi bought the 2014 Gallia, a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend.
Our final stop was the Art of Wine where we popped open a bottle of the 2014 Napa Valley, Rutherford and Dollarhide vineyards, St. Supery Elu, and enjoyed it with the owners and friends. The Elu is a luscious Left Bank, Bordeaux Style blend with 61% Cabernet, 22% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged for 19 months in French Oak and has 14,5% ABV. Many of us would have guessed there was a touch of Zinfandel due to it’s jammy, plum and spicy notes. The color was a lovely inky purple, and the palate was velvety showcasing additional delicious flavors of dark berries, coffee, anise and chocolate. This complex wine had a wonderful, lingering finish and is the type of wine I’d drink on its own without food. James Suckling rated it 92 points and I found it to be an excellent wine. It retails for around $65.
We ended up at the Hudson for dinner; what an amazing day! I hope your birthday wine tours are just as enjoyable!
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.
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!
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.
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.
The 2016 Monsoon by Southwest Wine Center is a white wine as stunning as our Arizona storms. It contains 45% Malvasia Bianca, 45% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Viognier. It has a pale straw color, with medium acidity and intensity. The nose bursts with delicious notes of lychee, grapefruit, dried apricot and honeysuckle while the palate also includes a luscious honey/honeysuckle flavor. This dry and very refreshing wine offers a long finish at around 40 seconds. The alcohol content comes in at 12.8%.
I was a big fan of their Sunlight which won a Gold Medal and Best of Class Award at the 2017 Sunset International wine competition in Berkeley, California. I thoroughly enjoyed the new Monsoon. It’s unique from the Sunlight with added Sauvignon Blanc and different percentages of Malvasia Bianca and Viognier. A delightful wine to drink while watching our monsoons roll by.
Sue Schurgin, CSW, (Certified Specialist of Wine) is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She loves education and is also a Level 1 Sommelier.