By Manos Angelakis
I’m a city-born and bred guy; if I don’t have concrete and asphalt under my feet, I don’t feel right. Yet here I am tasting and writing about wines – an unmistakably agricultural product that depends for quality on terroir (the composition of the land, altitude, temperature and water availability) as much as the expertise of the winemaker. I just returned from a trip to Arizona and I’m very excited about my discovery of Arizona wines.
Yes, I did say Arizona wines…
Some intrepid winemakers are now producing wines from grapes grown in Arizona, and I discovered a number that were truly remarkable. Very good wines, some made from grapes that are normally associated with Italy’s Toscana and Piemonte and the French Rhone valley, not Arizona’s highlands and lowlands.
I have to thank Dug MacKenzie, of the Greater Phoenix CVB, for this discovery. While we were talking about a possible trip to Phoenix for Barbara and me to experience two of the best resorts and spas in the area, he casually mentioned Arizona wines. Arizona wines, I asked. Good Arizona wines? Yes, he said, there are a few good wineries now in Arizona and you should taste some of their wines. And so, it was decided that as part of our journey, Barbara would be experiencing the spas at the resorts, and I will taste the wines and foods of the area.
After the first few days at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa at the Gilla River Indian Community, we went to Sedona and the Enchantment Resort and Mii amo Spa. On the way back to Phoenix and the historic Arizona Biltmore, we stopped in two towns, Cornville and Cottonwood, where local wineries have operations and tasting rooms.
1023 Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ
and 1500 N. Page Springs Rd., Cornville, AZ
Kevin Grubb - Asst. Tasting Room Manager
2009 Tazi Blend - 32% Sauvignon Blanc
21% Malvasia Blanca
19% Pinot Gris
Very aromatic, intense honeysuckle and peach aromas. First sampled it with breast of duck dinner at local restaurant.
2010 Tazi Blend -
Subdued nose compared to 2009, Chardonnay and Malvasia predominate in blend. Sampled it in the tasting room.
2010 La Serrana Blend - 50% Viognier
50% Roussanne (Colibri vineyard)
One of the best, food friendly, white blends I have recently tasted.
2010 El Serrano Blend - 43% Mourvèdre, 40% Syrah, 17% Petite Sirah
Spicy nose, fruity, nice spicy finish, well balanced and food friendly.
2010 "Gimme Some Skin" Malvasia - limited production. Mediterranean aromas and flavors in the bottle. Young with very good aging potential.
1565 Page Springs Rd., Cornville, AZ
Christina Hemingson - Sales & Events Director
2010 Sauvignon Blanc - Aromatic with pear, peach and citrus nose
2010 Sangiovese – Like a young Chianti with a nice nose. Needs 5 to 7 more years.
2010 Petite Sirah - Great tannin structure - berries, vanilla and a faint rose nose. Needs cellaring 2 to 4 years in bottle.
2010 Zinfandel, from young vines - Large, meaty.
2009 Barbera - Could have easily come from the Asti region in Piedmont. Excellent bottle, still “in diapers”.
Now is the time to buy and cellar wines from this particular winery. Because of the limited number of bottles produced from each vintage, once the winery becomes better known it would be difficult, and probably much more expensive, to acquire any of these astonishing early products.
1012 N. Main Street
Old Town Cottonwood, AZ
Tasting Room Manager
The 2010 Wild Child, properly cellared, will be spectacular in 5 to 7 years.All their Rhone styled reds were exceptionally good, with aging potential.
1575 Paradise Drive
2008 Syrah, nicely spicy nose, some tannins still need settling.
2009 Malbec. A food-friendly wine for the carnivore in us.
2010 Maenad from California’s Russian River. 60% Muscat Canelli, 40% Chardonnay. Nicely off-dry, will pair very well with fish and seafood.
Most of these wineries, with the exception of Arizona Stronghold, are smaller, newer operations with very talented winemaker/owners. Arizona Stronghold is much more established, with strong sales to local restaurants as well as Phoenix establishments. Pricing is on the high side, but consistent with the quality offered. The only problem I see is that the red wines are sold very young, without the chance to gracefully age in a controlled cellar environment. For the knowledgeable wine aficionado this would not be a problem; most are able to discern the potential of these wines. It is the casual buyer though that might be turned off by the heavy tannins in these very young wines. I understand the economic pressure on the producer that makes only 300 to 500 cases of a particular wine and needs to sell as soon as possible to finance the next vintage. The problem as I see it is that the wines are not given a chance to settle and mellow and that, in time, would limit the spectrum of possible buyers.
To your health!
© January 2012 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.