Arizona wines have come a long way, baby. Several amazing wines from around the state have made their way to high honors and recognition, and certainly into my home this year … and my glass. Any of these would all make great gift selections, as well as good cheer for sharing with family and friends.
Vignerons Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan of Arizona Stronghold Vineyard in Cochise County, AZ, offer up Nachise – a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Mourvedre aged in French oak. The 2009 release has a beautiful nose of concentrated dark fruit, mocha, tar, sweet cigar smoke, and hints of pumpkin spice. The hearty and textured mouth-feel is full-fruit jammy but balanced, with a multi-layered finish. This one will be super with that hearty holiday meal featuring roast lamb.
This wine commemorates Nachise, the youngest and fiercest of Cochise’s sons. After the death of his older brother Tazi, Nachise became leader of the Chiricahua Apache and resumed raids to reclaim his ancestral homeland alongside Geronimo.
Charron Vineyards, Vail, AZ, has added two new wines to its line-up. First, is the Merlot Blanc De Noir — another white wine from black grapes. This one is a drier version of the White Merlot, made by fermenting out more of the natural sugars. It pairs well with chicken, seafood, and pasta dishes.
At last, Charron now offers a 100% red Merlot, just in time for the holidays. This medium-bodied, well-balanced wine offers good structure and refined tannins. The delicious wine is easy to enjoy on its own or pairs well with grilled or smoked red meat and fish.
The Fool by Bitter Creek Winery is a blend of grapes from Jerome, AZ, and Willcox, AZ — 33% Cabernet, 33% Syrah, and 34% Zinfandel. Its smoky nose gives way to a zesty ripe berry taste with a smooth finish – another wine that will stand up to the strongest of cheeses and meats.
Bitter Creek wine labels feature Tarot card characters, created by popular Verde Valley artist Rick Wyckoff. I love the saying on the back of the bottle: “Going through life without a care, Just one step ahead of life’s challenges.” I believe I identify way too much with that sentiment; does that make me a fool? No, just a fool for a good wine, so I chose this one.
I’ve discovered the best way to finish off any holiday meal or gathering is Lightning Ridge Cellars 2007 Afterglow. Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this dessert wine is only slightly sweet with a subtle cinnamon taste and finish. Its light style can be savored as the perfect finish to a perfect meal – you’ll likely want more than one glass of this one. It’s even better paired with dark chocolate or fudge.
If you’re in the Sonoita area over the holidays, stop by the winery. Winemaker Ann Roncone will serve you up some of her own personal fudge recipe to demonstrate the power chocolate adds to this wine. Priced at only $15 per bottle, Afterglow makes a great hostess gift.
I wish to thank my newfound Arizona wine friends for introducing me to many magnificent wines, pleasant times, and good cheer. I look forward to pouring many more glasses of your grapes in the coming year.
Cheers to a weather-friendly 2011 for winegrowers everywhere!