Arizona wines pass the test

Until Thursday, I had never had a sip of Arizona wine. I waited far too long.

If you’ve seen the movie “Blood Into Wine,” you’re aware that there is a growing movement to establish Arizona as the next great American wine region.

We’re in Phoenix for a few days, and decided to spend a day exploring the red rocks area, and try our first Arizona wines.

We decided to skip Caduceus Cellars, though we’ll go there next time, and focus on the less touristy wineries, since we only had time to go to two tasting rooms.

Our first stop was Arizona Stronghold, which is also a partnership between Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan. We did two flights: a pure, no-blend red tasting; and a red tasting that included blends.

I was blown away. The grapes have fantastic structure and complexity. Grapes grown in tough conditions are said to develop more flavor because the vines have to work to find water; and the “torture” they endure in the sun creates more body and character.

Some of my favorite wines from Arizona Stronghold were the 2009 Nachise, a blend of syrah, grenache, petite syrah and mourvedre; the 2009 Sangiovese; the 2009 Grenache “Norte” Pick 1 & 2; and the 2006 Chupacabra. We bought several bottles to bring home.

We then drove to Javelina Leap, which is pictured above. Both Arizona Stronghold and Javelina Leap had warm, invited tasting rooms, with extremely friendly and pressure-free servers.

Javelina Leap’s wines were slightly more traditional blends, and everything was good. Three wines in particular, though, stood out: the 2009 Golden Rule Zinfandel; the 2009 Rock Slide, which is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot; and the 2008 Forbidden Fruit Port-style Zinfandel. The Forbidden Fruit was especially interesting — it wasn’t thick and inky like a traditional Port, but it definitely had the complexity of flavors, and a finish like smooth bourbon. Our server said that she believes it’s the only 100% Arizona Port, since it’s fortified with Arizona spirits. We’re having several bottles from Javelina Leap shipped home.

If you’re heading to Arizona for any reason, make sure you put the Verde Valley wine region on your to-do list.

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  2. Best bets in Napa and Sonoma
  3. An old Bordeaux

About the Author

Owner of a graphic design firm specializing in magazine design and wannabe chef. Former resident of Belgium, the United Kingdom and...North Dakota.