Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Arizona: the Next Napa Valley? | December 10, 2008

So, my wife and I were out in Arizona to see the Georgia Bulldawgs- spelling is correct- beat up on the Sun Devils (back before the season went spiraling into mediocrity…oh, to remember when optimism flourished). The Sunday after the game, we decided to roll up to Sedona and mess with the vortex people or eat a patchouli burrito or something. I must say, the scenery was INCREDIBLE (picture surely doesn’t do it justice). The town, however…well, it reminded me of a Southwest version of Helen, GA, only lose the Bavarian kitsch and replace it with Native American/hippie kitsch.

However, as tempting as all the turquoise and silver were, we were delighted to find a wine tasting bar. The place was called The Art of Wine, and the guy who helped us out was very friendly (can’t think of the name). The wines, to our surprise, were all produced locally, that is, in Arizona. Not exactly the cooler climate associated with many classic varietals. However, we were willing to give it a try…there’s some decent wine in Georgia, so why not?

The first few we tried…well, they sucked. I’m not trying to protect the names; I just can’t think of them. They tasted how you would expect grapes grown in such a hot climate would taste: overripe, unbalanced, with not enough acidity or structure. They were trying Rhone grapes here, but the Syrah didn’t have the finesse or structure of some of France or California wines. In fact, I recall one wine being so ripe, it literally smelled like my trashcan…just a rotten-vegetable, sickly-sweet decay smell. You know the one if you’ve ever spent some of your less fortunate years sleeping in a dumpster.

However, I did come across a couple wines that were pretty damn good. The best was Sycamore Canyon Private Reserve Merlot. It was well-structured, powerful wine, and seemed like I could lay it down for a while to age. However, at $40, it was hardly a bargain, and I probably just bought it as an act of tourism. Furthermore, it did not have a vintage year on the label.

The other was Javelina Leap Zinfandel. Big, spicy, and full of jammy fruit, it’s what the wine magazines are now saying is “overdone”, and at 15.9% alcohol, they have an argument. But, can’t you agree that sometimes, we all want a wine that just punches us in the face? I do, and I thought this was pretty good.

But, I couldn’t at first figure out why these two stood out so clearly. Then, I took a look at the labels, some more closely than others. These two best wines were actually only produced in Arizona (Cornville, Arizona, to be exact), but the grapes were sourced out of Paso Robles, CA. Had we been utterly bamboozled?

-I’m really glad I got to say “bamboozled”…underused word-

Nah. The labels were pretty clear, and I think the idea is that there are people out there who really want to craft something great, but just don’t have the resources to do so. Hell, I like to make my own beer, but I assure you the climate in Georgia is not conducive to growing hops and barley. I can’t even grown my lawn.

So, Arizona may not be the next Napa just yet, but one has to appreciate a state without the perfect climate of a California, Oregon, or Washington making an effort to make good wine. I’m sure they’ll get there eventually…just go into your Arizona wine-tasting adventure with an open mind and an appreciation for how truly blessed- with unique terroir, great vines, perfect climate, and masterful work of the winemaker- a great wine really is.

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