I hadn’t heard of Aridus before receiving some samples from them last year. But as I uncorked and tasted them, I knew I’d found another Arizona producer to watch.
The tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale has been open for about three years, and seems to be thriving. I was in Scottsdale for a conference, and decided to pop in to Aridus for a visit. I’ve never been a big fan of Scottsdale before (strikes me as a bit hokey sometimes), but I had an absolute blast tasting wine at Kazimierz, and enjoyed the eclectic wine list and incredible food at Cowboy Ciao.
Anyway, so Aridus: This tasting room is designed to turn more people on to the producer’s wines. They’re based in Wilcoz, Arizona, which is located in the southeastern part of the state, east of Tuscon. Scott and Joan Dahmner founded Aridus (a derivation of the Latin word for dry or arid) in 2012. They sources grapes from about 40 acres of estate vineyards above Willcox, Arizona (which sits at an impressive 5,200 feet in elevation). They also crush grapes from other vineyards in Arizona, and some grapes from New Mexico and California.
Arizona wines are prime for exploration right now. There are lots of conscientious producers experimenting with all sorts of grapes, making wines of all sorts of styles. Unfortunately, the wines are made in relatively small quantities, and not a lot of the wine gets distribution outside of the region. But if you’re ever traveling in Arizona, it’s worth looking into.
And with a tasting room right there in Scottsdale, Aridus is a great place to start.
Here are my notes on the wines I tasted…
2014 ARIDUS Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Nose shows butter, honeyed tea and yellow apples. Creamy and plum but nice freshness. Bruised apple and apricot mix with candle wax, hazelnut and whipped butter. Delicious stuff. (88 points)
2015 ARIDUS Viognier - Arizona, Cochise County
A fascinating and bright interpretation of this grape. Salty aromas with white flowers and apricot. Peachy and juicy on the palate but the acidity is so refreshing and the fruit is crisp, laced with salted almond and white flower notes. A more restrained and less intensely tropical or honeyed take on this grape, and I love it. (90 points)
2015 ARIDUS Grenache - Arizona, Cochise County
Nose shows spicy red cherries, roses and pepper. Bold but not heavy, with light tannins and medium acidity, despite a 15%+ alcohol level, the wine feels almost light, with tart cherry and juicy red currant fruit. Notes of pepper, chestnut and vanilla add complexity. A delicious Grenache that goes down so easily. Will try to hold my bottle for two or three years to see what happens. (89 points)
2015 ARIDUS Tempranillo - Arizona, Cochise County
Pepper, earthy, red plums on the nose. Rich but spicy with suave tannins and flavors of spicy red currants. Pepper, earth, sage. Spicy and delicious. (87 points)
2015 ARIDUS Cabernet Sauvignon - Arizona, Cochise County
Eucalyptus and spicy herb aromas with sweet red currants. Plush on the palate, medium acid, soft tannins, flavors of red currants and strawberry jam with cola, toasted oak, pepper and earth. Fun stuff. Aged 14 months in 80% new French oak. (87 points)
2013 ARIDUS Vintner's Reserve - Arizona, Cochise County
$60 (member’s only)Sweet and dark and jammy nose with pepper and violets. Rich and juicy, well-structured but yummy, with plums, blackberries, scorched earth, sweet cola and cedar. Juicy and delicious but some solid complexity. 44% Zinfandel, 28% Syrah, 28% Petite Sirah, aged three years in oak and two in bottle before release. (88 points)