Saturday, April 27, 2019

High-Elevation Wines from Argentina & Chile

Bodega Colome's Altura Maxima Vineyard. Credit: Bodega Colome.
High-elevation vineyards fascinate me, and, as such, I’ve long been drawn to wines from Argentina. Especially in the Salta region, these vineyards are planted at dizzying heights.

In terms of highest elevation vineyards in the world, that title belongs to Bodega Colomé. The bodega sits at about 7,500 feet, but their highest vineyard (Altura Máxima) is located some 10,000 feet above sea level.

I recently tasted through some impressive wines from this producer, as well as fellow Salta winery Bodega Amalaya. This report also includes a wine from Domaine Bousquet and a serious value-driven Chilean red called Primus.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 Bodega Colomé Torrontés - Argentina, Salta
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Aromas burst with lychee and white peach and pineapple, with tropical flowers, honey, very perfumed. Peachy keen on the palate with bright, sprightly acidity and a creaminess to the texture that adds depth. Lychee, pineapple and honeydew melon mix nicely with a floral perfume and honey combination, finishes with a hint of chalky minerals. I’m not a huge Torrontes fan, but this one is very pretty. (88 points)

SRP: $12
Light yellow color. So peachy on the nose with guava, lychee, limes, with yellow flowers and honey. Medium-bodied with racy acidity, a lively and tingling appeal. Peaches and crème mixed with lime, guava, lychee, along with notes of sea salt, chalk, lots of white and yellow flowers. Juicy, tropical, yet racy and vibrant. 85% Torrontes, 15% Riesling. (86 points)

2015 Domaine Bosquet Ameri - Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Tupungato
SRP: $36
Bold purple color. Nose shows tart black cherries and saucy plums, wild blackberries, with cocoa, vanilla, cedar, earthy-charcoal notes. On the palate, this is full-bodied with tangy acidity, and the balance is really impressive. Tart black cherries and blueberries, tangy dark fruit, accented well with spicy herbs, cocoa, mint, spiced coffee, an earthy-mineral presence underneath. Ready to drink now, but this is structured to improve for at least a handful of years. 65% Malbec with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, from a single estate vineyard at 4,000 feet elevation. (90 points)

2017 Bodega Amalaya Malbec - Argentina, Salta
SRP: $16
Deep purple color. Aromas of tart but deep black currants and cherries, along with violets, graphite, earth, cocoa, black pepper, rocky earth. Full-bodied on the palate with velvety tannins and bright acidity, the balance is impressive. Tart black currants and blackberries, the fruit is accented with graphite, violets, earth, dusty cocoa. Deep, balanced, drinking so well right now but no rush. Really good value going on here. Includes 10% Tannat and 5% Petit Verdot. (89 points)

2016 Bodega Colomé Malbec Estate - Argentina, Salta, Calchaquies
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. Aromas are dark and tart with blackberry, blueberry, plum, with lots of loamy earth, cocoa, mint and graphite. Tangy acidity frames the wine nicely, balancing the moderate tannins, the balance is on point. Blackberry and tart blueberry, laced with mineral, graphite, earth. So pure and lively, this is showing very well now but I’d like to see it with a few years of age. (90 points)

2017 Bodega Colomé Malbec Auténtico - Argentina, Salta
SRP: $30
Bright purple color. Dark and juicy but tart with blackberries, cassis, deep notes of violets, potpourri, clove, coffee, loamy earth, charcoal, grilled herbs. On the palate, I love the combination of vibrant, crisp acidity with the waves of dark, velvety, tangy black fruit. Complex notes of minerals, graphite, forest floor, violets, anise, black tea. Rich fruit but it’s nuanced and complex, such a pretty expression of Malbec. Accessible now but I’d love to see it in a few years. All Malbec from 100-year-old vines, planted about 7,500 feet in elevation, aged in tanks, no oak. (91 points)

2015 Primus The Blend - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
SRP: $19
Medium purple color. The nose shows loads of saucy black cherries, black cherries, along with a burst of black pepper, roasted red pepper, green olives, charcoal pit, along with coffee and vanilla notes. Medium/full-bodied with medium, velvety tannins, with moderating acidity, and everything is quite nicely balanced. Juicy yet tangy cassis and blackberry with a complex mix of anise, pepper, black olive, charcoal, and an underlying sense of rocky minerals. Accessible now but has the depth and concentration to improve for at least a few years. Surprisingly complex and balanced for the price. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc. (90 points)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

This week brings another roundup of wines from all over the world. Let’s dig in.

Included in this report are a pair of appassimento style wines from Pasqua, a producer from Italy’s Veneto region. For the price, they offer up a really cool springboard into this traditional style of wines.

While I love wines from the Italian region of Alto Adige, it’s not that often I taste a Pinot Grigio that stands up and slaps me in the face (in a good way). Peter Zemmer’s Riserva Giatl is a super complex and invigorating PG that deserves some attention.

Per usual, the Port producer Dow’s delivers, this time with two aged Tawny Ports (10- and 20-Year-Old), which reminded me again why I love aged Tawnies.

I also tasted four wines from the northern Spanish region of Navarra, which is home to many solid wines that sell here in the U.S. for very little money. There’s a rosé, a Chard, a Pinot and a Merlot blend, and they all punch well above their price point.

Lastly, I want to highlight two wines from Early Mountain, a Virginia producer who has been going from strength to strength lately. Their newly released Chardonnay and Shenandoah Valley Cabernet Franc show what this exciting winery has to offer.

2017 Pasqua Romeo & Juliet Passione e Sentimento Bianco - Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
SRP: $16
Medium yellow color. Noses of peaches, lemons, green apples, along with sea salt, nettle and floral perfume. Medium-bodied, this is juicy and plump, fun wine with medium acidity and plenty of yellow and green apples, apricots. Notes of yellow and white flowers, white tea, candied ginger, this is a lot of fun for the price. 100% Garganega, which spends a bit of time drying (appassimento) before fermentation. (87 points)

2016 Pasqua Romeo & Juliet Passione e Sentimento Rosso - Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
SRP: $16
Light purple. Nose of candied cherries, sweet raspberries, with chocolate, roses, cinnamon and vanilla. Light tannins, super fresh and tangy, but there’s some rich texture. Cherries, raspberries, sweet and juicy with notes of chocolate, black tea and sweet vanilla. Yummy, fun, goes down easily, a good introduction to the appassimento style. A blend of Merlot and Corvina (which was left to dry for a month) and Croatina. (88 points)

2014 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. Aromas show a compote of plums, roasted figs, sweet plums, with anise, tobacco, dark chocolate and vanilla. Full-bodied and juicy with velvety tannins and tangy acidity. Roasted plums, figs, black cherries mix well with accents of black tea, coffee grounds, anise, dark chocolate. Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese, some of the grapes are left to dry until December before being vinified. This is a great intro to this style of wine and it always delivers for the price. (88 points)

2016 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio Riserva Giatl - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Gorgeous nose of peaches, limes, laced with floral perfume, fresh Spring breeze, wildflowers, cucumber and mint, with crushed rock notes. Plush on the texture with lovely depth on a full-bodied frame, but the acidity is nervy and fresh, pushing the wine forward. Yellow plums, peach nectar, lime, the fruit is laced with pretty, complex notes of saline, crushed chalk, floral perfume, mint, honey, Balanced, deep, complex, a Pinot Grigio to silence skeptics. Fermented in French oak, this wine is sourced from sandy, chalky soils in Giatl. A rare “Riserva” designation, this is some exceptional stuff. (92 points)

N.V. Dow Porto 10 Year Old Tawny - Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $37
Auburn color. The nose shows dates, figs, candied nuts, dried flowers and spiced tea. Full but fresh on the palate, a velvety, smooth, rich but lively feel. Dates, plum cake, candied pecans, and I get notes of cinnamon, graham cracker, spiced tea, dried flowers and clove. Rich yet vibrant, the sweetness is woven in really well and the wine comes across lively. This is a really solid Tawny for the price. (89 points)

N.V. Dow Porto 20 Year Old Tawny - Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $65
Deep auburn color. Nose shows deeper, more complex elements of digs, candied nuts, caramel, plum cake, I get some crème brulee and candied ginger. So smooth on the palate, full and sweet but really fresh and vibrant, too. The balance here is really lovely. Candied pecans, orange marmalade, almond cake, graham cracker, gingerbread – lots of deep flavor but it stays so vibrant. (91 points)

2018 Castillo de Monjardín Chardonnay El Cerezo Unoaked - Spain, NavarraSRP: $12
Medium yellow color. Aromas of yellow apples, glazed pears, salted peanuts, hay and honeysuckle. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity, this rides a nice line between styles of Chardonnay, with juicy, ripe elements, but it’s not too plump or over-oaked (all stainless steel). Tropical mix of pineapple and lime blends with minerals, chalk, salted almond, cream and ginger. Nicely balanced, and offers deliciousness but enough to keep me thinking, too. Really good value. (88 points)

2018 Bodegas Ochoa Garnacha Rosado Calendas - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $12
Juicy watermelon colored. Nose boasts raspberries, white peaches, candied apple, topped in spiced herbal and nettle tea, cinnamon candies. Plush and juicy on the palate with a medium+ body and moderate acidity. Red fruit-forward in style with plump cherries, raspberry jam and watermelon. Nots of nettle, verbena, spiced tea add some complexity. This is juicy, forward rose that could stand up to meats and grilled veg with ease. Lots of fun for the price. (87 points)

2016 Castillo de Monjardín Pinot Noir Navarra El Cerezo - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $12
Deep ruby color. Nose of jammy cherries and strawberries, with a good amount of black pepper, sage, roasted earth, rose petals. Fresh on the palate with light tannins and bright acidity. Cherries, raspberry jam and red plums, juicy but not too sweet on the fruit. The elements of spiced tea, pepper and bay leaf add a nice spicy kick, with notes of rose petals and cola. Surprising amount of personality for a $12 Spanish Pinot Noir, which is not a statement I’ve made before. Stainless steel fermented and aged nine months in old oak. (86 points)

2015 Bodega Inurrieta Norte - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $14
Light purple color. The nose shows lots of spiced coffee, black pepper, clove, on top of juicy raspberry, black cherries and plum sauce. Full-bodied, velvety, accessible feel on the palate with medium acidity. Tangy black currants and sweet black cherries, the fruit is laced with lots of spicy black pepper, clove, leather. I like the savory kick here. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, this is a tasty, crowd-pleasing, barbecue-friendly red blend from Navarra for a solid price. (87 points)

2017 Early Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc – USA, Virginia, Shenandoah Valley
SRP: $30
Light purple color. On the nose, I get black cherries, juicy plums, cassis, along with a complex mix of anise, licorice, menthol and charcoal. Plush on the palate yet structured well with medium tannins and vibrant, crisp acidity, and the texture and balance are on point. Black cherries, cassis, laced with violets, spicy pepper, cocoa, earth, mint, coffee. With air, this opens up nicely and shows more spicy, floral tones. This is a really exciting Virginia Cabernet Franc. All Cabernet Franc sourced from Baer Ridge and Shenandoah Springs vineyards. (90 points)

2017 Early Mountain Chardonnay - USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Madison County
SRP: $30
Light yellow color. Such a burst of freshness on the nose, with lime, lemon, chalk dust, sea salt, white flowers and orange blossom. Plump and generous on the palate yet there’s a nervy, salty, chalk-infused vibrancy to this wine that doesn’t quit. Peaches and lemon curd mix nicely with complex elements of chalk dust, honeysuckle, floral perfume, lemon pith and a hint of green herbs. Deep yet bright, this is a stunner of a Virginia Chardonnay, sourced from Early Mountain and Quaker Run vineyards. Fermented in French oak, less than 20% was new. I’d love to see how this ages. (90 points)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Much to Discover in the High Desert Wines of Southern Arizona

Surreal scenery outside Sonoita, Arizona.
As an East Coaster, I didn’t see a proper American desert until I first traveled to Arizona in 2010. Immediately, I became obsessed with this state and all its extreme natural beauty. With few expectations, I also dove deep into the wine scene, and found some dynamic producers making delicious wines.

Many of the wines I enjoyed most hailed from the Southeast of Arizona, the Cochise County area, which abuts Mexico and New Mexico. The state’s only American Viticultural Areas are located here, Sonoita and Willcox. This is also where the modern Arizona wine industry began, when soil scientist Dr. Gordon Dutt founded Sonoita Vineyards in 1983 after an experimental vineyard showed promise. I recently visited the region for the first time and encountered a beautiful land of high desert plains, rugged mountains, wide open space, and exciting wines.

Yes, Arizona is hot and dry. But the diversity in microclimates, soil types, winegrapes, and winemakers tells a much more complex story. Geologic maps of Arizona are dizzying, and the area has an abundance of rocky, sandy soils, limestone, clay, giving winegrowers many great options to work with.

The Pronghorn Vineyard. Credit: Dos Cabezas

Most of the vineyards in Southeast Arizona are planted around 4,300-5,000 feet in elevation. This leads to serious temperature swings, allowing grapes to ripen in the sun and heat, and maintain acidity as the nighttime temperatures drop. During my visit to Sonoita in February, I woke up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit after driving through snow-covered mountains, their peaks sometimes hidden above the clouds. The day after I left, six inches of snow fell, which goes to show how variable and extreme conditions can be.

To start off my visit, I met Todd Bostock, winemaker at Dos Cabezas, a producer I’ve grown to respect. We met on a cold, sunny day in Sonoita, and I tasted through his wines and chatted about what he’s up to these days at his winery. And he’s up to a lot of awesome stuff.

The late Arizona winegrower Al Buhl started Dos Cabezas in 1995. Todd, who started home winemaking early before studying with UC Davis’ extension program, took a winemaking job at Dos Cabezas in 2002. The Bostock family took control over the project in 2006. 
Todd Bostock in the Dos Cabezas barrel room.

Todd farms 37 acres in Willcox’s Cimarron Vineyard, which sit at 4,300 feet. This fascinating vineyard is home to seven white grape varieties (from Albarino to Viognier) and 17 red grapes (from Aglianico to Vranec). The 15-acre Pronghorn vineyard, in Sonoita, sits at 4,800 feet and is home to ten different grape varieties.

As such, Dos Cabezas is all about the blends. There’s a lot of vintage variation in this part of the country, and lots of weather difficulties, including early and late frosts, hail, so having access to a wide array of grapes gives Todd freedom to tweak the makeup of his wines each vintage. 

You can tell a lot about a wine nerd by what empty bottles they keep around on shelves or cabinets. In Todd’s barrel room, I saw a diverse selection and epic bottles, but it was the Chateauneuf wines (from several of my favorite producers) that stood out. And that Chateauneuf ethos of blending all sorts of different grapes comes through in Todd’s wines. 

Like many winemakers I’ve met over the years, Todd seems driven to experiment. For example, he makes a Ramato-style, skin-fermented Pinot Grigio. I tasted a Madeira-style fortified desert wine, which gets the whole treatment of oxygen and blistering Arizona summer heat. 

Todd is also working on a solera-style sparkling wine, which so far includes wine from three vintages. It’s a quirky blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Riesling, and the barrel sample he poured me was delightfully bright, zesty, floral, with sea salt and chalky notes. The finished wine should be something special.

To get a handle on the heights that varietal wines can achieve in Southeast Arizona, look no further than Rune wines. Rune founder James Callahan embodies the DIY spirit that attracted me to Arizona and its wines. With the goal of making due with what he had, James built his Sonoita winery and tasting room by hand, laying the concrete himself. He stores his wines in temperature-controlled trucking containers, which he ordered off Craig’s List. His winery is off the grid, fully solar-powered, and rustic, but it is home to some pristine and beautiful wines.

James worked harvests in Walla Walla, Washington and Wairarapa, New Zealand, before landing a job at the Sonoma Pinot powerhouse Kosta-Browne. A native of Arizona, he was excited to come home for a winemaking job with Willcox-based Aridus. He then struck off on his own with Rune in 2013, and he works as a consulting winemaker for other producers as well.

James sources his a lot of his fruit from Pillsbury Vineyard in the Willcox region, which he calls, “truly a petri dish of wine industry growth.” He also recently planted a vineyard near his winery in Sonoita. In the winery, James uses native yeasts to craft small lot varietal wines from Rhone grapes. 
The entrance to Rune wines in Sonoita, AZ.

I hadn’t tasted a single Rune wine before my trip, but I was blown away by the quality of these wines. If you’re skeptical that Roussanne and Viognier wines from Arizona can be fresh, bright and balanced — I was — may I present these wines.

Unfortunately, I was unable to meet up with well-known Arizona vintner Kent Callaghan of Elgin-based Callaghan Vineyards during my trip, whose wines I’ve tasted and enjoyed in the past. This producer dates back to 1990, during what must’ve been a really gutsy time to plant a vineyard in Southeast Arizona. Right after planting his Buena Vista Vineyard in 1990, Arizona experienced a tremendous heatwave that led to the closure of the Phoenix airport for a few days, and the death of many a young vine. But, since then, Callaghan has been producing some lovely wines based on classic Mediterranean grapes from France and Spain. I would be remiss to leave these wines out of this report, so Kent sent me a case to taste, including some library vintages.

Lastly, I’ve included some wines from Aridus in this report as well. Located in Willcox, this producer has been getting some attention lately, and they’ve even opened a tasting room in bustling Old Tow Scottsdale. It’s worth a visit if you’re in that area for a while.

I’ve included a lengthy list of tasting notes from my trip below. The Dos Cabezas and Rune wines were tasted with the winemakers, while I tasted the Callaghan and Aridus wines sighted, at home. Most of the wines are available directly from the producers, or a handful of select wine shops in Arizona. Since these wines are made in small amounts, finding them outside of the state can be difficult. Another reason why a trip is a good idea.

Dos Cabezas

2018 Dos Cabezas Wine Works White Cimarron Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County
This Cimarron vineyard has a kitchen sink of white varieties planted, and this wine captures a lot of them: 38% Picpoul Blanc, 22% Viognier, 16% Roussanne, 10% Malvasia, 7% Albariño, 7% Grenache Blanc. It’s a fascinating and expressive wine that offers a panoramic picture of the vineyard through all these grapes. I get aromas of peaches, limes, lemon peel, green melon, all sorts of flowers. The palate is pure and vibrant with a waxy texture but bright acidity. Peaches, lemon curd, papaya — tropical meets citrus in just the right amounts, with notes of sea salt, almond, complex floral notes. Balanced, complex, vibrant. (90 points)

2017 Dos Cabezas Wine Works El Campo Blanco Pronghorn Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County
This is a fascinating blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Picpoul, whole-cluster pressed, 12 months in Austrian oak. These grapes are harvested in two stages, an early harvest and a second one weeks later. The aromas pop with peaches, apples, pineapple, white tea. Plump texture, yet (again with these wines) that crisp acidity keeps it lively. Apples, peaches, lemon, mixed with sea salt, almond, some herbal and chalky elements. Really impressive stuff. (91 points)

2018 Dos Cabezas Wine Works Pink - Arizona, Cochise County
Another interesting blend, this one has 50% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Graciano, and 5% Piquepoul Blanc. Fermented in tank, old 500 liter barrels, and a new 1,500 liter Austrian foudre. Smells of all sorts of wildflowers, verbena, wild cherries and strawberries. Crisp acidity frames the wine, it’s bright but shows nice depth of texture. Strawberries, wild cherries, red apple peel, along with spicy herbs, rose petals, verbena and tobacco elements. A seriously good rosé. They also release a carbonated, canned version that is a ton of fun. (89 points)

2014 Dos Cabezas Wine Works El Norte Cimarron Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County
A blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache that spends 24 months in large oak barrels. Age has done this well, and more time will continue that trend. The aromas boast warm spices (clove, pepper, bay leaf and creosote) with red cherries, raspberries and red apple. The palate is warm and inviting yet vibrant with light/medium tannins and moderate acidity. Juicy, tangy red plums and cherries, with a complex, well-integrated blend of spicy pepper, clove, bay leaf, warm clay. Vibrant yet deep, this could age for a while. (90 points)

2015 Dos Cabezas Wine Works Toscano - Arizona, Cochise County

A blend of 55% Sangiovese, 21% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Aglianico, 7% Petit Verdot, aged two years in oak barrels. Lovely aromas of berry compote, spiced black tea, pepper, cedar, chewing tobacco and mint. The palate is full and velvety with medium acidity and lots of plums and cherry fruit. Rich yet bright, juicy but complex, with lots of leathery, peppery, herbal tones. I’d love to see what this does in the next three or four years. (90 points)

2012 Dos Cabezas Wine Works El Campo Pronghorn Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County
Tempranillo and Mourvedre with Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Graciano, aged two years in new French oak. Lots of spicy aromas of bay leaf, pepper, creosote, leather, which play well with the juicy, bright red fruits. On the palate, this is vibrant and spicy with integrated tannins and fresh acidity. Red cherries and plums play well with cocoa, earth, leather, warm clay, creosote, cedar. Complex and delicious with lots of time ahead. This is a beautiful blended expression of Pronghorn goodness. (92 points)

2014 Dos Cabezas Wine Works Aguileon - Arizona, Cochise County
49% Tempranillo, 30% Graciano, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah. Smells like warm cherries and plums, tobacco, clove, coffee, clay and earthy notes. On the palate, it’s full and rich, with some grippy structure, but the acidity moderates nicely. Plums, black cherries, the fruit is full but tangy, laced with earthy/spiccoffee, cedar, pepper and olive notes – the complexity is nuts. This could use at least a few years in the cellar, but it’s still highly delicious right now. (91 points)

2015 Dos Cabezas Wine Works La Montaña - Arizona, Cochise County
Petite Sirah, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a dark core of aromas (blackberry and back cherry compote) with clove, coffee, anise, pepper and creosote notes. Full and saucy on the palate with nice grip and medium/low acidity. Plum cake and blackberry compote mix nicely with anise, clove, dark chocolate, espresso, cedar. This is rich and deep but also earthy and spicy. I’d like to see what this does in three or four years. (91 points)


James Callahan (background) and I tasting his exceptional Rune wines.
2017 Rune Wines Rosé - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, and Graciano. Saigneé method, fermented in stainless steel and a French oak puncheon. Pretty pink color. Aromas show spicy pepper and wildflowers on top of cherries and strawberries. This is fresh and zippy on the palate with a lovely, deep texture and mouthfeel. Strawberries, white cherries, topped in white pepper with some chalky, crusty, mineral notes. This is a serious pink. (90 points)

2017 Rune Wines Viognier Pillsbury Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox
Lovely aromas of peaches, green melon, guava, lemon, lots of flowers, too. The palate is plump and lees-stirr-y and round yet super crisp, and there's a lively mineral streak throughout that I really like. Pure and vibrant, which is not something I say often about a Viognier, but I love these honey, floral complexities, the vibrant and deep fruit. I'd like to see how this ages over the next five years. One of the best Viogniers I've had from anywhere in a long time. Fermented in stainless steel and old French oak. (92 points)

2016 Rune Wines Mourvedre Pillsbury Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox,
This is a really cool wine that is co-fermented with 3% Symphony, aged 20 months in neutral French oak. The nose is juicy with cherries and red plums, along with pepper, leather, paprika and other cool stuff going on. Juicy and cherry-driven on the palate with plums and raspberries, lots of spiced tea, herbs, pepper. There’s a mineral depth here as well that makes this wine pop. (92 points)

2016 Rune Wines Wild Syrah Pillsbury Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox
This Cote-Rotie-style Syrah is co-fermented with Viognier and some Malvasia. It’s saucy and dark on the nose, black cherries and plums, laced with pepper, herbs, cocoa, violets and earth. Full and grippy on the palate but vibrant acidity, and the balance is superb. Juicy, full with black cherries and dark plums but the fruit has a tangy edge. Complex notes of spicy herbs, pepper, leather, cocoa and coffee. Lots going on here. I bought a few bottles to bury for a few years, because this will do more in the cellar. (92 points)

2016 Rune Wines Petite Sirah Pillsbury Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox
Nose shows surprising red fruits for a Petite Sirah – yeah there’s blackberry jam and such but also some juicy red plums and raspberries, with roses, violets, coffee. Serious grip on the tannins, this is a young wine, with medium acidity which helps keep the tannins in check. Plum cake, blackberry and raspberry am, along with smoky herbs, pepper, spiced tea, black olives. For a PS, this is almost “elegant” in a way, yet still seriously grippy. Really curious what this does with four or five years. (90 points)

2016 Rune Wines Grenache Pillsbury Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox
This wine totally blew me away – the eye-opening wine of the trip. Nose shows bright and juicy cherries, strawberries, all sorts of airy, floral notes, herbs, lavender, pepper. On the palate this is juicy but smooth, delicious but really fresh, and the acidity is impressive. Bright cherry fruit topped in dusty, earthy, pepper, sage, all sorts of complexities. This is such a pretty Grenache that will age well, and I think it’d be a great ringer in a Chateauneuf tasting. Just wow. (93 points)

2014 Rune Wines Wild Syrah Pillsbury Vineyard - Arizona, Cochise County, Willcox
Aromas of dark and juicy plums with earthy, peppery notes, iron and herbs. Still tannic and strong but it has some velvety feel to it, and bright acidity. Plums and dark cherries mix well with smoky herbs, coffee, leather, sage, warm clay, and some flower pot and violet petal notes. Wow, this has a lot of cellar time ahead, too. Beautiful stuff. Co-fermented with 3% Viognier. (93 points)


2017 Callaghan Dry Grenache Rosé - Arizona, Sonoita
Bright pink color. Super floral on the nose with lots of spicy, herbal, rhubarb notes, along with white cherries and wild strawberries. Plump texture on the palate, mild acidity, this is fruity and fun with white cherries, strawberries, raspberries, red apple peel. Notes of white pepper, roses, spiced white tea. This is fun, fan-friendly stuff. (86 points)

2017 Callaghan Love Muffin - Arizona
Deep yellow color. Nose pops with lychee, pineapple, melon, along with lots of orange blossom, honeysuckle and sweet perfume. Plump and waxy texture on the palate, medium/low acidity offers a bit of freshness. Pineapple, lychee, so tropical, with lots of orange blossom, honeysuckle, nettle, white tea and nougat. Fun, forward, rich white blend. (86 points)

2017 Callaghan Grenache Rhumb Line - Arizona, Cochise County
Medium ruby color. Aromas of red apples, raspberry and strawberry jam, along with rhubarb, cinnamon sticks and rose hips. Full-bodied, smooth tannins, medium acidity, packed with tart but jammy notes of strawberries, raspberries and candied red apple. Complex notes of sage, white pepper, sweet cola, rhubarb, with some cedar and espresso. Fun and forward but also lively and complex. Impressive stuff. (90 points)

2013 Callaghan Padres - Arizona, Sonoita
Deep ruby/light purple color. Rich aromas of plums, a compote of raspberries, cranberries and red currants, topped in cinnamon, herbal tea and cocoa. Full-bodied with a velvety feel to the tannins, a big bold red but medium acidity helps. Saucy cranberries, currants, figs and raspberry jam, along with sweet herbs, cocoa, cinnamon, roasted chestnut. Bold and chewy but well-done, a log of depth and complexity here. 62% Graciano, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Tannat. (89 points)

2016 Callaghan Padres - Arizona, Sonoita
Deep ruby/light purple color. Bold aromatics of sweet plums, raspberry jam, cherry pie, with cocoa, cola and spiced tea. Full-bodied with a plump and chewy feel medium tannins, medium acidity, the balance is quite nice. Sweet plums, raspberries and fig paste topped in roasted cocoa, sweet herbs, some nice earthy notes. A red for rich foods and a snowstorm! 65% Graciano, 17% Petite Verdot, 9% Tempranillo, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. (88 points)

2013 Callaghan Caitlin's - Arizona, Sonoita
Light purple color. Nose boasts rich plums, currants, fig paste, with violets, sage, menthol and earth. Full-bodied (15.3%) with velvety tannins and surprising acidity. Juicy and generous with its dark currant and black cherry fruit mixed with savory tones, grilled herbs, cracker pepper, menthol and vanilla. Fuller than the 2016 but it’s also settled down nicely and the balance is impressive. 64% Petite Verdot, 25% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc. (89 points)

2016 Callaghan Caitlin's - Arizona, Sonoita
Light purple color. Nose shows currants, black cherries, fig paste, along with eucalyptus, sweet coffee, anise, cedar. Plush texture on the palate but some significant grip to the tannins, while surprising acidity keeps it lively. Tart currants laced with smoky herbs, menthol, black pepper and cocoa. Rich and saucy yet it maintains brightness. 67% Petite Verdot, 33% Cabernet Franc. (88 points)

2015 Callaghan Aglianico Cimarron - Arizona, Cochise County
Deep purple color. Nose shows rich plums, blueberries, blackberries, this is dark and deep with milk chocolate, roasted chestnut. Full (15.3%) and plush with a velvety feel, although the tannins provide structure. Packed with hedonistic black fruit, and lots of it, but it’s also nicely mixed with coffee, cocoa, charcoal and mint. Bigger, more intense than the 2016, but really good. I’d like to see this in a few years. (88 points)

2016 Callaghan Aglianico Cimarron - Arizona, Cochise County
Bright purple color. Whoa, the nose is packed with fruit (jammy blueberries and blackberries, roasted fig) with some cocoa and sweet vanilla. Full-bodied (14.7%) with chewy tannins and medium-low acidity. Cherries, fig cookies and blackberries, tons of fruit but it’s complemented by earth, clove, charred herbs, creosote and warm clay notes. Complex, unique, this should age nicely. (89 points)

2013 Callaghan Tannat - Arizona, Sonoita
Rich purple color. Smoky nose of roasted figs, black currants and black cherry compote, along with anise and charcoal. Full-bodied on the palate with a velvety feel, medium acidity. Tart plums and plump black cherries, smooth and dark fruit, laced with anise, cocoa, sage, herbal tea. Really smoky and roasted, but fun stuff. (87 points)

2016 Callaghan Tannat - Arizona, Sonoita
Deep purple color. Dark and inky on the nose (blackberries, currant paste, plum compote) with smoky menthol, anise and charcoal elements. Full-bodied, grippy tannins, the acidity here is surprisingly tangy and really balances things out nicely. Black currants and dark plums, tangy, dark and suave, along with coffee, charcoal, anise, with black pepper, tar, vanilla and magic marker. Deep but tangy and complex, I’d love to see this in four or five years. (89 points)

2017 Callaghan Tannat Rhumb Line - Arizona, Cochise County
Dark purple color. Nose boasts black cherries, roasted figs, blackberries, laced with smoke, charcoal, magic marker, sweet coffee and vanilla bean. Strong tannic backbone but a chewy feel, too, with moderating acidity. Saucy and rich with dark, deep black fruit (loads of it), backed up with charcoal, espresso, mint, earthy-mineral tones. Lots going on here, but this could use some time in the cellar. (88 points)


2017 Aridus White Field Blend - Arizona, Willco
SRP: $28

Light yellow color. Aromas pop with pineapple, guava and lemon, topped in bright floral tones and some dusty, chalky notes. Light-bodied but nice depth on the palate, juicy yet light and brisk, this goes down so easily. Lemons, pineapple, green apples, topped in floral tones, crushed sweet tart candies, chalk, white pepper. Surprisingly brisk for a Viognier-based blend from Arizona – this is a serious patio pounder kind of wine. A low 11.0% alcohol, this is the first harvest from a new estate vineyard, and this wine is a field blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia Bianca. (87 points)

2016 Aridus Syrah - Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $37
Bold purple color. Aromas of smoky earth, violets, pepper, black tea, with plum cake and roasted fig. Burly on the palate yet velvety with medium/low acidity, enough to balance it out. Dark and saucy with black cherries, dark currants, roasted fig, mixed with clove, pepper, sage. Big, saucy, barbecue-friendly stuff. Co-fermented with 17% Viognier, aged 19 months in oak. (87 points)

2016 Aridus Graciano - Arizona, Willcox
SRP: $37
Light ruby color. Smells of raspberries, strawberries, spicy rhubarb, white pepper, sage, clay, earth. Medium-tannins on the palate with bright acidity and tangy raspberries and cherries. Balanced and vibrant, structured but accessible and fresh. Complex notes of spicy herbs, dried rose petals, pepper and clove. Apparently, Graciano does well here, because they nailed this. Aged 18 months in a mix of French and American oak. (89 points)