Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Arizona Wine

I'm back from Tucson where we met a Coyote on McKinnon Road at dusk, went to the Desert Museum, and had some great wine experiences. At Fuego, we had a "Sideways" flight of four California Pinot Noirs. At Acacia, we had 2002 Trefethan "Double T" Meritage. At the Rum Runner, we bought a bottle of Arizona Kapopali Shiraz. And at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, we tasted Arizona Callaghan Backlot.

Yes, Arizona has a wine industry. Wine has been produced in Southeast Arizona since the 1600s when Spanish missionaries planted the first vines. In the 1970s, commercial vinifera production started from experimental plantings by Dr. Gordon Dutt at the University of Arizona. Most of the wineries are concentrated around the small town of Elgin.

Callaghan produces some of the best wines in Arizona. The Callaghan Backlot was big and jammy with nearly overripe fruit producing a hint of raisin or prune flavors. The finish was slightly hot, but, on the whole, it was an excellent blend of Zin, Syrah and Mourvedre that went great with our Chicken Tamale Tart. Sonoita Vineyards, the first commercial vineyard in Arizona,is also known for its well regarded reds.

The Rum Runner, on Speedway Avenue, had as good a selection of wine as any wine shop in Seattle - a very strong California section and a surprisingly strong selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy. We spied some L'Ecole Merlot and some Andrew Rich from the Northwest. The little bistro and wine bar next door is rated "28" by Zagat. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a table.

We did, however, get a table at Acacia where the Magret of Duck Breast was tender and cooked to perfection, better than most presentations in France. The 2002 Trefethan "Double T" Meritage was absolutely a perfect pairing with the duck. Black fruit followed by a hint of creosote and tannin gave it a structure somewhat reminiscent of a big Bordeaux.

The Ostrich at Fuego was served rare and went well with the flight of California Pinot Noir. The 2003 Echelon Pinot Noir was more than adequate, but a bit on the light side.The 2003 Edna Valley had a little more substance, but the Acacia from Carneros and the Chalone from the Santa Cruz were the pleasure of the evening with balanced full fruit flavors and good body. Definitely HWP.

The restaurant at our Tucson hotel, The Lodge on the Desert, served duck from Washington which was delicious, but, I'm afraid, a bit tough! The Eola Hills Pinot Noir went well with the excellent Jerked Boneless Pork Chops and the Rosemary Veal Chop.

Since we were driving, we didn't have wine with our lunch at the hip Ibizia Cafe and wine bar, just south of downtown Scottsdale, but the food was outstanding. We both started with an exquisite Gazpacho which had the texture of a coulis of tomato, but the flavor of a very refined Gazpacho. Chopped tomato, onion, and cucumber were served on the side with small croutons. Diane had the Kizbah Salad of baby spinach, lemon oregano dressing, feta, oranges, artichokes, red onion, and olives. Each ingredient was fresh and distinct, yet melded together into a flavorful mouthful. I had Empanadas Tarazona, flaky puff pastry empanadas with sweet and spicy barbacoa beef. The chef really new what he was doing. Tucson and Phoenix may be in the desert, but they certainly are no desert when it comes to food and wine.


  • At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Carry said…

    Thanks for the posting about wine in Arizona. If you're looking to try other Arizona wines, look for a bottle of Dos Cabezas Toscano. It's a big super-Tuscan-style wine...fruit forward with plum, coffee, leather and chocolate. So tasty!


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