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

Monday, January 29, 2007

Callaghan Vineyards

Clark Kent in a parka? Nah! It's just Kent Callaghan out there pruning vines in his winter parka to protect against the cold wind blowing across the prairie. Kent is one of the few people I've met in Arizona who actually grew up in Arizona. He founded Callaghan Vineyards with his parents and seems to do most of the work himself. Part rebel, part perfectionist, Kent reminds me of Daniel Lenko in Ontario. Mavericks who stand apart from the crowd making great wine in a difficult environment. When I asked Kent why his wines are head and shoulders above the competition, his response was "I taste a lot of other people's wine." And, indeed, it was great fun to talk with a winemaker who is so knowledgeable about wine from all over the world. It may seem curious, but this frequently is not the case. We talked Argentina, Italy, Washington and California, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cab and Merlot.

Well, I gave it away! Kent's wines are excellent - not a really bad one in the bunch! Tasting his wines in a 45 degree cellar was a fancy trick. In fact, until I got the hang of it they either tasted cold and crisp or totally tannic. Here's Kent's trick - pour an once of wine in a glass, put the glass in a tall pitcher of warm water, then watch the thermometer rise from 45 degrees to 60 + degrees, sniff, taste, spit. Still not sure I got all the nuances. Chilling wine can be a good way to hide defects. Try it with a bad bottle you might have brought home from the supermarket. At 63 degrees, red wines show their best. This year Kent decided to bottle all of his wines with screwcaps, a wise decision in terms of TCA. It remains to be seen how the wines will age, since he feel this 2004 vintage merits ageing, especially the Caitlin's, Claire's and Padres.

To me, the 2004 Lisa's Selection tasted of oak, even though it wasn't aged in oak. Barrel fermentation in neutral oak won't do it. In fact, I hadn't quite got the hang of warming a glass of wine like a baby's bottle so who knows what it really tasted like. The 2005 Lisa's Selection seemed clean and crisp, kind of like a good cold bottle of Corona without any flavor. I actually liked this ice queen even though I couldn't taste the Viognier and Riesling. It took me a while to get it! The two Zin blends, still too cold tasted primarily of tannin, although I though I detected notes tobacco. They seemed like big wines.

The Back Lot Cuvee 2004 is a blend of 62% Mourvedre and 38% Syrah. Here I thought I tasted tobacco, spice, anise in particular, cinnamon and clove, and plum. This wine seemed lighter than the 2003, though it is still big, mouth-coating and complex . The Buena Suerte Cuvee 2004 is a Cab/Merlot blend that seemed softer and gentler than most of the other wines. Soft and suave in the mouth, hints of tobacco and smoke in the nose, vanilla and herbs. Caitlin's 2004 is an unusual blend of 46% Petit Verdot, 31% Cab Sauvignon and 23% Cabernet Franc. This is a balanced wine that definitely tastes like a Bordeaux with spice added in. The 2004 Cabernet
Sauvignon Port was excellent for an American Port.

My overall impression is of big wines with complex flavors. As with all great winemakers there seems to be a distinct winemaker signature of smoke, tobacco, and spice. But who knows, only the nose knows. My favorite is the Back Lot Cuvee and all of the wines are available at: or why not just call Kent at 520-455-5322 to order direct. These wines are unique and not available outside Arizona, except by direct order from the winery.


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