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, January 25, 2007

Mile High Wine Country

Almost at the elevation of Denver, the Sonoita region of Arizona around the town of Elgin sports several wineries including Sonoita Winery started by pioneer Gordon Dutt. Gordon planted an experimental vineyard in Elgin in 1973. In the 1980s Sonoita Winery garnered all kinds of awards and praise. The 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon was chosen for a 1989 Wine Gala for President George H. W. Bush. More recently , the winery seems to be focused on tourist friendly wines that are sold almost exclusively out of the tasting room to weekend visitors from nearby Tucson.

Tasting room hostess, Carole, exudes a lot of rural charm and waxes poetic about the prairie grasslands around Elgin. Little House On The Prairie readily comes to mind and in fact at least one version of it was filmed here. Carole first poured Sonoita Chochise County NV Columbard which was profoundly true to type - round, soft, fruity and easy. Winemaker "Fran" used exactly the right word to describe the Sonoita Fume - flintlock. This Sauvignon Blanc was light fruity, and sour with a distinctly smoky "flintlock" nose. The Sonora Rosso may be the world's only blend of Cabernet and Columbard. The result is a light Gamay-like wine that is intended to accompany pasta with red sauce. Arizona Sunset is a Rose blend of 80% Columbard and 20% Merlot. There's a saying in southern Arizona that "when the mountains are pink, it's time for a drink." Presumably this is the pink wine to drink when the mountains are pink. Angel's Wing's is a fairly bland wine made from mission grapes that shows why this grape has gone out of style. Carole told me that many of the local churches use this as their sacramental wine. I suppose they just couldn't resist the name and besides it goes down easy. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is a good wine , but lacks excitement.

The Village of Elgin Winery also caters to tourists, although I found the wines to be poorly made. I tried to visit the new Rancho Rosa, but owner Chris Hamilton, a pilot by day, was out of town. On the way, to Nogales I stopped in at Arizona Vineyards, a very successful tourist operation, with sweet easy wines for sale. You might conclude from all of this and our sample of El Norte from Dos Cabezas that all Arizona wineries are catering to the lowest common denominator with wines that are sweet and easy. Not so! There is one winemaker here who stands out in the same way that Daniel Lenko stand out in Ontario, Canada - Kent Callaghan. Check out our next blog to read about Kent.

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