Three Degrees of Separation?
On Friday, the four of us set off on the back roads of Arizona toward the mile high wine country near Elgin. We drove up and back past a fairly obvious winery sign trying to find Sonoita Vineyards. Maybe we were yakking too much. Founded by pioneer, Gordon Dutt. Sonoita produced some award winning wines back in the 1980s that were even served at the White House and made wine "Enthusiasts" happy. Now the emphasis is on the money makers - wines for the "Overwhelmed" - pleasant, easy wines to sip on the patio with a fair amount of sugar, say, at least 1.5% - among others the French Columbard, Angel's Wings and Arizona Sunset. Several of the so-called premium wines had off tastes and odors which Mark immediately diagnosed as Brett and VA, or volatile acidity. In, fact, many of the wines we tasted that day had similar problems. This is unusal these days as the fix is a simple matter of sanitation. We decided to skip Arizona Winery and the Village of Elgin as their wines are very similar in style.
Our next stop was at the new Kief Joshua winery which actually looks almost like a Napa Valley winery, certainly no mom and pop operation, although Kief Mannings parents are heavily involved in the winery. It was a pleasure to talk wine with young Kief who trained in Australia.
His wines were well made, but from sourced grapes as his vines are still too young to make wine. In fact, we only found one winery that made estate grown wine. We liked Kief's Cabernet Franc best and had it with our picnic of cold lamb, hummus, tortillas, olives, etc., It was great with the lamb. BTW, Mark's 2001 RWV Reserve Sangio was great with the lamb the night before. This Sangio tasted like a really good Chianti with lots of fruit and the hallmark tangy finish of a Chianti. After lunch we had fun "playing" with Kief's 140lb. Bloodhound named Dizzy Gillespie. This is a winery to watch! Ranho Rosso wines were made exclusively from their estate grown grapes and exhibited very good undrlying fruit, but, again, we detected problems with Brett and VA. Finally in the town of Sonoita we checked out Dos Cabezas winery. The only wine we really liked at Dos Cabezas was the 2005 "La Montana" Petit Sirah/Merlot which they were closing out. Again, we found a few problems. We were looking forward to to visiting with Kent Callaghan as the highlight of he trip, but alas, he was in Paso Robles and the winery was closed. Kent makes world class wines fom estate grown grapes, so we know it can be done.
My old friend from the pioneering days of the Northwest wine industry, Dick Erath, has moved to Arizona to escape the dreay clouds of the Northwest and since selling his winery to Ste. Michelle started planting vineyards to the east, near Willcox, Arizona. It seems a number of Arizona's two dozen odd wineries, could use some consultation from Dick