Tumbleweed in the news
Written by Mike Veseth Published on March 28, 2023 in The Wine Economist
It has been 15 years since our last visit to Arizona to check out the wine scene (our report appeared in an early Wine Economist column), so it didn’t take much to persuade us to go back to see how things have changed.
Our first trip was based out of Tuscon, near the main vineyard areas in the southeast of the state. This time we traveled up north to scenic Sedona to explore Arizona’s newest AVA, the Verde Valley. Our visit was interrupted by that big winter storm that swept across the country last month and threatened to block our way home. But all’s well that ends well — we were able to start our fieldwork in Sedona and end it in Old Town Scottsdale, which is home to many tasting rooms.
Here is our report, starting with some broad facts about Arizona wine and then drilling down a bit into specifics.
Bigger and Smaller
The Arizona wine industry is both bigger than you think and smaller than you might imagine. Arizona now has 108 wineries according to the January 2023 issue of Wine Business Monthly. That includes 90 bonded wineries and 18 “virtual” wineries. Virtual wineries? Yes, this is a growing trend. These are wine brands without vineyards or their own winemaking facilities. About 1000 of California’s nearly 5000 wineries are virtual operations. And virtual wineries account for almost 300 of the 900 total wineries in Oregon.
Arizona ranks #17 among U.S. states based on the number of wineries — bigger than you might have guessed. But the individual wineries tend to be small. Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, for example, is the largest winery in the state with an annual production of about 20,000 cases. Total production for the state is about 350,000 cases a year, we were told. If that’s correct, that means all Arizona wineries taken together make about as much wine as Daou Family Estates or JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery (data from Wine Business Monthly).
Latitude versus Elevation
One reason you might not expect Arizona to be a wine state is its latitude. It can indeed be very hot in Arizona, which is why snowbirds flock there in the winter. But elevation compensates for latitude in Arizona much as it does in Mendoza, Argentina.
Wine grapes grow well in Arizona at elevations between 3500 and 6000 feet. Most of the vineyards are in the southeast near Willcox and about 75% to 80% of the grapes are grown there. But other parts of the state have active winegrowing, too, including the Verde Valley near Sedona.
Arizona wine is a premium product — there is no such thing as Arizona Two Buck Chuck. Lack of scale is one cause of higher cost, of course, but basic supply and demand play an important role. The amount of vineyard acreage has not increased as fast as the number of wineries seeking grapes. So grape prices have risen and wine prices along with them. We heard several people talk about $3000 per ton grape prices, for example, and that means $30+ bottle prices.
The vineyards are smaller than you will find in many regions and tend to be planted with many different grape varieties, further limiting economies of scale. I don’t think Arizona has a “signature” wine grape variety, although Syrah and GSM-style blends seem to be on every tasting room list. One reason for the kaleidoscope of grape varieties is just that Arizona is a young industry still in the experimentation stage.
Free to Choose
Another factor, however, is probably that making wine in Arizona means being free to do what you like to a certain extent. In Napa Valley buyers expect to find Cabernet Sauvignon. Ditto Malbec in Mendoza. In Cottonwood or Jerome, on the other hand, you can follow your personal preferences.
One source of this freedom is the fact that a lot of Arizona wines are hand-sold direct-to-consumer. Arizona wine sales regulations allow small wineries greater freedom for direct sales, so many focus on tasting rooms and wine clubs. Several wineries, for example, have tasting rooms in Willcox, Scottsdale, and Cottonwood. Scottsdale is a big tourist destination and Cottonwood is just a short drive from popular Sedona.
Local Market Focus
In part because of the scale issues and local regulations, most Arizona wineries focus on in-state sales through their direct channels. There is a lot of work to do to make Arizona wines more visible within Arizona before taking on bigger markets. Sue and I thought that on-premise sales might be a good way to spread the word, but neither Sedona restaurant we tried had Arizona wines on their list.
One manager shrugged when we asked about the situation. Too costly, he said. I can appreciate that problem. Once you apply restaurant markups to Arizona wine that visiting diners might not have heard of, it could be a tough sell.
But not impossible, as we discovered at lunch at a great Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale. They featured Chateau Tumbleweed wines in their by-the-glass program to support local producers. We tried a Mourvedre-forward GSM blend called Dr. Ron Bot and it was terrific with our meals. We appreciated that the Arabella Hotel where we stayed in Sedona featured Arizona wine tastings for guests.
We enjoyed our brief visit to this part of Arizona wine country. Highlights included …
Arizona’s largest winery is small (by California standards) but mighty. The wines we sampled were delicious and we were very impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit. Arizona wines are relatively expensive for the reasons noted above, but somehow Arizona Stronghold manages to produce a good-value line of wines called Provisioner that includes “Float Tripper Sipper” canned sparkling wines that are a perfect complement to the Arizona outdoor lifestyle. Very impressive.
Page Spring Cellars
The Verde Valley is a great spot for outdoor activities and for wine tourists, too, with several wineries and even more tasting rooms. But with most of the vineyards down south in the Willcox area, there are not many classic destination wineries with vineyards, cellars, and tasting rooms. Page Spring Cellars has it all plus an outstanding restaurant. No wonder it attracts thousands of visitors each year for the wine, the food, and the experience.
Carlson Creek Vineyards
A winter storm prevented us from visiting the tasting room in Cottonwood, but we learned a lot about Carlson Creek Vineyards in an hour spent at the Old Town Scottsdale tasting room. The place was really buzzing on a weekday afternoon and the wines were among our favorites of this visit. If you visit Phoenix and don’t check out the wine scene in Old Town Scottsdale you are missing a bet!
Caduceus Cellars / Merkin Vineyards
Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards are projects of Maynard James Keenan, the frontman for rock groups including Tool. Some celebrity wineries are vanity projects or over-hyped branding exercises, but wine clearly is the central element here. We weren’t able to visit the winery in Jerome, but the Merkin tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale is a popular stop for both food and wine. Sue and I shared the signature charcuterie platter perfectly paired with Caduceus Nagual del Agostina, a white wine made from 80% Vermentino and 20% Malvasia Bianca from the Agostina block vineyard in the Verde Valley’s Cornville district. That’s a blend of grapes you might not expect to find in Arizona, or anywhere else, but it really worked. Arizona is full of surprises like this!
Cove Mesa Vineyard
Cove Mesa’s tasting room is in Cornville, with newly planted vineyards nearby. Cove Mesa is another example of a winery trying lots of different grapes, including a new planting of Assyrtiko.
The Arizona wine industry has come a long way in the 15 years since our first visit. It will be interesting see what the future holds. In the meantime, keep Arizona wine on your radar!
Published on April 4, 2023 in Triangle Around Town
Unlike wine-growing states such as California, Oregon, New York and even here in North Carolina, Arizona isn’t exactly known for its wines—but they do produce some fine wines, and we were able to sample some last month during a recent American Wine Society event tasting.
There are three major Arizona regions: Verde Valley, which is near Sedona, and Sonoita and Willcox, both near Tucson. And the only two AVAs in the state. Currently, the state is starting to gain success in its wines produced using varietals that are native to Italy and the Rhone Valley due to similar soil and temperatures.
Although it is not entirely clear when wine was first produced in Arizona, some believe it could have been in 1703 when Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino started growing grapes to make wine for Mass at his mission.
Today there are roughly 110 wineries in the state, including tasting rooms in cities such as Phoenix and Tucson. The state’s wineries grow popular varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. But you’ll also discover others you might not think to find in Arizona, such as Gewurztraminer, Malvasia, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Riesling and Sangiovese.
In the town of Clarkdale, you’ll uncover Chateau Tumbleweed. With a panoramic view of Verde Valley, stop inside this winery and tasting room to sample up to 12 various wines. With its first production of wine back in 2011, this winery does not own a vineyard but sources its grapes from 12 different vineyards throughout the state. We were first introduced to Chateau Tumbleweed’s 2021 The Descendants for our tasting of Arizona wines.
2021 The Descendants ($26)
The Descendants found its identity as a Rhone blend back in 2018. Viognier from multiple vineyards in the state forms the base of this vintage with notes of pineapple, pear and white flower blossoms. The Descendants also contain Picpoul Blanc, which adds a lot of crisp acidity and another layer of lemony citrus. Finally, a small splash of Grenache Blanc from the Sierra Bonita Vineyard is added to round off this white blend – adding more lemon verbena to the palate.
2020 Estate Pretty Girls Viognier ($26)
Four Tails Vineyards hails from Willcox Cochise County, located in Pearce, Arizona, and are big animal lovers. If you look at the winery’s labels, you’ll see one of the rescue dogs roaming around the winery. From Barley and Abe to Dash and LeeLou to Bruno and Bubby, Four Tails wines are 100 percent estate grown. You’ll find varietals such as Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and the Viognier that we tasted from the winery.
Pretty Girls features Bono and LeeLou on the label, and the Viognier was barrel fermented and aged in neutral French oak for 21 months. A little citrus, spice and oak made this a perfect wine to enjoy by the pool this summer.
2020 Willy ($29)
This red blend is one of the first wines Chateau Tumbleweed ever dreamed up in 2012. At that time, the winery started looking at Grenache as the “Pinot Noir” of Arizona because both grapes are lighter-bodied fruit with lower tannins, and both feature a velvety texture with a touch of spice. Our table enjoyed this wine and its silk and spice features, which to us had some characteristics of a Tempranillo. The Willy was limited to only 18 barrels produced by Chateau Tumbleweed.
2019 The Boss ($25)
Vino Stache’s The Boss is a 100 percent Granciano wine chock-full of nice tannins and full-bodied without being too overwhelming. We quickly picked up cherries and blueberries in the taste with a pleasant subtle taste of oak. Vino Stache is based in Elgin, Arizona and is a 100 percent woman-owned winery in the Sonoita AVA. The labels are themed around “Westerns” with names such as “Gunfighter,” “The Quick Hand,” “Paniolo,” and our wine for the evening, “The Boss.”
This fruit-forward wine had nice acidity and would pair well with fatty foods such as grilled chicken thighs or salmon. We really enjoyed this wine and went back for seconds.
2020 Gallia ($35)
Produced by Saeculum Cellars in Clarkdale, Arizona, the Gallia blended 68 percent Cabernet Franc and 32 percent Merlot to make a pretty damn fine red blend! Saeculum Cellars is the line produced by Michael Pierce, who is known for his winemaking skills and the fancy wine labels designed by Pierce himself. The label of the Gallia featured a nude brunette model hiding behind a red silk sheet and had some of the older gentlemen at the tasting asking to see the bottle for a second take.
As for the wine, red currants, homemade raspberry jam and cherries were on the nose, with the cherries and currants repeating in the taste. We also picked up plum, espresso notes, black pepper, cinnamon, and vanilla. This was an intricate wine and probably our favorite of the tasting. The finish on this wine was long, and some “heat” lingered on the back of the throat, suggesting it was a higher ABV than the other reds of the evening. We later learned that Pierce was awarded the Willcox Wine Industry Person of the Year in 2016 – so this guy knows how to make some fantastic wines!
2018 Naga ($50)
Coming into this Arizona wine tasting, I told Jennifer that you couldn’t have a tasting like this without featuring a bottle of wine from Caduceus Cellars – and the couple hosting didn’t disappoint. Caduceus is probably the most famous winery out of the state because of its owner and winemaker, Maynard James Keenan. Keenan’s claim to fame comes from being the frontman of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer.
He now resides in Arizona, making wine under the Caduceus Cellars name and making wines such as the Nagula de la Naga, a blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very complex wine and is a good representation of old world versus new world found within the bottle of this Tuscan-style red.
The Naga and Gallia were two great wines to end the tasting in the group’s first-ever Arizona wine tasting. We want to revisit this theme in the future and try some different wines, but that would mean the couple who hosted going back to Arizona on vacation and bringing back more wine for us.
Let’s make it happen.
Written by Michael Bartiromo Published on June 25, 2022 in The Hill
Much like a fine wine, the average American’s taste in drinking establishments only deepens, intensifies, and becomes more refined over time.
In your earlier years, for example, you might have been content to swig drinks at a local dive bar, or chug beers that were brewed in a stranger’s bathtub. But these days, you prefer to do any swigging or chugging at a fancy winery, like a respectable human being.
With that in mind, the analysts at Yelp have sorted through the platform’s databases to identify the top-rated wineries in each state. The results, based on Yelp’s own user-generated reviews and ratings, are listed below.
It should be noted that Yelp’s findings are also based on the “total volume” of reviews for each establishment, which means that newer wineries with fewer reviews could be underrepresented on the list. But on a positive note, Yelp worked to exclude any establishment with a failing health grade, so it’s very likely that none of the wines from the country’s top-rated vineyards were fermented in a stranger’s bathtub.
Without further ado, the top-rated wineries in the country — as determined by the Yelp community — are listed below.
Alabama: Corbin Farms Winery, in Calera
Alaska: Bear Creek Winery & Lodging, in Homer
Arizona: Chateau Tumbleweed, in Clarkdale
Arkansas: Tontitown Winery, in Springdale
California: Shadybrook Estate Winery, in Napa
Colorado: Mesa Park Vineyards, in Palisade
Connecticut: Walker Road Vineyards, in Woodbury
Delaware: Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery, in Frankford
Florida: Aspirations Winery, in Clearwater
Georgia: Crane Creek Vineyards, in Young Harris
Hawaii: Oeno Winemaking, Kailua
Idaho: Telaya Wine, in Idaho
Illinois: Prairie State Winery, Genoa
Indiana: Oliver Winery, in Bloomington
Iowa: Wide River Winery, in Clinton
Kansas: Grace Hill Winery, in Whitewater
Kentucky: Talon Winery & Vineyard, in Lexington
Louisiana: Landry Vineyards, in West Monroe
Maine: Cellardoor Winery, in Lincolnville
Massachusetts: Boston Winery, in Boston
Maryland: Windmill Creek Vineyard & Winery, in Berlin
Michigan: Petoskey Farms Vineyard & Winery, in Petoskey
Minnesota: North Shore Winery, in Lutsen
Mississippi: Old South Winery, in Natchez
Missouri: Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery, in Platte City
Montana: Yellowstone Cellars & Winery, in Billings
Nebraska: Cellar 426, in Ashland
Nevada: Vegas Valley Winery, in Henderson
New Hampshire: Zorvino Vineyards, in Sandown
New Jersey: Unionville Vineyards, in Ringoes
New Mexico: Noisy Water Winery, in Albuquerque
New York: Ports of New York Winery, in Ithaca
North Carolina: Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, in Hendersonville
North Dakota: Pointe Of View Winery, in Burlington
Ohio: The Skeleton Root, in Cincinnati
Oklahoma: Fish Tales Winery & Bistro, in Broken Bow
Oregon: Willamette Valley Vineyards, in Turner
Pennsylvania: Blue Ridge Winery, in Saylorsburg
Rhode Island: Verde Vineyards, in Johnston
South Carolina: City Scape Winery, in Pelzer
South Dakota: Prairie Berry Winery, in Hill City
Tennessee: Tennessee Homemade Wines, in Gatlinburg
Texas: Pontotoc Vineyard, in Fredericksburg
Utah: IG Winery & Tasting Room, in Cedar City
Vermont: Putney Mountain Winery, in Putney
Virginia: Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, in Leesburg
Washington, D.C: District Winery
Washington: Ambassador Wines of Washington, in Woodinville
West Virginia: Batton Hollow Winery, in Lost Creek
Wisconsin: Von Stiehl Winery, in Algoma
Wyoming: Jackson Hole Winery, in Jackson
Written by TJ Keough from Green Living Magazine
To some, great wine has acquired a reputation for stuffiness, but those who would apply that label to all wineries have certainly never visited Chateau Tumbleweed.
Located in Clarksdale, Arizona, this fun and unconventional member of the Verde Valley Wine consortium has set out to break the mold and stamp out all those stuffy stereotypes to boot. According to Kris Pothier, co-owner of Chateau Tumbleweed, “We take our winemaking seriously, but we laugh at ourselves. We are building a business from a lot of love, and it attracts love to us.”
The history of Chateau Tumbleweed goes back to 2011, where the first vintage, a mere 75 cases, was released. The business side of the winery has grown markedly since then – now producing 5500 cases a year – but Kris and her husband, Joe Bechard, have never lost sight of the impetus behind it, nor of their origin story. Originally from Oregon, Kris and Joe were both hired by Page Springs Cellars (another member of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium) in 2008, where they ultimately met their future business partners. “The four of us saw the industry starting to grow and realized we had complementary skill sets and our own point of view, so we started work on a business plan.” The result was Chateau Tumbleweed.
The next question is probably the most obvious one. Where did the name come from? And true to form, the answer here merits a chuckle. “We blew in and got stuck in the fence of AZ wine,” Kris says.
One glance at the eclectic wine labels (designed by Kris, herself) will tell you this is not your run-of-the-mill winery. But the real charm of Chateau Tumbleweed lies in its commitment to sustainability. While not normally thought of as a low-water use crop, a mature Arizona grapevine, according to Kris, requires less than a sixth as much water as many other crops. And Chateau Tumbleweed owns no vineyards of its own, instead sourcing the fruit from estates in Willcox and Cornville, AZ. “Wine is a great agricultural product for these times,” Kris explains. “Our winemaking practices are minimally invasive and organic. We let nature do the talking and keep a clean and tidy protocol, so we do not have to use additives.”
The winery offers three wine flights—light, red blends, and deluxe. Each flight features four wines developed to complement each other. This is truly a busy, modern winery. The tasting room is open 7 days a week from noon to 7PM. The Tumbleweed Wine Club is 600 members strong and growing. Once each month, the Chateau hosts Vibe Nights, featuring various music genres and a food truck. A lot of exhausting work goes into producing all that. “Making wine is a hard endeavor,” Kris admits. “It is expensive and labor intensive and not for the faint of heart. But we feel blessed to be in this industry, hard work and all.”
If you’re in the mood for a completely low-key wine experience, pay Chateau Tumbleweed a visit. The wine is excellent, the people are fun, and the views of Sycamore Canyon are spectacular. It is a remarkable place with an equally remarkable story. For Kris Pothier, it’s been a labor of love.
“There is a special thing that happens with wine,” she says. “We bottle communication in nature, and it is an honor to be a steward of that.”
Written by Georgann Yara Published on November 17, 2022 in Phoenix New Times
You’ve checked everything off the extensive grocery list, prepared make-ahead dishes and placed them with Tetris-like precision in the fridge, and made sure there is enough clean silverware to get everyone from starters to desserts. After all of that, who has time to think about the wine, let alone what wines will pair with the food you’ve worked so hard to be Thanksgiving-worthy? But wine pairing doesn’t have to add to what can be a stressful day, or several. Especially when experts are here to help. Also, if you want to show your out-of-town visitors a taste of Arizona, there's no better way to do so than through sharing a bottle of Arizona wine. Here are some of metro Phoenix's top wine experts' recommendations for what to pair with appetizers, entrees, and desserts for the Thanksgiving holidays.
Forget the basic chips and dip or pre-packaged cheese and cracker duos. Thanksgiving is all about a whirlwind of flavors and that starts with the opening act. Crafting thoughtful first bites is right in pastry chef Tracy Dempsey’s wheelhouse. Many of the treats below can be bought at her shop or easily made at home. As proprietors of Tracy Dempsey Originals and ODV Wines, Tracy and her husband Chuck Dempsey recommend palate-pleasing pairings that will kick things off with a delicious bang.
These Parmesan gougeres from Tracy Dempsey Originals pair perfectly with a dry, crisp, acid-driven sparkling wine, such as the Dos Cabezas Wine Works, 1º Principrana. Courtesy of Tracy Dempsey Originals Food: Parmesan Gougeres Wine: Dos Dos Cabezas Wine Works' 1º Principrana. A bottle of bubbles is always the best way to kick off a celebration so it’s no surprise this sparkler from Dos Cabezas Wine Works makes an early appearance. Although it's made in the traditional method, the 1º Principrana makes use of nontraditional varietals of garnacha, riesling, and tempranillo, giving it a bit of a rebellious streak. Gougeres, little two-bite-sized cheesy puffs of heaven, are a perfect union of pastry dough and parmesan baked until delicately crisp and golden on the outside and soft and hollow on the inside. The result is a savory morsel made to pair with any dry, crisp, acid-driven sparkling wine. “The crisp refreshing acid, green, and citrus fruit notes make it a perfect pairing for these crispy cheese puffs, cleansing the palate with lingering notes of citrus, preparing you for the next bite,” Chuck says. This wine would make an excellent pairing for many varieties of savory and salty cheese starters as well as appetizers with a bit of crispness or crunch.
Pork and chicken pate with Twisted Union Wine Co.'s Alternate Route Rosé. Tracy's riff on the classic French chicken or pork liver pate has a lot going on. This Twisted Union rosé blend is adventurous enough to go along for the ride. The pate is "spiked with pink and black pepper, allspice, apricots, pistachios, juniper berries, and fatty bits of lardon, which dance with the lively savoriness of this rosé of mourvèdre and malbec,” Tracy says. Her pate is exceptional, but widely-available versions will also pair deliciously with this blend.
When Vino Stache Winery winemaker and owner Brooke Lowry Ide started out, she cold-called Valley restaurants and wineshops asking if she could do a tasting. Among them was ODV Wines in Tempe, which carries several of Ide's wines today. Bacon-wrapped dates with chèvre and ancho chili honey with Vino Stache Winery's The Proper Orange Malvasia Bianca bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed dates provide a lot of flavor mileage in a tiny package, with a savory-sweet-tangy trifecta, making them popular starter bites. The profile of Vino Stache’s orange wine, which is made with malvasia bianca, offers a honey finish that makes it the perfect pairing for this appetizer, along with any dish boasting the crave-worthy sweet and spicy combination. “Fermented like a red wine, this seemingly delicate but dry beauty can stand up to meaty, sweet, savory, and tangy fare,” Tracy says.
Martini buttons with Callaghan Vineyards' Chiricahua Ranch. The simplistic combination of puff pastry wrapped around a pimento-stuffed green olive belie the complex deliciousness of this treat after it’s baked to savory golden deliciousness. The white Chiricahua Ranch petit manseng and marsanne blend is refreshing yet flaunts a layered complexity with notes of orchard and citrus fruits and spice, Chuck explains. “The lovely medium body stands up to the quick salty crunch of the button,” Chuck says.
Katie and Scott Stephens, husband and wife sommeliers who are part of the ownership group of comfort food establishments Beckett’s Table and Southern Rail, offer their Arizona wine suggestions for the dishes that will most likely be at the center of the table this Thanksgiving.
Chateau Tumbleweed is known for its exceptional wines and unique labels. Turkey and Mashed Potatoes with Chateau Tumbleweed's Miss Sandy Jones. One of the Stephenses’ favorite Arizona white blends is primarily composed of chardonnay, which is responsible for the backbone of light buttercream and apple flavors, Scott says. The addition of sauvignon blanc and ugni blanc also gives the wine a racy edge of citrus that rounds out with melon components. “Roasted turkey and mashed potatoes were meant for this wine,” Scott says.
Baked Ham with Lightning Ridge Cellars' Montepulciano. When sourced from its roots in Italy, this style of wine is bigger and broader than its Arizona counterparts. But Lightning Ridge's vineyards in Elgin yield an ideally restrained interpretation of the Montepulciano variety, Scott explains. It’s finessed and layered with stewed cranberries, dark plum, and haunting amounts of baking spices. “This is a matchmaker’s dream with an oven-baked, spiral-cut ham,” Scott says.
Prime Rib or Roast Beef with Four Tails Vineyard's Double Trouble Cabernet Sauvignon. Katie calls this an extraordinary food wine that pairs well with anything beef — whether grilled, roasted, or seared — thanks to a full mouthfeel that shows precise acidity. “This is such a great representation of what Arizona can do with cabernet. Balanced and medium-plus bodied, it truly shows the layers of cocoa, desert sage, currants, and hints of tobacco box,” Katie says.
A cookie or two-layer cake may attempt to break into the club, but Thanksgiving dessert is always about the pie, pumpkin or not. GenuWine Arizona owners Emily Rieve and Lindsey Schoenemann recently hosted a wine and pie pairing event at their downtown Phoenix wine shop, so this is a subject the former junior high schoolteachers know well. Here, they share recommendations for what will make a sweet coupling for the final course.
Page Springs Cellars makes a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving table. Apple Pie with Page Springs Cellars' Vino del Barrio Blanca. This white blend is composed of a melange of varieties and features a crisp finish that is a perfect match for the caramelized apple notes of a freshly baked pie, Rieve explains.
Cherry Pie with Callaghan Vineyards' Buena Suerte. The composition may change slightly with each vintage, but this Bordeaux-style red blend is typically anchored by a stately cabernet sauvignon which is a match for the juicy boldness of a tart or sweet cherry filling and buttery crust. “Its well-rounded tannins and bold red fruit flavors will hold up to the naturally rich essence of this pie,” Schoenemann says.
Pecan Pie with Chateau Tumbleweed's Mourvedre. This Rhone variety has an edge specific to Arizona terroir that leans a bit wild and maybe funky at times. However, when paired with sweet pie, it’s an ideal foil. “It’s a light, acidic red with spicy red fruit and earthy notes, which goes well with the nutty intensity of the pecan pie without overpowering the flavor,” Rieve says.
Merkin Vineyards' Chupacabra Blanca is an Arizona white blend that is primed for a pumpkin pie pairing. Pumpkin Pie with Merkin Vineyards' Chupacabra Blanca. Last but not least, the perennial must-have is of course, pumpkin pie. This white blend from Merkin Vineyards gets a boost from riesling, which is one of the mainstream go-to wines with turkey. But in this presentation, it brings its dessert game. “It has notes of citrus and slight minerality that compliment that savory spice of a pumpkin pie,” Schoenemann says.
As a holiday centered around feasting and drinking, Thanksgiving is the ideal opportunity to explore America’s current wine landscape. Nearly every state produces wine, and along with well-known areas such as California and Washington State, places like Arizona and Idaho are developing dynamic wine scenes of their own. Here are some of the most interesting – and delicious – American wines to check out and pair with your own holiday dinner.
Chateau Tumbleweed, Dos Padres Vermentino, Yavapai County, Arizona
Arizona, with its desert-like climate and monsoon rains, may seem an unlikely place for a wine industry to develop, but it is proving to be a standout for winemaking. Chateau Tumbleweed, a joint project from two couples, sources grapes from throughout the state’s three AVAs (American Viticultural Area); this crisp and fresh Vermentino comes from the newly-anointed Verde Valley AVA, located two hours north of Scottsdale.
Cabernet Sauvignon takes up 5% of the world’s total vineyard acreage. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that there are more than 10,000 varieties of wine grapes in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon came by its “King of Grapes” nickname honestly, occupying more acreage than any other grape on the planet, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).
But, unlike Zinfandel, which has been cultivated in some form since 6000 B.C., Cabernet Sauvignon is a relative newcomer, making its stratospheric rise to dominance even more impressive. The birth of Cabernet Sauvignon is believed to have happened in the 1600s in France, when Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc got together. By the 1700s, it was already planted widely in Bordeaux, but, according to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, Cab’s monarchical rise truly began in the 1990s, when it was then “just” the world’s eighth-most planted grape. Since then, Cabernet’s empire of acreage has more than doubled.
It’s easy to see why: Cabernet Sauvignon is so in demand, it consistently fetches ever-higher prices on the market. This year, the average price for Cabernet Sauvignon in California was up 13.8% year-over-year, according to the California Grape Crush Report.
Cab’s ubiquity prompts the question: what makes this grape so treasured and sought after?
In tastings and conversations with producers across what many consider to be the best regions for Cab, as well as regions in which Cab is emerging as an up-and-coming option, several sentiments emerged: First, Cabernet Sauvignon on its own and in blends is distinct in flavor and structure, and more recognizable across terroirs and aging regimens than most grapes, with signature aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherries, blueberries, chocolate, tobacco, cedar, and eucalyptus as its calling cards. Secondly, it is brimming with tannins, which give its wines excellent structure. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Cabernet Sauvignon can showcase both a region’s unique characteristics, and a winemaker’s style. A contradiction? Not when it comes to this grape.
More than 70% of the grapes grown in Arizona come from the Willcox AVA. While it is still flying decidedly under the radar, it is a region to watch. With vineyards up to 4,400 feet in elevation, a serious shift from day to night temperatures, and volcanic and alluvial soils, it has the ingredients for a serious winemaking region.
At Chateau Tumbleweed, co-owner and winemaker Joe Bechard, says the terroir allows them to produce Cabernet Sauvignons that “walk the razor’s edge between New World and Old World. We don’t make big, rich, opulent Cabs like Washington or California.”
Instead, Tumbleweed’s Cabernet Sauvignons tend to be more “red fruit driven, spicier, and somewhat leaner, while still having decent tannins,” he says. Part of this comes from the terroir, but it’s also the farming and aging decisions.
“We try not to pick too ripe to keep the fruit and spice fresh and vibrant, and alcohols low,” Bechard explains. “We also try to keep new oak to no more than 20-25%.”
Cabernet Sauvignon will never blend in, even in a blend. But, thanks to the creativity and resourcefulness of producers across the world, it can span a gamut of terroirs and styles, without losing its essence.
What better time than August 4 – National White Wine Day – than to pop open a bottle of your favorite white varietal, or perhaps try something new to you? Here are some favorites, all grown and made in Arizona.
Keeling Schaefer 2020 Puzzle Vine Picpoul Blanc
This light, bright poolside pal is a great example of how this Southern Arizona vineyard is working to expose Arizonans to Rhône varieties of wine. Beloved in Southwest France, Picpoul wine grapes are growing in popularity across the Southwest and West coasts of the United States given its ample tropical notes, especially pineapple. $15
Carlson Creek 2019 White Blend
With its family-owned vineyards across Southern Arizona and tasting rooms in Willcox, Scottsdale and Cottonwood, Carlson Creek is one of the most successful wine operations in the state. A seemingly wild combination of Chardonnay and Muscat, the blend works thanks to flavors ranging from lilac to jasmine and quince to almonds on the palate. $22
Dos Cabezas WineWorks 2021 White
Ever add salt to a melon? It gives the fruit a punch of flavor and is absolutely a tasting note in this radical Arizona white wine. There are also notes of citrus and even a touch of peach in this combination of both well-known grapes in Viognier, Malvasia, Albariño and Muscat and little-known gems in Piquepoul Blanc, Petit Manseng and just a hint of Kerner. Bonus: there is a doggy on the bottle’s label! $22
Page Springs 2020 Colibri Roussanne
Just as Keeling Schaefer is showcasing Rhône varietals through Picpoul, Page Springs is showcasing Rhône through Roussanne. A northern Rhône favorite for its floral aromas and flavors of peaches, pears and honey, Page Springs’ twist definitely has the pear but also some fantastic baking spices and citrus. $39
Aridus 2016 Fumé Blanc Barrel Select
Hello, marshmallow! Yes, there are ever-so-slight (but there!) notes of marshmallow in this aromatic, acidic selection in this Arizona white wine. Expect layers of flavor, ranging from lime and coconut to ripe green apple and minerals, in every delicious sip. $48
Tantrum Wines 2018 Whimsy
This luscious, balanced Chardonnay is the result of southern Arizona winemaker Brighid McLoughlin’s decade in the industry. There is a perfect level of acidity here, but make no mistake, this is a Chard of the highest order. $24
Chateau Tumbleweed 2021 Miss Sandy Jones
This Clarkdale hotspot knows a thing or two about blending wine. The vineyard is the result of a coupling between two husband-and-wife teams who have worked in Arizona wine for years. This white wine winner starts with an extraordinary Chardonnay from two vineyards as its base. Sauvignon Blanc is then added to provide some acid, and then little-known Ugni Blanc grape, also known as Trebbiano, completes the makeup, adding a nutty spice and touch of fruit flavor. $26
LDV Winery 2018 Sky Island Viognier
This Cochise County vineyard, which has a tasting room in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, specializes in 100 percent estate-grown wines. The 2018 Viognier is aged in stainless steel to best bring out the minerality of the varietal. There are also exceptional notes on citrus in every bright, crisp sip. of this Arizona white wine. $29
Alcantara Vineyard 2020 Mesa Blanca
A complex marriage of equal parts Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, this white blend from northern Arizona’s Verde Valley AVA comes out of the gate strong with fresh-cut grass and red apple on the nose. The flavors soften to the taste, thanks in great part to the ripe strawberry notes that jump to the forefront. $32.95
Pillsbury Wine Inappropriate 2020
The cheeky name of this ultra-aromatic white blend is a nod to owner and winemaker Sam Pillsbury (by his own admission). Expect a blast of orange and peach jams with this San Francisco Chronicle Bronze Medal winner, which is made from Pillsbury’s popular Symphony white and Malvasia. $35
Wine Business Monthly names Joe Bechard Winemaker of the Month in May 2022!
“Working in a wine “frontier” can get lonely sometimes. Seeking advice, finding information, making smart purchases, forming relationships with suppliers: everything is more difficult from a distance. Wine Business Monthly is one of the best resources I have to keep up on new research, products, equipment, market trends and to stay connected to the greater industry.”
ANNUAL CASE PRODUCTION: Currently 5,000 cases for Chateau
Tumbleweed (growing annually) and 1,500 cases for our partners
at D.A. Ranch Vineyards.
PLANTED ACRES: We source fruit from 10 to 12 vineyards every year.
Mostly from the Willcox AVA in southeastern AZ, but also from
here in the Verde Valley AVA when we can. We need to get to work
on a vineyard ASAP – fruit is scarce in Arizona. We’re very lucky
to have some great relationships.
CAREER BACKGROUND: I fell in love with Oregon Pinot and wine
more broadly while in journalism school at the University of
Oregon, but never planned to work in the business. When I moved
to Sedona for my first newspaper job in 2004, I discovered that
Arizona had a tiny wine industry (fewer than 10 bonded wineries
at the time). I left the newspaper before the 2005 harvest and
became a cellar rat. I spent the next 10 years working for several
wineries in the Verde Valley (most notably Page Springs Cellars
and Merkin Vineyards/Four-Eight Wineworks) before opening
Chateau Tumbleweed in 2015 with my wife and two of our best
industry friends. We are also partners with the Petznick family,
owners of D.A. Ranch Vineyard. (There are now more than 100
bonded wineries in our state.)
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGE? Operating
a small winery with fairly shallow pockets in an upstart wine
region brings new challenges every day! It’s humbling. Luckily wine
teaches patience, perseverance and gratitude for the little things.
We’re fortunate that we get to be ourselves and have a good time
while also making wines we’re immensely proud of.
VARIETALS THAT YOUR WINERY IS KNOWN FOR: We’ve had more than
30 different varietals pass through our doors. The experimentation
and discovery is a huge part of what draws me to Arizona wine.
We make several larger blends and a wide range of vineyard and
varietally designated wines. Picpoul Blanc, Graciano, Cabernet
Franc, Sangiovese and Mourvedre are probably some of our
favorites right now.