The best Arizona wines to sip by the pool this summer (Arizona Republic)
Georgann Yara, Special for Arizona Republic Published 7:30 a.m. MT Aug. 1, 2019 | Updated 2:26 p.m. MT Aug. 21, 2019
For the last few years, this mental image has made Arizona winemaker Todd Bostock smile:
It’s a sunny day on a golf course. A guy driving his cart pulls up and comes to a stop. He prepares a refreshing adult beverage and opens his cooler. It’s packed with aluminum cans dressed in green and gold. And filled with wine.
“It warms my heart,” said Bostock of Green Wine, his creation in a can for Garage-East, an urban winery in Gilbert’s Barnone of which he’s a partner. “It’s like an alternative to beer.”
The Green Wine is in part the result of borrowed elements. The logo and colors on the can were made to resemble a beer can from the 1970s, and the contents emulates Vinho Verde, the Portuguese varietal known for being light and spritzy. The combination was what Valley residents who brave summers at home craved.
“Garage-East is in the Valley, and it’s warm. We wanted to make a wine that would be useful most of the year. We were going for something low alcohol and refreshing,” Bostock said.
Bostock is also the winemaker and co-owner of Dos Cabezas WineWorks, which is based in Sonoita and in a southern Arizona wine region that features high elevation and cooler temperatures year round.
The Green Wine comes in totable 375 ml can ($12) – about two glasses worth. At Garage-East, it’s also available by the glass. The current 2018 vintage is the third generation of the wine. It’s a blend of malvasia bianca, reisling and sauvignon blanc. It is no shade of emerald.
It’s one of the several Arizona wines made for enduring scorching desert summers. It’s also part of a wine packaging revolution that, as Bostock has said, lets wine to go where beer goes.
What was once considered a trend-of-the-moment has become a $45 million business, according to Nielsen. And while canned wine makes up a fraction of the industry, it’s growing faster than its bottle counterparts. Canned wine sales in the U.S. grew 43 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to alcoholic beverage market research firm BW 166.
Bostock is a veteran of the practice. His Dos Cabezas canned carbonated pink is among the most sought-after Arizona wines upon its annual release and Dos Cabezas’ Methode Canpenoise – another canned sparkler – was named the state’s top wine in the 2017 Arizona Republic Wine Competition.
Bostock was prepared for criticism. But he said most consumers understand that opting for a can instead of a bottle is no reflection of the quality of wine inside it.
“Most people get it. It’s not lame wine in a novel package. It’s the same wine we put in a bottle but in a package you can stick in your pocket,” he said.
This is time of year when pink and white wines are in high demand. Lindsey Schoenemann, co-owner of downtown Phoenix wine bar GenuWine Arizona, said customers’ first word is “refreshing” when choosing one.
Currently, rosé is king. Schoenemann’s personal favorite is the Rune Wines 2017 Rosé ($20), a crisp blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre, petite sirah and graciano.
When it comes to local white wines, Schoenemann is a fan of Arizona viogniers. She really likes the 2017 Pretty Girl Viognier from Four Tails Vineyard ($25).
“This one is well-balanced, mineral and fruity. It’s really easy to drink,” she said.
But this doesn’t mean reds don’t get any love when temps hit triple digits. Schoenemann enjoys red wine year round. Some may wish to chill their reds down in a bottle chiller or refrigerator for a few minutes, but she likes it at room temperature. Right now, Schoenemann is loving the Sand-Reckoner Vineyard 2016 R ($23), a blend of syrah, tannat, zinfandel and petite sirah.
“It’s a little bit spicy but still refreshing and well-balanced. I love it with a meal ... like a black bean burger,” she said.
From porch pounders to palate-smacking sippers, here are the homegrown wines that should be filling your glass when temperatures soar. Prices vary at retail locations.
Carlson Creek Vineyard, 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($23)
This straw-colored refresher’s light herbal inflection with hints of grilled pineapple and vanilla custard recently scored 91 points and a gold medal in the 2019 World Wine Championships. Light enough for poolside solo sipping with just enough personality to stand up to dishes like chicken fajitas or tofu banh mi. Don’t let the older vintage fool you. This vineyard is known for churning out white wines that peak gracefully with age.
Details: carlsoncreek.com (https://carlsoncreek.com/).
Callaghan Vineyards, 2017 Love Muffin ($28)
This intoxicating blend of malvasia bianca, viogner, marsanne and rousanne entices in a friendly way as lychee and apricot permeate the nose and palate, waxing all the quenching ripeness that the season has to offer. A teeny spicy finish makes the encounter memorable.
Details: callaghanvineyards.com (https://www.callaghanvineyards.com/).
Page Springs Cellars, 2018 Vino del Barrio Blanca ($16)
One of this popular winery’s most high-profile offerings, this white boasts a union of eight varietals, with the heavy lifting done by malvasia bianca, pinot gris, viognier, vermintino and French colombard. The profile changes slightly each year depending on the blend but hitting all the right notes with hints of tropical fruit, citrus and pear that’s balanced with just enough minerality is the constant.
Details: pagespringscellars.com (http://pagespringscellars.com/).
Dos Cabezas WineWorks, 2018 El Campo Blanco ($30)
This brand new release was bottled in July and is anxious to play. It boasts a blend primarily comprised of rousanne and viognier, a Rhone duo that results in a refreshingly balanced sip.
Details: doscabezas.com (http://www.doscabezas.com/).
Pillsbury Wine Company, 2017 WildChild White ($25)
Filmmaker-turned-winemaker Sam Pillsbury’s WildChild wines have been perennial pleasers for years, and his white blend is especially beloved when temperatures soar. An aromatic melding of symphony, viognier, malvasia bianca and chardonnay, this holds its own alone as well as paired with flavorful seafood dishes like grilled mahi mahi dressed with a mango salsa. It was also a double gold medal winner at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Details: pillsburywine.com (http://www.pillsburywine.com/).
Merkin Vineyards, 2018 Puscifer Queen B Sparkling Rosé ($12)
This can of bubbly was made for summer picnics, hikes and San Diego beach escapes. Made from 100 percent mourvedre rather than the mainstream Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, this sparkling pink carries a bit more heft, zero sweetness and the ability to play nice with most summertime eats.
Details: merkinoldtownscottsdale.com (http://merkinoldtownscottsdale.com/).
Chateau Tumbleweed 2017 Rosé ($25)
Don’t be fooled by the dark shade that may conjure up Kool-Aid memories. This bone-dry rosé made with barbera, sangiovese and grenache is far from sugary sweet. It also packs enough berry fruit and crispness to make it a versatile buddy for noshing.
Details: chateautumbleweed.com (http://www.chateautumbleweed.com/).
Lightning Ridge Cellars, 2017 Montepulciano ($28)
Winemaker Ann Roncone specializes in Italian varietals, and this red is among her estate-grown wines. It’s medium-bodied but light enough to go with hearty grilled vegetables and stand up to steaks. A peppery finish gives it a playful kick.
Details: lightningridgecellars.com (http://lightningridgecellars.com/).
File this away for summer 2020: Garage-East Rosé Pops
Another Garage-East grab-and-go summer favorite is the rosé pop — kind of like a wine Otter Pop. Bostock worked with Tempe-based pastry chef Tracy Dempsey to come up with a recipe that allowed them to freeze yet kept its shape, texture and flavor.
The pops are sold out, but put them on your next summer’s to-drink list.
Bostock said of the inspiration for the adult treat: “Everything is so serious. We wanted to have some fun.”
If you’re looking for a good selection of Arizona wines and want to avoid the big box booze stores and grocers, head to these independent wine shops. Whether you’re very familiar with local wines or a newbie taking your first steps into the homegrown scene, chances are great that you’ll have your questions answered by someone who can help you navigate the terroir.
Arcadia Premium: 5618 E. Thomas Road, Suite 100, Phoenix. 602-464-9000, arcadiapremium.com (https://arcadiapremium.com/arcadiapremium/).
Bottle Shop 48: 3318 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe. 480-820-0804, bottleshop48.com (http://bottleshop48.com/).
GenuWine Arizona: 888 N. First Ave., Phoenix. 602-682-7494, genuwinearizona.com (https://genuwinearizona.com/).
Hidden Track Bottle Shop: The Monroe, 111 W. Monroe St., Suite 120, Phoenix. 602-566-7932, hiddentrackbottleshop.com (https://www.hiddentrackbottleshop.com/).
ODV Wines: 1325 W. University Drive, Tempe. 602-376-9021, odvwines.com (https://odvwines.com/).
Sphinx Date Co.: 3039 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. 480-941-2261, sphinxdateranch.com (https://www.sphinxdateranch.com/).