It may be a controversial statement, but I will take a glass of Syrah over Cabernet Sauvignon any day of the week. What can I say? Your typical Cab delivers exactly what you'd expect from it, but Syrahs tend to surprise me more. Lucky me-- Syrah tends to grow well here in Arizona, and they are some of my favorite wines from the area.
Syrah probably originates just east of the Northern Rhone Valley in France, as it is the offspring of the relatively obscure varieties Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza, both of which have been grown in the Isere region where a natural cross begat Syrah. And in an interesting turn of a few events, this also makes Pinot Noir the great-grandparent of Syrah, and Viognier likely Syrah's half sibling (the family tree is a little more murky on the Viognier side).
Syrah tends to be a quick-ripening variety, which is actually lucky for us here in Arizona, because we want sugars and tannins to ripen at approximately the same rate, so a grape with speedy tannin ripening is a blessing. Syrah also tends to have soft, plush tannins, which makes it a very approachable wine early on. I love really peppery versions of the wine, but I also appreciate the wild gaminess and ripe to jammy berry notes that Syrah can exhibit. Even in the dead heat of summer, I can't turn down a Syrah.
As of writing this, we have about 60 cases of our 2015 Syrah left, and we have our 2016 Syrah waiting in the wings with no release date set as yet. I like both of these vintages in their own right, with the 2015 skewing a bit more towards a savory brined olive flavor, and the 2016 having a bit more ripeness and tar. Stop by the tasting room if you have a chance to get a taste of the 2015, and be on the lookout for a fall or winter release for our 2016. And by all means, if you open a bottle, invite me over. ;)
Winemaker Lisa Strid has just returned from a three month visit to Australia where she worked a harvest at Kirrihill, a winery in South Australia's Clare.
Here are some questions she’s been answering:
Why were you intrigued to go do a harvest in Australia?
I mostly wanted to learn. The more you expose yourself to different ways of doing things, at different wineries in different regions, the more you learn. Since I jumped right into full-time, year-round winemaking right out of school, I never had the experience of a harvest-hopping endless summer. I’d definitely been itching to make it to the southern hemisphere for a harvest, but the timing hadn’t been right until this year.
What are Kirrihill’s specialties?
Kirrihill is the second largest winery in the Clare Valley, so they produce a whole range of wines, but they’re mostly focused on Riesling (which the region is known for), Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. They do make a few small batch wines – my favorite amongst them being a Nero D’Avola made from fruit sourced from McLaren Vale. Their Peacemaker Shiraz is very nice as well.
What practices were different?
Simply being at a larger scale in a region that’s well established meant that there were a lot of differences to how things are done in Arizona. Nearly all of the grapes brought in were machine harvested. So that means no whole cluster pressing of whites, and no stem inclusion on red fermentation. They had a number of different cap management strategies for the reds – both open and closed top fermenters with automatic pumpovers that could be very easily adjusted and customized on the fly, fermenters with pulsed air systems and rotary fermenters. Because of the sheer volume moving through the winery, it was necessary to get things through fermentation and stabilized as soon as possible, so there weren’t many cold soaks or extended macerations. By the time I left, the regional Riesling we’d made early in the harvest season was ready for bottling.
Also, everything’s measured in a different scale there – not just metric, but also sugars were measured in Baume rather than Brix. So I was doing a lot of mental conversion, especially at first.
What was the most fun while you were there?
I liked getting to know everyone. It was a crew from all corners of the globe, and everyone had such great attitudes.
Do they have harvest customs food-wise?
Not really, but The Sevenhill Pub did a harvest worker special every Wednesday evening – burger and a pint for $20. That’s about $14 USD.
What would Americans be surprised to learn from your ‘immersion’ there?
I didn’t even realize how great the rodeos are here in the US until I went to one there. The Aussies have us beat hands down in things like education, public safety, health care, and quality of life, but our rodeos are way better.
There are also a ton of vehicles with massive bullbars on them, and at first I thought it was because Aussies are all just really into looking like bad asses, but it’s actually functional. It’s so common for kangaroos to jump out into the road, seemingly from nowhere, that it helps to have a bullbar so as not to destroy your car if you can’t avoid hitting one.
Did you have a favorite food?
Were there kangaroos on the crush pad?!
Not on the crush pad, but pretty much everywhere else! I’m an insect collector, and there were tons of giant rain moths - Trictena atripalpis – in the cellar starting in about mid-February.
What are you eager to try as a new technique at Aridus?
I’ll be judiciously incorporating pulsed air into our protocols.
What did the Aussies ask you about life & winemaking in Arizona?
They were curious about the soils and the weather in the region, and wanted to know what varieties did well. I think I forced them to be curious about Mexican food because I talked about it so much.
Did you develop an accent?!
No, but I did ask a co-worker here, “How are you going?” when I got back without even thinking about it.
Hi everyone! Today I'm here to talk about two of the strangest things that are pretty typically added to wines - a clay called Bentonite, and a resious polymer called PVPP, or Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone if you're fancy. Why would we want to add dirt and plastic to wine, you wonder? My gosh, that's an excellent question.
I'll start with bentonite-- at its most basic, it's a negatively-charged clay from Wyoming that swells to sevel times its dry size when wet. Because of this, when it's added to solution it has a very high surface area. It's the high surface area and the negative charge that we're taking advantage of when we use it in winemaking. Believe it or not, grapes contain protein, and when these proteins remain present in the wines made from the grapes. These proteins have a positive charge. End of story if that protein stayed stable in the wine, but unfortunately, protein tends to clump up after a certain amount of time passes, and it can form an unattractive haze in the bottle. It's much more noticeable in white wines than in reds, but certain light red wines may deposit a notable protein haze as well. How do we get rid of it? When we add bentonite into a wine and mix it up, the clay and the proteins will be attracted to one another due to their opposite charges (negative and positive), so the bentonite works to pull the protein out of the wine before it's put into bottle. We'll move the wine off that layer of clay and protein, so none of it is actually carried over into your glass. Don't worry-- you're not going to be drinking any dirt.
And what about PVPP? Well, this polymer is similar to bentonite in that we use it to remove undesirable compounds from the wine. It also swells up in water, increasing surface area, but we're not looking to remove proteins in this case, but polyphenols. Polyphenols are wide range of compounds, and they can do everything from causing certain white wines to turn a pinkish or brownish color, to just making a wine taste too bitter. When we add PVPP, we're doing it in exactly the same way as bentonite - swelling in water, mixing with the wine, and letting it settle out before moving the wine off the sediment.
So the next time you're enjoying a crystal clear white wine, give a little cheer to bentonite and PVPP, two ingredients that just might be the unsung heroes in producing that glass.
Well, it's finally here - the season we've all been waiting for... MELTING TRASHCAN SEASON! (Or as it's known to the non-Arizona portion of the country, Summer.) And that begs the question, what are you doing to beat the heat? I know for my part, I'm busy drinking as much cold white wine in the pool as possible. I've even been known to test out nearly any bottle for it's "Spritz-ability Index," aka, how good it tastes when mixed with seltzer. I have no shame about it. When you can bake cookies on the hood of a car, and touching your sealtbelt results in 3rd degree burns, there's no room for judgement.
So what do we have coming your way here at Aridus to help you cope? I'm here to give you the scoop - some very spritzable wines. Of course, this past Friday we released the latest in our Tank Series, the Tank 19 white blend, a crisp blend of Chardonnay and Malvasia Bianca. Thanks to everyone who came out! Spritz-ability Index: 13/10
On June 15th, we'll be releasing out 2015 Chardonnay. It's a tasty little number with fresh apple notes, and sweet oak aromatics. Spritz-ability Index: 11/10
At the peak of July, on the 20th, we'll be releasing out 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. It's a grapefruit and mango bomb, and especially refreshing. Spritz-ability Index: 14/10
Finally, we're rounding out our summer releases with our 2016 Graciano. Okay, okay - it's not a white wine, not even a rose, but we think this one will be just what you need when the sun goes down and you're working the grill. Spritz-ability Index: 12/10 (try it as a kalimotxo - equal parts cola and wine!)
But OH-HO, what's this? Anyone who lives here knows that it's still hot in September, so here's your bonus sneak preview release... On September 14th, get ready for our 2016 Montepulciano!
Stay cool out there, folks!
If you're a follower of our blog, you'll notice that I've been particularly quiet since January. That's because I've been in the southern hemisphere, South Australia's Clare Valley to be precise, working as a vintage winemaker. Harvest is the most busy time for wineries, and depending on the size and scale of operations, it's necessary to bring on extra hands to lighten the load. So I took three months off here, and joined the crew at Kirrihill, a wholly enjoyable experience.
Now that I'm back, I'll be taking up blogging duties again, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please enjoy this special tidbit, one of the Real Animals of Kirrihill...
We are celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14 with the launch of our 2017 Tank 22 Rosé, with special events at our tasting rooms in Willcox and Scottsdale.
In Scottsdale, join us from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
The delicious accoutrements will be special desserts from Nonna Urban Eatery.
Your glass of wine and dessert will be complimentary.
Aridus Scottsdale Tasting Room, 7173 East Main Street, Scottsdale 85251, 520/954-2676.
Please RSVP to email@example.com
In Willcox join us from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
The delicious accoutrements will be locally made macarons from Lorraine Patisserie.
Your glass of wine and macaron will be complimentary.
Additional bonus will be $5 glasses of wine until Sunday!
Aridus Willcox Tasting Room, 145 North Railview Avenue, Willcox 85643, 520/766-9463.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Tank 22 Rosé, the newest in our series of Tank blends, is made from sangiovese grapes from New Mexico: to preserve the fabulous flavor of this varietal (it’s the same grape which is used for Chianti), we used stainless steel and not oak barrels.
We look forward to seeing you on the 14th!
We are delighted to announce that our wines were met with great acclaim at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Specifically, we won gold medals for our 2015 Tempranillo and 2016 Malvasia Bianca. We won silver medals for our 2014 Tank 28 and 2015 Malbec. We won bronze medals for our 2015 Merlot and 2016 Orange Muscat.
This is the largest competition of American wines in the world. In early January, 67 skilled judges from a variety of fields including trade, education, media, retail and hospitality traveled to the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds in Sonoma County to determine the best wines in the U.S.A., starting with a field of 6,960 wines from 35 states. Utilizing an extensive process that divides the varietals into several categories and subcategories, the event gave the panels the chance to rate entries as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Double Gold. A complete listing of the 2018 results can be found at http://winejudging.com/medal-winners/ .
Hi everyone, and Happy New Year!
2017 has been quite the year at Aridus-- we doubled our complexity, nearly doubled our incoming tonnage, and are happy to say that we'll be bringing you a lot of new, exciting wines in the upcoming year. I have to say-- I can't wait for you all to try our 2016 reds, and am really looking forward to the eventual releases of some extended barrel-aged reds that we'll all just have to wait a while longer for.
Some of you may have heard, but for those of you that haven't-- you won't be hearing quite as much from me on this blog for a few months. I'm taking a brief leave of absence to join the Kirrihill Winery harvest team in Clare, South Australia this January through April. With any luck, I'll come back with a few new tricks up my sleeve. I'll miss everyone here, but I'll be back soon enough.
In the meantime, I hope you all had the best of holidays, and I can't wait to see you all again in the springtime!
As many of you know, just because it's Arizona doesn't mean it's not cold. Sure, we may not have snow here in the southern part of the state, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a big, red wine by the fire.
It may be cliched, but to me, Christmas is all about port. Back when I was at Gallo, my manager would occasionally head down to one of our more secluded facilities and bring back a case or two of the port she had made years earlier and stashed there for safekeeping. It was made of Tannat, a grape that is aptly named due to its high tannin content. All that tannin and the high alcohol from the fortification allowed it to age gracefully, tasting better and better with each year.
I've currently got one bottle left. One, unlabelled, green glass bottle tucked into the back of the wine rack. I'm not sure if I'll open it this year, or if I'll go out and buy something a little less nostalgic. As I type this out, I think I've got my answer-- I'll keep that one-of-a-kind bottle. Christmas is a special occasion, sure, but I think I'd better wait until I can be sure to savor the memories. (Beth, if you ever see this, you can always feel free to send me another one or two of that port...)
What will you all be drinking this holiday season?
Any of you who have visited me at the winery know that I'm inordinately excited by lab work. A large component of that is having good tools to work with. In this installment of my favorite tools, let me introduce you to some of the great items in the Aridus lab.
Here we have an assortment of serological pipettes. I use these frequently when I'm putting together blends-- they allow me to be extremely precise in dialing in exactly the percentages of each component that I want.
This is my -45 degree freezer. I store our malolactic cultures and a few specialty yeasts in here. The alternative is using freeze-dried cultures. I prefer these deep frozen cultures, because I find them to be more viable than freeze-dried.
Finally, this is our Oenofoss unit. All it takes is 0.6 mL of wine to tell me everything I want to know about it from a chemical standpoint-- alcohol percentage, residual sugar, titratable acidity... It's a very handy piece of equipment if you're interested in tracking as much analytical data as possible about your wines!