Assistant Winemaker, Julie Jallais, (FR)
Good Grief, Charlie Brown…it is 2014! Harvest is long gone, (a few months), soon pruning will begin and then as the weather warms, the small tendrils will reach out for the wires and before you know it, green will cover the T posts that hold the wires and row after row of vines will be stretching along the supports. Since not a lot is happening in the vineyard, lots is happening in the winery. All the juice from last year, and some from this year is in barrels and tanks, either aging or soon to jump into the bottles. With so many kinds of grapes, we have a lot of different kinds of wines. True varieties are so good for all their attributes and flavors and the fact you really, for the most part, know what you are getting. The fun, and the mystery, enters when varieties are married. To BLEND, is to mix, merge, combine, unite, mingle, intermingle, fuse, compound, meld together, incorporate, coalesce, amalgamate, harmonize, go well, complement, mergence, concoction, compound, and sometimes clash and divide. Blending is somewhat like opening Pandora’s Box! The best of intentions can sometimes go awry or truly be the beverage of the Gods. The fun is not in the destination, but in the journey. It is very much like taking a drive to a place unknown without a road map.
Just last night, I opened a bottle of Chardonnay and Semillon and I thought the Chard had gotten lost in its partner, as all I could taste was the semillon, until the Chard gave me that slight hint of buttery oakiness in the finish. Never would I have thought these two would dance well together, but they sure do. A lovely desert wine with any kind of chocolate desert, or layer cake, and believe it or not, I had a pineapple Greek yogurt with my glass. Read the labels as your peruse the shelves of wine after wine after wine. Ask the specialist in the wine department about blends. Trust your own judgment on blends of grapes that you normally drink. A Zinfandel/Syrah blend is full bodied with the chocolate, cherry, fruity taste of the Zin that is carried along so well with the earthiness and spice of the Syrah. There is a certain sense of mystery in a blend as the percentages of different grapes can differ from one to another. Even a 5-10 percent of one wine with higher percentages of other wines can affect the taste. Live dangerously and get acquainted with grapes you have not yet met. Seek out a blending party when you, and your friends, with direction from the wine-maker, will put together your special blended wine that will be yours alone. If you are interested in a blending party, give Brighid a call at Bitter Creek Winery, 928-634-7033
and ask her when the next blending party will be in Jerome or in Mesa or in Phoenix. Be prepared that it will not happen during harvest time.
As more and more Arizona grown and Arizona made wines become available, choices will heighten for both the novice and the experienced wine-o-phile! People around the country are still asking, “You grow grapes in Arizona?” Yes, Virginia, we do grow grapes, and make world class wines, in Arizona. Much of Arizona was under water at one time in the history of this State, and as the mountains rose from the movement of the earth, and then the wind and rain washed down all the alluvial soil into the bowls that the mountains surrounded, vegetation grew. Farmers came in and planted hay, alfalfa, corn and other crops, and as they grew well, more farmers came. (I just took you on a journey of many millions of years to get you where we are today in Arizona). Before too many years, farming changed, farmers grew older, sold the land to grape growers and the wine industry in Arizona took off. For many years, Arizona was the second largest provider of table grapes in the United States. The vintners soon found out that the soil was great in most parts of Arizona and excellent in some areas. Under the ground in Willcox is a large glacial aquifer that provides water to the thirsty crops, including the vineyards. Exceptional water and nutritious soil are only part of the great combination of, hot summer days, cool nights, wind, four seasons with a freeze, rain and snow, and the grower completes the circle of life.
QINFO: Let me go back to the blended desert wine I spoke of earlier. It is called MADERIZED which is the brownish color and slightly sweet, somewhat caramelized and often nutty character that make it so special with deserts.
Want to know more about wine? There is a little pocket book, (I have a 1999 edition), that is available from Wine Spectator, called “Wine Spectator’s POCKET GUIDE to WINE”. Very basic, but a great guide to start with as you enter the fascinating and rewarding world of wine.