Long-time listeners may know about my connections to the Wine industry in Arizona, where I got started, and it’s high time I return to my roots, pun intended. In this episode, I sit down with Jenelle Bonifield, who just released her fantastic new book AZ Uncorked: The Arizona Wine Guide. Alongside her in this episode is her daughter Isla, who you may remember from our group podcast at ODV featuring the New Jersey wines of Sal Mannino, and of course Megan and myself. Oh, and Jason Dudley makes an appearance giving us snacks to pair with the wine we chose to drink over the course of our discussion.
I’m not kidding when I say this book is fantastic, even though I helped write an introduction to a section. The photography is absolutely stunning and vibrant, and I’d love half of them to be sitting on my walls. (I honestly spaced about asking during the recording whether prints of her work in the book could be acquired; I was told later she is considering it). As it turns out, literal blood, sweat, and tears went into the production of this book. (For that particular story, you’ll have to listen to the podcast!) If you are outside of Arizona, you can grab a copy online at https://arizonawineguide.com/order-book/
The wine we drank while recording this episode is the 2017 Gallia, from Saeculum Cellars. This wine is a sultry, supple blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and is a perennial favorite of mine from winemaker Michael Pierce. The percentages change a little every year, but it’s always a great bottle to grab. The grapes are sourced from Rolling View Vineyard in the Willcox AVA; farmed by Michael Pierce’s father. Thank you once again, Michael, for letting us record our podcast in your barrel room!
The smallest state in the US, as it turns out, has a wine industry that rivals some of the biggest states. Rhode Island is about the same size as the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area but has almost three times as many wineries as the capital of Arizona! With 13 licensed and bonded wineries, the state (okay, technically Commonwealth) of Rhode Island has one of the most vibrant winery scenes in New England.
The history of wine in Rhode Island begins in 1663 when KingCharles II of England specifically included wine production among the land uses approved in the royal charter which established Rhode Island as a British colony. As in so many other parts of the United States, the nascent wine industry in the region was wiped out by Prohibition in the early 20th century. The industry picked up again in 1975 with the opening of Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, located near Little Compton. Half of Rhode Island lies within the Southeastern New England AVA, and most of the wineries found in the state are found in this region, with few exceptions. (Key among these exceptions is Verde Vineyards, which we will hopefully meet in a later episode in season 2 of this podcast.)
The wine we’ve chosen to look at for our first look at Rhode Island viticulture is the NV Gemini Red from Newport Vineyards, which is a blend of 50% Merlot, with varying percentages of Landot Noir (a French-American Hybrid), Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. This bottle was acquired by yours truly on the same trip I acquired the 2014 Cinco Cães for our Massachusetts episode. That episode also happened to be our introduction to the Southeastern New England AVA–in this episode, however, Gary and I focus a bit more on the nature and purpose of wine blends.
A few days ago, I did an online tasting with Snooth, focusing on the wines from Murietta’s Well, which is located in the Livermore AVA in California. It was my first experience doing an online wine tasting; the center point was the winemaker, Robbie Meyer, on video chat talking about his wines while we all sipped along and inquired about the processes and ideas behind each wine–something I enjoy doing rather often with local winemakers over on podcasts at The Arizona Wine Monk wherever possible–the main difference was in the distance, and tasting with a group of others was particularly fun.
All the wines from Murietta’s well are small lot (though larger lots than anyone in Arizona, by and large), and wild-fermented, which is fascinating. Wild fermentation can be difficult to do well, after all, as wild yeasts can be a bit… Well, cantankerous to deal with, to say the least. Overall, these wines had a more Old World feel to them than most wines I’ve encountered from California. Here are the wines we tasted, and some thoughts I had about each. The next podcast episode will load in another six days–we will stick to the every tenth-day cycle which has worked so far. (There won’t be any Riesling to miss it, so stay tuned.)
Welcome to the Tenth episode of the Make America Grape Again podcast, showcasing Illinois. Today’s wine is the Blue Sky Vineyard 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc, from Blue Sky Vineyards in the Shawnee Hills AVA.
The Midwest is a pretty active wine region, overall, as I am constantly reminded by visitors to my tasting room for my day job. The Shawnee Hills AVA is a thriving wine scene in Southern Illinois that currently has about 55 vineyards and 300 planted acres, and is booming. Already, this AVA has dramatically improved the economic setting of the region. The soils here in this area, thanks to the lack of Pleistocene Glaciation, are well-suited for viticulture. This wine provides our first brief encounter with how local geology affects the terroir of a wine region. While a Cabernet Franc, this wine is very different from the Colorado vintage in our previous episode; this wine is a lovely fruit bomb with the classic Midwest musty character.
This bottle was acquired thanks to Scott Albert, who is the winemaker for Kite Hill Vineyards, also in the Shawnee Hills AVA. He was kind enough to do a bottle trade for some Arizona wines when he approached me when I first announced this podcast over on The Wine Monk. Thanks, Scott! I was really impressed by this vintage and am looking forward to recording more episodes with the wines you have contributed.
Welcome to Episode 9 of the Make America Grape Again Podcast; in this episode, we will be exploring Colorado for the first time!
Colorado is a land of extremes, with everything from towering mountains that scrape the heavens to high plains and deserts. It is also a land with some fascinating viticultural potential, producing both vinifera and fruit wines. The Palisades region, also known as the Grand Valley AVA, is perhaps the central point of the thriving viticultural industry in Colorado. Our wine of the day, the 2015 Colorado Cabernet Franc from Sutcliffe Vineyards, is sourced from this AVA.
This episode provides an introduction on how to approach making wine tasting notes, and Old World versus new world approaches to viticulture, as we were all gathered to help my friend Jen Condon (who provided the bottle) with some homework for her classes in the viticultural program at Yavapai College. An entire podcast featuring Old World vs. New World wines and their approaches will be posted on my other website in the near future.
Welcome to Episode 6 of Make America Grape Again! In this episode, we visit Idaho and meet up with one of the most abundant styles of wine blends: the Bordeaux Blend. Blends in this style, often referred to as “Meritage” blends in the New World, typically are a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, with additional grapes associated with the Bordeaux AOC of France in these blends. The wine in question is the 2014 Seven Devils Red from Hells Canyon Winery, located in the Snake River AVA.
This wine provides us with an introduction to a region associated with Wine Gags (Like Arizona, Idaho has been subject to a number of gags over the years). The 2014 Seven Devils Red is also a fantastic introduction to the nature of Wine Flaws–are they always bad, or can they provide additional points of interest into a wine? (In this case, the flaw was VA–volatile acidity.)
Again, sorry for the choppy audio quality in this episode– Audacity was being difficult. This bottle was purchased for this podcast by Gary Kurtz, my erstwhile cohost, while he was on vacation.
In Episode Two of the Make America Grape Again podcast, we will look at Nevada.
Nevada is a bit of a frontier in winemaking, due to the unwieldy nature of legislation focused on winery and vineyard production in this state. Indeed, Nevada serves as an excellent example of the often ridiculous and Byzantine nature of alcohol legislation that can be a major challenge to winemaking in the United States; something we will explore in this episode.
The wine in question for this episode is the 2015 Silver State Red, a blend of eight different red varietals from Nevada Ridge winery; a label focused on Nevada-grown grapes found at Pahrump Valley Winery. In this episode, along with exploring a textbook example of viticultural legislation as mentioned above, we will also be examining the practice of blending wines, along with a discussion about what exactly makes a “good wine.”
This bottle was acquired directly from the winery by myself while visiting Pahrump Valley Winery with a dear friend of mine last year.