A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.
In January, the Arizona Vignerons Alliance held its third annual symposium at the Farm at South Mountain – sort of a TED Talk for winery owners. Patrick Comiskey, wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times and senior contributor for Wine & Spirits magazine, moderated one of the seminars in which we all cogitated over – and drank! – two varietals that perform wonderfully in Arizona: Tempranillo and Grenache. Needless to say, I wanted to get a glimpse of Comiskey’s perspective on our juice.
Before your trip, how much did you know about Arizona’s wine landscape?
“In 2014, I moderated a panel on Tempranillo for a group called TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) and was asked to pick wines for that seminar. That included a number of Arizona Tempranillos and Spanish-inspired blends. I knew of course that [Arizona] wines were out there, but… they were a revelation.”
What were some takeaways?
“First, it’s that the quality, even in the five years since TAPAS, has improved dramatically, from hygiene to oak treatment and tannin management. The second is that the winemakers are no longer interested in chasing trends but in mapping out their own, in embracing varieties that are well-suited to Arizona terroir instead of parroting styles and bottlings from other regions. Third, that singular pursuit has led to some distinct terroir character in the wines.”
Did Arizona’s topography and climate remind you of any other wine region?
“It really does remind me of the warmer regions of Spain, of Ribera del Duero, Navarre and Toro – places with great radial energy and high-desert shifts in temperature and intensity. Domestically, it bore a resemblance to Washington state as well, though those wines tend to have more acid. The best Arizona wines have a granular texture and mineral character that makes me think of the varied soils of the region, not to mention a fine alkali tang in some of the wines from Willcox