Wednesday, March 08, 2006

WBW 19: Mourvedre in Arizona

Everyone loves birdies.

That's right. I said Arizona. And I'm not playing, no sir, no ma'am. This here's the real thing. You want Rhone? I'll give you Rhone.

Actually, Mr. Bob Johnson of Colibri Vineyards will give you Rhone. And freakin' how.

Mr. Johnson didn't tell me I'd be better off in a Ford F-1500 getting to his place, and I cursed the whole way. My little car was not built for the primitive road. It took me damn close to an hour to navigate the rocky path across a long-ass--albeit gorgeous--patch of Arizona desert. Before me the whole way was the promise of the Chiricahua Mountains, which never seemed to get any closer until I was right on 'em.

When the primitive road narrowed to a dirt road and the dirt road narrowed into a path and the path ended, I'd found one of the most stunningly beautiful winery set ups I've ever seen. Nestled in a canyon, surrounded by pinon trees, ancient rock formations and bustling with hundreds of varieties of birds was Colibri vineyards: neat rows of sleeping syrah, mourvedre, viognier, cinsault and counoise vines. Oh, hell yes. That's why I'm on the road.

Bob Johnson, wine maker and ukulele player extrodinaire

It took me a while to find Bob, but only because I honk like a girl, thinking I'm going to disturb someone. When I found him, he took me immediately on a spontaneous tour of his land and winery, pointing out all the features that made him feel like he was meant to be the caretaker of this land and all the plants and animals who thrived on it.

Except gophers. They eat vine roots and have to die.

Geronimo roamed here. Apaches died here. For the years just prior to Bob, apples grew in the field where the vines are now. The man who produced those apples passed away, and the land came up for sale. Bob, a nurse in an ICU unit wanting to find a getaway spot for his wife and kids, fell in love with it. After a stint trying to keep the apples going and having no luck because of their decline, he noticed a tree with a winding vine around it. The vine turned out to be vinis vinifera arizonica, and he took it as a sign to take up winemaking.

Long, interesting story short, he found the climate perfect for Rhone varietals, planted them, and began vinting. End result: good wine.

No, really. Damn good wine.

'Colibri' means hummingbird in the Latin languages, and hummingbirds are all over the place. Tons of different varieties. Each wine Bob makes is adorned with a different type of hummingbird.

2004 Colibri 'Black-Chinned' Mourvedre

Bob, his good friend Joseph and I drank three different wines the evening of my visit: a cuvee, a port made of syrah, and this Mourvedre, which was the one I kept asking for. As a matter of fact, as I sit here in Bisbee, AZ, I'm finishing off the bottle. It's a remarkably well put together juice for a man who's only been bottling for five years. It has all the brooding dark fruit, leather, and gamey quality of the varietal, and a sound, impressive finish that stays with you. A big wine, too, at 15%. Yum.

Bob's buddy Allen is in Iraq, and he's saving this bottle for his return.

I read an article that Bob gave me about the burgeoning wine industry here in Arizona, and after trying his wine, I believe it's possible. Mr. Erath, of Oregon Pinot fame, does too, apparently; he's buying up a bit of land in the area. I'm saying to you: you oughta watch these guys. They're not making your gramma's sweet tourist wine.
Sleep well, little vines

A special thanks is in order to Bob, who showed me great hospitality. Good luck, sir. As far as I'm concerned, you've got the makings of a great winery.

I promised to blog about Paulo D'Andra from Luna Rossa in New Mexico last post, and that's going to be next. I just wanted to get out this one for WBW, since we're doin' Rhone. Please check out the Flickr badge to the right for some really fabulous photos of Bob's place, as well as the ones I've taken along the way.

My travels across the Western United States are proceeding beautifully. I've learned more about wine and winemakers in the last week than any freakin' class could ever teach me, plus I'm having a straight-up BLAST. Stay tuned for more adventures!



Blogger Finger Lakes Weekend Wino said...

Awesome reporting! I'm having a blast reading it.

3:12 PM  
Blogger taj said...

Thanks, man. It's a hard job, but someone's gotta drink it. Er, do it, I mean.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Mannning said...

Taj, nice job so far on the trip.

I've had some good AZ wines from Callahan, but we don't see much here in OR. Would the Mourvedre be worth trying...I'm a serious Bandolhound, but don't like overripe, over alcoholic stuff.

9:00 AM  
Blogger taj said...

Well, let's see...Bob's mourvedre weighs in at 15%, so it's got a bit of alchohol. It's ripe, I wouldn't call it overripe or jammy at all. I say yeah, you should try it, not because you like Bandol, but because you want to discover a really good wine from Arizona.

9:11 AM  

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