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stirring the lees with james molesworth

More From Arizona: Introducing Page Spring Cellar and Arizona Stronghold

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 22, 2008 9:48am ET

My blog today is a continuation of last week's entry on the growth of diversity in today's wine world and finding good wine in unlikely places, more specifically, in Arizona. I recently tasted through some eye-opening new releases from Arizona, and as promised, here are some more profiles of promising Arizona wineries.

Page Spring Cellar and Arizona Stronghold

Page Spring Cellar is owned and run by Eric Glomski, who worked at California’s Limerick Lane and David Bruce wineries before setting up shop in Arizona. Glomski intends to focus primarily on Rhône varietals such as Syrah and Mourvèdre, and as his own vineyards mature, he intends to move away from using California fruit in his wines.

In addition to Page Springs Cellar, Glomski also helps out Wine Spectator guest blogger Maynard James Keenan with Keenan’s Caduceus label. The two have also partnered up to form Arizona Stronghold, a label that sources its fruit from the former Dos Cabezas vineyards, which they bought when that winery moved from the Willcox area to Soñoita.

Glomski and Keenan will have 80 acres of vineyards combined by next year, located in both the northern and southern wine regions of the state (about 250 miles apart). With soils ranging from limestone and gravel to white volcanic ash, and weather moderated by the vineyards’ altitudes (between 3,800 and 4,500 feet), Glomski and Keenan are uncovering some interesting terroirs in an unlikely place.

The reds from Page Springs and Arizona Stronghold show gutsy textures and flavors similar to those of the Southern Rhône, with black fruits and notes of tar and toast. The white wines are even more unique in profile, with broad, almost oily textures, but no lack of delineation to their flavors, offering melon, brioche, heather and more.

Production at Page Springs is currently maxed out at around 5,000 cases a year, while the joint venture Arizona Stronghold label is just getting started. Glomski plans to grow Arizona Stronghold well past its current 5,000-case level. (Keenan’s own Caduceus label is even smaller, at just 1,500 cases of annual production, and the debut Arizona wines have not yet been officially released.)

“The other two are direct-to-consumer labels,” said Glomski, referring to the two boutique labels. “But Arizona Stronghold is the one that I want to use to put Arizona on the map with.”

Based on the early returns, Glomski may be ahead of schedule in getting Arizona on the wine map. The Arizona Stronghold Nachise Cochise County 2007 is an impressive Châteauneuf-du-Pape-like wine, made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Petite Sirah that shows ripe cassis and blackberry fruit and plenty of smoky notes with additional spice, licorice and mineral hints. At just $20 it provides lots of bang for the buck. The Arizona Stronghold Tazi Cochise County White 2007, made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Malvasia Bianca, is focused, with good medium-weight tangerine, lemon verbena and white peach notes followed by a slightly waxy but lengthy finish

Among the recent Page Springs releases, the Mourvèdre Cochise County Arizona Stronghold Vineyard 2007 offers textbook varietal character. It’s nicely focused, with cassis, bacon and incense aromas and flavors, carried by sinewy but integrated structure. There's nice length and it should unwind a bit with modest cellaring. The Syrah Cochise County Norte Block Arizona Stronghold Vineyard 2007 has an overt layer of sweet spice and dark toast, along with raisin bread, blackberry and fruitcake flavors. There's a hint of pastis on the grippy finish, and though it’s not shy at all in style, it’s still really tasty.

For whites, the Viognier Arizona La Serrana 2007 is plump and forward, with warm buttery almond, melon and peach flavors that are round and soft, but persistent on the finish. In contrast, the Malvasia Bianca Arizona Vino de la Familia Blanca 2007 is spicy, with Muscat like notes of orange zest and tangerine, backed by a hint of nectarine pit on the slightly waxy finish. It’s a fun change of pace.

Because Glomski has a broad portfolio of vineyard-designated releases, the productions of the individual Page Springs Cellar wines are in the 50- to 175-case range, and they carry $20 to $40 price tags, a bit higher than the Arizona Stronghold wines, which will be easier for consumers to source thanks to their 700- to 1,000-case production levels.

Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  December 23, 2008 12:01pm ET
now...will any of these wines break the mythical other USA 90 pt barrier.......Also, did you try any wines from Pillsbury Wine co?
James Molesworth
December 23, 2008 12:40pm ET
Andrew: I guess I'd rather be known as a tough grader than the other way around. In any event, it can't be a barrier if it's already been broken - we have awarded 90 points and higher to wines from the 'other U.S.' category. If the quality is there, they'll get the recognition they merit...

Pillsbury Wine Co is owned by Sam Pillsbury, a former partner in Dos Cabezas. I believe he's working with Eric Glomski of Page Spring and Arizona Stronghold to make the wines. Pillsbury has not sent anything in for review however...
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  December 23, 2008 2:59pm ET
There have been 4 -- 90+ pt from other US wines--the last being rated in 1996. So, from the Molesworth scoring, its still a barrier. I generally agree with your scores from South American, not so much from the Rhone and thus far with the wines I've tried from the other US (all Virginia, Finger Lakes and AZ--some good, some very good but not quite outstanding, although the 2005 La Montana and 2001 Octagon were close). I've not tried (yet) the Arizona offerings from Cadecus, Page Springs and Az Stronghold, but having tried their Cailfornia wines I think they have the skill set to make outstanding wines. i will be in AZ in march, and I will definately try the Pillsbury wines--seems like he has the experience and the team to make outstanding wines as well. I look forward to your ratings and many thanks for your insights. Have a great Christmas
James Molesworth
December 23, 2008 3:45pm ET
Andrew: Just a point of clarification - there are over 30 wines in our database from 'Other U.S.' areas (which to us means outside of the big three of Cali, Washington and Oregon) with 90-plus point scores. Quite a few have come from me, including reviews on Sheldrake Point, Standing Stone and Konstantin Frank.

But if you agree with me that you yourself have also yet to come across many 90 point wines from the 'Other U.S.', then it sounds like the 'barrier' is the quality of the wines, and not the one judging them.
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  December 23, 2008 5:33pm ET
Sorry...not commenting on the quality of the reviews..simply on whether or not the quality of the areas in question have improved to the point of prodcuing outstanding wines. Since I respect your opinion and I assume the AZ wines you mentioned have been scored, I was looking for early hints :). As a point of clarification, when you search the WS database "other US"--Finger lakes wines are not included and I am mainly interested in AZ anyways, as I have lived there and tasted/enjoyed many of the local wines. A few have been close to outstanding and I think with this new wave of talent and money, the "90 pt" barrier will get routinely surpassed
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  December 29, 2008 4:27pm ET
James any chance you and other editors will be blogging on other states? I've found your recent topics on Arizona and the Finger Lakes very interesting.
James Molesworth
December 29, 2008 4:38pm ET
Karl: They're certainly welcome to if the mood strikes them. The tasting responsibilities for the Finger Lakes and 'other U.S.' regions are technically my beat however...

There's no lack of passion among the winemakers in these areas. It's just that the quality level of the wines sometimes makes it difficult to write about them more frequently...

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