Not too long ago, my MIL’s brother (my uncle in law?) visited from Arizona and brought some bottles of a local vino, the Keeling Schaefer Three Sisters Syrah.
Though I was curious to try it, the wine wound up in the wine refrigerator and only migrated its way back into my consciousness the other night, when I was looking for a casual bottle to drink.
The wine was about what I expected, though it did surprise me. At first, it was fruity and rich, though a bit monolithic. However, by the second glass, it opened up and I began to pick out some flavors, including luscious chocolate and dark berries.
Arizona is relatively new to the wine game – the first winery was established in southern Arizona in 1973, and today there are just 45 wineries throughout the state.
Though the wines aren’t powerhouses, the state does boast a good climate for wine growing. It is similar to Mendoza, Arizona, with hot daytime temperatures and cool nights, creating a nice balance of ripeness and acidity in the fruit. The altitude helps, too: most vineyards are planted between 4,200 and 5,200 feet.
The state has only one AVA (American Viticultural Area, or appellation), Sonoita, located an hour south of Tucson. Travel southeast from the city and you come to Cochise County, home of the Keeling Schaefer winery.
Rod Keeling and his wife Jan bought their property in the Chiricahua Mountains in 2000, planting the first vines in 2004. They farm 21 acres of vines planted to Rhone varietals, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. Grapes are planted at 5,000 feet in volcanic soils.
It’s pretty hard to find these wines outside of Arizona, though it can be done. Depending on where you live, many wineries will happily ship the bottles.