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Desert Vines

Raise a Glass to Arizona Wines. Sommelier and d'Vine Gourmet Owner Andrew McCreery Shares His Favorites

When d'Vine Gourmet co-owner Andrew McCreery talks about some people being dismissive of Arizona wines, he understands where they are coming from.

It wasn’t too long ago when he was right there with them.

“They think of the fun labels and kitschy names, but it’s really evolved into so much more. I’ve come full circle as a wine professional, having gone from dismissive to just amazed,” McCreery says. 

Along with his wife Denise, who founded the Chandler specialty shop that sells local goods, gift baskets, and, of course, wine, d'Vine Gourmet is one of the places in the Valley that specialize in Arizona vino.

A sommelier with 28 years of experience in the industry, McCreery savors every opportunity to sing local wines’ praises, and educate those under the impression that the industry is where it was decades ago.

The high elevations in Southern Arizona’s wine-growing regions of Sonoita, Elgin, and Willcox—where the vast majority of the state’s grapes are grown—top 4,300 feet, putting it on par or even higher than many of the world’s most lauded vineyards. The soil composition shares commonality with the soil in Napa Valley, and the Arizona terroir has similarities to the world’s warmer mature wine regions of Spain, Italy, and Southern France. 

All of this makes for an ideal grape-growing storm in an area most considers prime for only cacti. And in the hands of talented winemakers, this desert fruit becomes truly worthy of farm-to-glass treatment.

“I credit this evolution to the visionary winemakers. They are the ones leading the pack, the ones taking the chances, dedicating their resources and their lives to creating quality Arizona wines,” McCreery says 

And to those who claim they don’t like Arizona wine, McCreery challenges: “Maybe you haven’t tried the right one yet.” 

Here are the wines that are strong on McCreery’s radar.

Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra Red

This blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre—or GSM in wine vernacular—is the wine McCreery finds himself recommending most. It hits all the desired notes, and at $22 a bottle, it’s also very debit card-friendly. 

“It’s a Goldilocks wine. Not too big. Not too light. It’s just right. People like that because they can bring a wine like this to a party or a dinner that everybody can enjoy.” 

Flying Leap Sangiovese

One of McCreery’s favorites. It also showcases a grape that he believes Arizona does better than anywhere in the world, including Italy. 

“I’ve tasted it against the Chianti Classico. I think it beats it,” he says. “I love drinking Sangio. It’s like drinking a glass of crushed velvet. It’s so smooth and flavorful, and that’s what I get from Flying Leap’s Sangiovese.”

Four Tails Vineyard Viognier and Pete Rose

This vineyard is run by husband-and-wife owners Cale and Barb, who is also a Chandler native, and all wines are named after their own four-legged family members.

Viognier is another grape that McCreery feels Arizona represents exceptionally well. As a sommelier and someone who has been in the wine business for decades, McCreery has traveled to the Rhone region of France, from where Viognier hails. He puts Arizona’s rendition in the same league, if not a notch above.

“In Arizona, there’s a lot of stone fruit to our Viognier. It’s so clean, refreshing, and just a special wine—and Four Tails does it best.” 

The dry rosé consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot. This yields a complexity uncommon in most pinks.

“It’s a bit darker and heavier than the standard Provence rose. I like to think of it as a red wine drinker’s rosé.”

Page Springs Cellars Vino de la Familia and Mule’s Mistake

One of the first and most visible advocates of Arizona wines, owner and winemaker Eric Glomski churns out a library of wines that range from classic to experimental. McCreery talks about Glomski experimenting with Arizona oak barrels to age a few of his select wines, for example. 

Two wines McCreery recommends are the Vino de la Familia and Mule’s Mistake, both red blends that use a cornucopia of varieties. The result is wines that are very approachable and drinkable. The Mule’s Mistake has achieved cult status and is a perennial favorite. Fans know this is one red wine that can be served a little chilled. 

“The Mule’s Mistake is made with a lot of grapes that grow in the Mediterranean. And grapes that work well in the Mediterranean work well here in Arizona,” he says. 

Callaghan Vineyards Buena Suerte Red

Winemaker Kent Callaghan’s family is among the pioneers of Arizona wine, with his family vineyards among the oldest in the state. This nuanced union of Cabernet, Petite Verdot, and Cab Franc is big and bold, and a smoky finish makes it a perfect partner to a juicy steak.

 

1912 Heritage Red Blend and White Blend

McCreery collaborated with winemaker John McLoughlin for these two wines. The White blend flaunts a refreshing combination of Chardonnay, Semillon, and Riesling, while its Red counterpart is an elegant blend of Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, and Barbera. 

Vino Stache Winery Graciano

This is Denise’s favorite wine of the moment. McCreery describes winemaker/owner Brooke Lowry Ide as a one-woman army who does it all at her Elgin winery. A grape that is native to Spain, it is yet another example of how a Mediterranean variety shows its best stuff in the desert. 

“Denise loves the incredible flavors. It’s not the biggest wine but full-flavored and very drinkable,” he says. 

DVineGourmet.com

"I’ve come full circle as a wine professional, having gone from dismissive to just amazed.” —Andrew McCreery

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