Does Stomping Grapes Leave Purple Carbon Footprints?
2010/12/08 5 Comments
I’ve been focusing a lot lately on the carbon footprint of the things we buy, so finding locally-produced things has been a big priority. I’ve been frustrated to find that a lot of products we rely on are made in foreign countries and then shipped here. This is even true when it comes to beer, wine, and liquor. After years of conditioning, a lot of people might assume that foreign alcohol is better than American. In some cases, they’re right. But the rest of the world now looks to the American craft beer movement for inspiration, foreign liquor producers are losing sales to great American ones, and American wines are winning awards in international competitions.
Wine was on our mind this weekend. It surprised me to find that there are no less than seventeen vineyards within just a one or two hour drive of our home in Arizona. When I think of American wine I usually think of Amador or Napa Counties in California, but this weekend we were happy to discover Arizona wines that easily equaled or beat their California counterparts.
We started with the three wineries closest to Sedona: Javelina Leap Vineyard, Oak Creek Vineyard, and Page Springs Cellars. They’re just fifteen minutes out of town, so if you’re ever in Sedona on vacation be sure to include a winery tour on your to-do list.
Javelina Leap was our first stop. It is a ten-acre estate vineyard, and though I’ve enjoyed their wine a number of times I had never visited. Seeing the place in person was a great treat. The people behind the bar and the others we met also visiting the tasting room were all very friendly, making Javelina Leap a fun visit. We didn’t see Vinny the Javelina Leap dog, but did meet Diva who ran around the newly expanded tasting room entertaining everyone. The tasting room feels really comfortable: wood paneling and a wooden bar make you feel like you’ve stepped into an enormous barrel. Seated at the back of the tasting room was the gent who does their barrel room tours, but on this day he was busy telling the colorful story of a wine industry dinner he had recently attended. There’s also a large picnic area out front with tables set up under shade trees, so this is definitely the kind of place you can come with friends and have a good time. We know we’ll be back. We enjoyed samples of their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Merlot, 2009 Golden Rule Zinfandel, and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot they call Rock Slide. Bottles mysteriously followed us out to the car. I confirmed again with a follow-up call to the winery [(928) 649-2681] that all their wines are vegan. No animal products used to fine.
Right next door is Oak Creek Vineyards, a winery that we knew little about but will now be getting to know very well. They describe themselves as “Verde Valley’s Best Kept Secret,” and tasting room staff confirmed that their wines have little or no distribution at this point. That’s a shame, because Oak Creek Vineyard’s wines are as delicious as they are difficult to find. Visit this place and sample them – you’ll be glad you did. I’m a fan of Syrahs and Zinfandels, and in the Oak Creek tasting room first sampled what is now my new favorite Zinfandel: their 2008 Sedona Woman. Absolutely wonderful, and I don’t often say that. Their 2008 red blend called Fire was also wonderful – a mix of 40% Syrah, 35% Zinfandel, and 25% Sangiovese. These two wines were really quite striking, and I have no doubt that as the vines here mature the wines will continue to blossom. Interesting to note that Oak Creek Vineyards ages in steel vats (like much larger vineyards) rather than in wooden barrels, and this will help ensure consistency from year to year. Bottles of Sedona Woman and Fire came home, as well as some very tasty 2008 Viognier with strong olive oil notes, and a sweet 2008 Arizona Port. Their well-appointed tasting room was stone and copper and the lighting subdued, lending the place a rich, comfortable, modern warmth. Oak Creek has a huge collection of wine-related items for sale in the tasting room, so this is also an excellent source for gifts any time of year. We’ll be back regularly to pick up gifts for ourselves. I confirmed again with a follow-up call to the winery [(928) 649-0290] that all their wines are vegan. No animal products used to fine.
Our last stop was Page Springs Cellars, which turned out to be the Budweiser of the wineries. It was immediately clear that a lot of money had been poured into the appearance of the place; it looked like some smaller wineries we’ve seen in California. There were lots of people there, massages being offered in the vineyard, and a waiting line in the tasting room. Unfortunately the Page Springs business model may have more to do with turnover than with taste; every sample we tried was one-dimensional and literally watery. Bound lists in their tasting room describe their wines as “light” and I would heartily agree. Given the heat of our climate I would guess their market is pool wine drinkers: customers looking for a cold and unthreatening bottle to pull out of the fridge and drink from a plastic cup while they float in an inflatable recliner. There are millions of Bud Light drinkers who may find Page Springs Cellars to be a nice alternative. For the record, I confirmed again with a follow-up call to the winery [(928) 639-3004] that all their wines are vegan. Their wines are filtered, not fined.
As the old song goes, two outta three ain’t bad. We were happy to get to know all three wineries better, and happier still to discover two local sources of great wine. By buying locally produced items rather than imported ones we’re able to support our local economy, reduce our carbon footprint, and have a great time doing so.