Page Springs Cellars: Rhone-Inspired Wine with an Arizona Accent

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 11-20-2012

Courtesy of Page Springs.

Note: This is a guest post from Isaac James Baker, a writer and wine lover who lives in Washington, DC.

From the valley floor of Phoenix, the drive to Page Springs Cellars takes you on a gradual incline through desert and prairie grass toward the rugged red rock formations of Sedona. Off the highway, the windy road to the winery is hemmed in by cottonwood trees, sagebrush, and prickly pear cactuses. Above, ravens and vultures glide across the wide sky. Below, the occasional tumble weed rolls across the road just like a scene from a clichéd Western film.

Here, at approximately 4,000 feet above sea level, the earth is jagged and the sun is direct, but in the autumn months the wind gusts offer cool, dry respite.

From its seat among outcroppings of volcanic rock, the Page Springs winery looks over the winding Oak Creek. Rows of heat-loving Grenache vines line the gravel parking lot. Inside, the walls are stacked with your typical wine trinkets and posh souvenirs, unsurprising since the winery is so close to the tourist-attracting beauty of Sedona. In case you forgot you were in Arizona, a sign behind the counter reminds you: “No Firearms Allowed.”

I first visited Page Springs in the summer of 2010. The weather was — drum roll! — scorching hot. I opted to taste a few white wines. The guy behind the counter, a fellow 20-something, poured me a Chardonnay, a Viognier, and an Arizona interpretation of the Malvasia Bianca grape. The whites all seemed to know their purpose: refreshment. Light-bodied and zesty was the theme, and it worked. The reds — mostly blends made from some combination of Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah — intrigued me with their fruity yet restrained approach.

I left impressed, and, considering my girlfriend hails from Arizona, I knew I’d be back.

Earlier this month, I took a detour from my trek to the Grand Canyon to taste the new releases from Page Springs. With the cold weather approaching (by Arizona standards, 55 degrees is apparently cold), I was excited to taste some more red wines. Generally speaking, Page Spring’s red blends show fresh red fruits with distinct notes of earth and pepper. Considering the Arizona heat these grapes endure, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the moderate alcohol levels and fresh acid in these wines.

The balance in these wines could be attributed, at least in part, to the high elevation. Even when the summer highs hit the upper 90s, the temperature can drop by 40 degrees at night. As a firm believer in the power and importance of terroir, I think it’s safe to say Page Springs wines owe a lot to the unique soils in which the vines grow. Here’s how the winery describes the Page Springs Estate Vineyard soil: “Sandy, clay-loam overlays a matrix of basaltic clasts (chunks of extruded volcanic rock) that are cemented by calcareous (chalky, alkaline, limestone-like) sediments derived from a larger geologic structure called the Verde formation. The subsoils here are alkaline (much like the limestone of the Southern Rhône and Burgundy).”

Courtesy of Page Springs.

Page Springs is the pet project of Eric Glomski, a pioneering Arizona winemaker. Glomski co-founded Caduceus Cellars, also located in the Verde Valley, with Maynard James Keenan, front man of the progressive metal band Tool. Glomski planted the first Page Springs estate vines in 2004. The estate is now home to red varieties Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and white varieties Traminette and Seyval Blanc. Page Springs also sources grapes from Cochise County, located in the Southeastern corner of the state, and some grapes from California appellations find their way into Page Spring blends.

During my visit, I tasted a few of their red blends. Check out my tasting notes and concluding thoughts below the fold.

Review: 2011 Page Springs Cellars Mules Mistake
USA, Arizona
I remember tasting and liking a previous vintage of this wine the last time I was in Arizona in 2010. While not the most complex package, this is fun stuff and a solid value. I picked up aromas of cherries and pepper. The palate shows juicy cherries and strawberries, licorice, leather and spices. It’s almost Beaujolais-like in its lightness and freshness, but with more pepper and spice. The acid keeps this wine balanced and pleasant. The make-up of the blend changes every year, and the 2011 is a unique mix of 64% zinfandel (Arizona), 13% pinot noir (Arizona), 12% syrah (California), 5% barbera (California), 4% grenache (Arizona), and a 4% dash of gewurztraminer (California), which adds a fragrant, spicy kick. This really is a fun effort, and reasonable at $16.

Review: 2011 Page Springs Cellars Zinfandel
USA, Arizona, Cochise County
This southeastern Arizona zinfandel contains 11% petite sirah and 2% alicante. It’s light and fresh with herbal aspects, but it still maintains that bright zinfandel fruit. Aromas of cherry pie, rhubarb and white pepper. Well-structured on the palate, quite restrained, showing herb-tinged strawberry and cherry fruit and hints of charcoal, chestnut and pepper with a warm and spicy finish. I like this zin’s focus on red fruit and spice, and the way it steers clear of jam and port-like flavors, which turns me off to a lot of zinfandels. Not bad at $25.

Review: 2010 Page Springs Cellars Vino del Barrio
USA, Arizona
Every year Page Springs blends together a bunch of varieties and creates a blend known as Vino del Barrio. What are these varieties? “Varied.” The 2010 shows zinfandel-like aromas of raspberries and pepper. The acid is surprisingly tangy, and the tannins are soft and plush. Flavors of red plum, white pepper and kisses of oak. It has a pinot noir-like delicacy and freshness. I picked up a bottle to serve blind for friends because I think a lot of people would be surprised it’s from Arizona.

Review: 2011 Page Springs Cellars Vino del Barrio
USA, Arizona
I liked this wine a little less than the 2010 Vine del Barrio, but the 2011 is still solid. It’s really spicy on the nose, like red plums dusted with black and red pepper. Fine tannins and fresh acid provide a backbone for the cherry and raspberry flavors. Hints of pepper, nuts and toasted oak add complexity. The 2011 is a blend of 53% syrah, 22% petite sirah, 16% tempranillo, 7% alicante and 2% mourvedre.

Review: 2011 Page Springs Cellars Flavor Saver Red Rolling View Vineyard
USA, Arizona, Cochise County
The Flavor Saver Red is a field blend of red varieties from the Rolling View Vineyard in Cochise County. The color and aromas of this wine are darker than the others I tasted. The nose shows more dark plums, cherry sauce and vanilla. The palate is rich and toasty, almost bourbon-like, with grippy tannins. Nice dark plum and blackberry flavors hold up to the toast. Long finish. For $26, it’s not the best quality-to-price-ratio, and this isn’t exactly my favorite style. That said, for those who like coconut-toasty wines with rich dark fruit, this won’t disappoint.

Review: 2011 Page Springs Cellars El Serrano
USA, Arizona
Eric Glomski does it again with another 2011 red blend called El Serrano. The nose is full of blackberry and raspberry jam, accented with white pepper. It’s plummy as hell on the palate, with flavors of blueberry, charcoal and a distinctly rich earth and loam flavor. Toast lingers on the finish. This is a bold wine, but it maintains elegance and precision. A blend of 40% mourvedre, 27% syrah, 28% petite sirah, and 5% alicante (from California).


So what do Page Springs wines say about the overall status of Arizona wine? I’m not sure. I’ve visited several other wineries, and it was hit or miss, mostly miss. I’m not going to make some sweeping statement about the state of the Arizona wine industry. I’m not going to make any predictions about whether Arizona wines will receive decent scores from the big names or whether they’ll catch on with the American palate.

But I will say this: given the right location, attentive vineyard management and a conscientious winemaker, it’s possible to produce good, terroir-driven wine in Arizona. Page Springs proves it. And as far as beautiful scenery and tourist attractions go, this part of Arizona is top-notch. It’s a quick diversion from Sedona or a great pit stop on the way to or from the Grand Canyon. I know I’ll be back.

Cheers!

Isaac James Baker is a writer and wine lover who lives in Washington, DC. Wow, there’s some alliteration. He blogs about wine and literature @ www.isaacjamesbaker.blogspot.com

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