Wine Reviews: Fun Finds from California and Arizona

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-15-2022

This week, I have a selection of American wines I find exciting.

For many years, I’ve been touting Arizona wines, and I’m here to do it again. I love a lot of Arizona producers, their DIY winemaking culture, the interesting mix of varieties and styles. One of my favorite activities in life is to go climbing and hiking in some Arizona mountains and come home to a delicious local red blend with a grilled steak. Aridus is a great entry into Arizona wines, as this Willcox-based producer has a lot of different bottles available in a bunch of markets.

I’m also a huge fan of amphora wines (grapes fermented on their skins in clay vessels). It’s been done all around the world in ancient winemaking cultures, from Georgia, Italy and Portugal. I spent a lot of time digging into the amphora winemaking culture in Alentejo a few years ago, and I’ve been keenly watching for New World producers who step up and make wines in this method and style. Behold! Beckmen Vineyards delivers with their “1Ingredient” wines. From Ballard Canyon, these wines are pure expressions of their grapes and place, but also of their fermentation method – as the wines offer this beautiful mouthfeel and elegant complexity. Check this out if any of this sounds interesting.

Booker is a Paso Robles producer I’ve known and respected for a while. Their wines are so exciting and delicious, and offer a ton of value, too. Paso is such a dynamic scene, and I always enjoy keeping up with what they’re doing out there – and Booker is a staple and legend for a reason.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2020 Beckmen Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 1ngredient – USA, California, Central Coast, Ballard Canyon
SRP: $50
Light orange color. Gorgeous nose of pineapple and lemons mixed with honeyed white tea. There are this complex notes of raw almond, breezy spring air and flowers, some candle wax and hints of sage and dusty earth. The palate shows crisp acidity, it’s refreshing but shows such a rich, dynamic mouthfeel, layered, chalky, briny – I love it. Lemon and quince fruit mix so well with these raw almond, green olive and salt brine tones. Honeyed, bright, spicy, there is a lot going on here. If you’re looking for an out-there but delicious Sauvignon Blanc, give this a look! Fermented and aged on the skins in amphora for 10 months. (92 points IJB)

2019 Beckmen Vineyards Viognier 1ngredient – USA, California, Central Coast, Ballard Canyon
SRP: $65
Deep orange color. An inviting but also head-scratching aromatic display, with orange peel, honey, shaved ginger, lemon drops, pineapple, white tea – fascinating stuff. On the palate, this acidity is laser-focused, which becomes key in balancing these complex textural dynamics. Yellow apples, lemons, pineapple, laced with salted almonds, ginger, honeysuckle, with some mineral undertones. Delicious, intriguing, adventurous but clean, like a gateway band into a unique genre, this wine has a ton to offer. Fermented and aged on the skins in amphora for 10 months. (92 points IJB)

2019 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah 1ngredient -­ USA, California, Central Coast, Ballard Canyon
SRP: $85
Light purple color. Wow, the nose is so floral and breezy, like red cherries, pomegranate and rose petals on a spring meadow. The earthy, savory, peppery vibes are delightful. On the palate, this sports dusty tannins and a crisp, nervy appeal. Tangy raspberries and currants, so pure and racy, light and crisp, yet there’s a lot of depth as well. Rose petals, violets, earth, pepper, sage, creosote, a lot going on here. There’s a stony, mineral essence and a post-rain high desert hike feel about this wine – a  focused and singular Syrah. Aged 10 months on the skins and then an additional year in amphora. (94 points IJB)


2020 Booker Vineyard White – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $65
Rich yellow color. The nose shows creamy pears and peaches, honey, graham cracker crumbs, with higher-toned notes of chalk and floral perfume. Creamy, waxy texture, but surprising acidity, with pears and honeyed apples. Notes of nougat, honey, hay, so plush, pristine and fun, a rare occasion of a lively Rhone white-based blend. Would love to see how this ages. What a cool mix of Viognier with 33% Roussanne, 10% Chardonnay, 7% Marsanne, aged in 60% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2019 Booker Vineyard Harvey and Harriet – USA, California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County
SRP: $30
Deep purple color. Wow, these waves of blackberries and blueberries with a smooth, inviting appeal, along with eucalyptus, violets and cocoa. Full and smooth on the palate with velvety but structured tannins, and the vibrant acidity is killer. Tart blueberries, tangy black currants, the fruit is tart and deep but laced with beefy, savory, peppery tones. Eucalyptus, white pepper, violets, tar, clove, there’s also this stony, mineral, earth depth. Fan-friendly but complex and nerdy, too – a win-win, and a lot of value. Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, aged 18 months in 60% new oak. (91 points IJB)

2019 Booker Vineyard My Favorite Neighbor – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $50
Bright purple color. Juicy and deep on the nose with blueberry pie, roasted figs, along with earth, smoky, beefy tones, with mocha and toffee – a lot going on. The palate shows a suave a smooth mouthfeel with lively acidity and dusty tannic structure. Black currant and blueberry fruit mixes well with complex tones of gravelly road, mesquite, coffee grounds, black tea. Concentrated and age-worthy, but vibrant as well. Gorgeous stuff. 77% Cab with 11 % Petit Verdot, 8% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah and 1% Malbec, aged 18 months in 70% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

2018 Booker Vineyard Syrah Fracture – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $98
Dark purple color. The nose shows a gorgeous mix of smoky, beefy, mesquite and leather over top of tart blackberry and currants, deep yet inviting. The palate shows structured tannins and gobs of fruit, but we have to talk about the acidity – marvelous! Keeps it fresh as the black currant and blueberry fruit washes over, along with notes of graphite, iron, black pepper, black olives, mesquite and roasted red pepper. Big but complex and nuanced, this will age wonderfully for a long time. Really impressive stuff Syrah that has earned its reputation. All Syrah aged 18 months in 65% new French oak. (95 points IJB)


2021 Aridus Sauvignon Blanc – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $35
Pale lemon color. Smells like a mix of lemons, white peaches, with cucumbers, chalk dust, some white pepper – interesting! Which is a lot more than I can say for Arizona SB. On the palate, this has a cool mix of bright acidity and creamy texture, with lemons, grapefruit, orange peel, tossed with mint, white pepper, along with some honey and white flowers. Really pleasant and as weird as Arizona SB may sound, this is a wine worth checking out. (88 points IJB)

2019 Aridus Viognier – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $35
Medium yellow color. The nose shows rich yellow peaches and pineapple, along with honey, hay and some whipped butter. Rich and creamy (of course) but there’s also this salty, perfumed tones. Yellow apples, orange marmalade, pear butter, mixed with honey, graham cracker. But there are also these balanced elements of flowers and bright lemon zest. Delicious.  Aged 19 months in old French oak. (88 points IJB)

2019 Aridus Graciano – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $46
Deep purple color. The aromas show a mix of smoky tar, jammy blueberries and blackberries, along with cocoa, anise, and these gravelly, earth tones. Chewy tannins on the palate, low acidity holds this back, but enjoyable ripe cherries and plums. Plum cake, cocoa, tobacco, this is sun-roasted Graciano goodness. Aged 16 months in oak. (87 points IJB)

2018 Aridus Syrah – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $46
Deep purple color. Smells of plum cake and black cherries, saucy and spicy with tobacco, mint, cocoa, anise, scorched earth. Smooth tannins on the palate with moderating acidity and a chewy feel with the black cherries and saucy plums. Peppery, smoky, coffee-y, with barbecue sauce and beef jerky. Lots of fun, ripe but nuanced, this is a great intro into what can be done with Syrah in Arizona. Includes 10% Viognier, aged in 50% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Comments are closed.