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Wilcox on a Weekend

Somewhere south of Tucson…

An adventure awaits those who are willing to seek out the origin of great viticulture; from a sandy, often desolate in appearance, developing wine industry, the spread of and cultivation of grape vines beyond where most ordinary humans would dare venture is perhaps the most alluring quality of these never-pampered, always polished, Arizona wines.

But being a cowboy or girl during an era where modernization is the metaphor for marrying consumer with cultivator may not be enough. In fact, there are those who have already made efforts to change the way we think about emerging wine industries, pushing the scope of limitations far beyond who-would-of-thought-you-could-actually-grow-grapes-in-the-desert; if you weren’t already aware, several if not most Arizona wineries have received high-standard accolades such as double gold medals in international wine competitions… And they’ve been accumulating these dangling coins for several years now.

That’s not to say there isn’t an immense amount of work ahead, in fact, if you keep a close ear on the drivers of this industry, that’s mostly what you’ll hear: “who are we?; where do we go from here?; what’s going to take us to the next level?” And it goes beyond just talk. These individuals are well aware that defining these parameters is going to take several decades. Sadly, some critics have interpreted this in the most premature sense, choosing not to review Arizona wines altogether. I imagine the same was said about California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Baja, New York and so on, all of whom boast stunning lineups of world class wines.

For now, if you don’t feel like rumbling down the rocky “driveways” to taste these wines, Cottonwood, AZ less than two hours north of Phoenix is home to several tasting rooms, showcasing some of what Arizona has to offer, including a college contributing to research efforts and training the future men and women who will lead the region in quality wine production.  Here, and just beyond (Jerome, Verde Valley, Cornville, Sedona) you’ll be able to taste wines made from grapes grown near the Mexican border all the way up to Chino Valley.

And if you’re a skeptic, still wondering why you’re paying “top dollar” (withholding further sarcasm) for some of the best, incredibly small production wines this state has to offer: seriously, open a new tab and spend five minutes Googling the cost of cultivating land, developing a vineyard, trellising vines, buying large-scale operative equipment, purchasing water rights, laying irrigation, waiting for your grapes to be mature enough to be turned into wine before you can even think about making or selling your first bottle, legal costs, production facility costs, hiring employees, marketing (haha), and just keeping the power on so your wine doesn’t turn to swill while your ac units combat the 110 degree weather outside.  Otherwise, just chill out and go drink some of the great juice coming out of Arizona.




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Sacch. Cerevisiae- most widely used yeast for fermentation.

Yeast populations survive winter kill in vineyard. #yeaststrong

Add pomace (leftovers after pressing aka skins/seeds) to vineyard to increase native yeast pop.

If we have yeast + grapes in vineyard why don’t grapes ferment on vine? Yeast can’t access sugar until juice is pressed.😲

Yeast only works on 6 carbon sugar (glucose, fructose). 5 carbon sugar molecules will not ferment to complete dryness.

Yeast need minerals like magnesium and potassium .

Yeast need nitrogen (they are made up of 25-60% N); lack of nitrogen will result in stuck fermentation😒

Yeast need vitamins just like people.

Yeast like fermentation temps 57-95.

Higher fermentation temps will increase rate of fermentation; however, slower fermentations are often desired to increase texture/flavor 🐢 🐢 🐢

You can crush grapes in advance of the main harvest to get a jump start on fermentation by increasing yeast population before primary.

Cultured yeast are not artificial and have been proven effective .

Native or “wild” yeast require more discretion.

Wild yeast will consume sugar immediately jump starting fermentation; cultured yeast when added will take the lead from there.

The sooner cultured yeast is added, the more control is had over the sterilization of the product (especially helpful in whites).

No such thing as a sterile must #life 

Wild vs Cultured 

greater potential aroma, flavor, textural complexities Wild

greater control, higher alcohol potential, wider range of fermentation temps Cult

tends to be fuller, rounder, softer Wild

clean, varietally correct, low odor Cult


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CSW: 3 Reasons Why

As the month of October draws near, so must I make final preparations for taking the CSW examination. For anyone considering the certificate or those just abound with curiosity I share my thoughts as to why, after considering the many reviews, countless discussions, and seemingly endless paths to wine-related fulfillment one might decide to sit for CSW.

Shall we?

#1: Jane Nickles – Director of the Society of Wine Educators; adorned and beloved wine scholar by those near and abroad; I’ll leave the remaining (and abundant) accolades for you to skim at your own leisure, or as she whimsically refers to it: Street Cred

In addition to the official texts that accompany the exam, Jane herself is available. Yeah, we hang out on Facebook. She conducts a preparatory course online with audio visual support on a weekly basis for students of the course. In addition, posts are issued (seemingly daily) as tips and tools via the social media site Facebook. These posts range anywhere from regional elements, varietal character, historical events, geography, enological factors and sometimes, uh-huh… puppies. This is, after all, social media. And for an analogical thinker as myself, I really do appreciate this expanded effort to draw from different learning styles while maintaining a concise flow of progressive information. In addition to live peer-to-peer interaction the texts follow online slides that may be viewed and set aside at your own pace, as I imagine it is not uncommon become overwhelmed by either the liquid in your glass or the sheer amount of content committed to the course while studying.

#2 Time & Money

We’re lumping these together since they tend to battle for the reigning title of most prevalent reason for objecting to a commitment. The recommended length of study time averages somewhere between six months to a year depending on your prior knowledge and skillset. I find this to be a balanced parameter that both encourages in-depth and lasting confidence in a person’s ability to recall most if not all of the material while being nudged along in a persistent fashion; furthermore, what this equates to is not only the ability to recall but make long term associations that can ultimately be conveyed in a teachable way, hence the progression of material from CSW to CWE.

Students of the course are encouraged to purchase a membership to the Society of Wine Educators as it benefits the exam credit pricing in addition to providing more resources for the candidate. Needless to say, the accreditation is HIGHLY competitively priced.

#3 Culture

CSW is more than just another three letter acronym of authority, yet unfortunately if you spend time on the internet you will find those attempting to reducing it to such. This is not unique to CSW. What the Society of Wine Educators has done for me, is provided real context for me to develop my own culture and deeper understanding of why I enjoy this industry and this beverage so much. It’s the people, the land, the ideas both concrete and esoteric. It’s the privilege to think and feel in alignment with the philosophers, farmers and winemakers of past while interacting with the sommeliers, importers, and families of the present. If, like me, you wonder what it’s like to travel to lands unknown, or if you’ve ever just stared into a bottle of wine and wondered more than how many glasses it will take to get you buzzed, CSW can be a gateway to getting you there by cultivating a passion that has the nuance to be savored for a lifetime. You just have to take it.

The Stunning Wines of Baja, California


It’s the wine that’s garnering attention, albeit slowly. Most of what I’ve encountered with the Mexican wine trade is limited to sparse retail appearances from select suppliers; however that’s exactly what makes this region so enchanting to grow along side of.  As with many developing wine regions, scholars (farmers; and yes farmers are indeed scholars) have found a way to hack into yet another diverse terrior-spirited endeavour with coastal influences and climate-moderating topography.  The sandy soils of Baja California along with the understanding of meticulous growing conditions contribute to the finely integrated tannin structure and superbly floral expressions of Bordeaux, Rioja, and northern Italian varietals often accompanied by an exceptional array of tertiary notes and yumminess. Stylistically, I see these wines benefitting from the new world approach of modern winemaking techniques that elevated the youthful wines of Languedoc while benefitting from the regions dismal production size, finesse, and sense of place that give us historical context making Mexico a star in far more ways than street tacos and tequila shots from tiny squirt-gun-wielding street vendors. These wines will continue to be produced in both age-worthy and approachable styles that is sure to impress the most discerning palettes.

Recommended wineries: 

Santo Thomas; Naui; Adobe Guadalupe; Cava Maciel