Verde Valley (Green) is now producing some very exciting wines. Verde Valley is also excelling in the realm of organic wines. Where is Verde valley? Jerome, Arizona, of course. Not only is this unlikely region producing wines of distinction, they are the vision of one whom some may consider, an unlikely source.
Caduceus Cellars is the brainchild of Rock star and entrepreneur, Maynard James Keenan. The renown front man of such alternative hard rock groups as Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, is not just a figurehead, Keenan takes an active role in the winemaking. The name, “Caduceus,” is actually the ancient symbol for commerce, and the Greek god, Hermes. There is a bit of a twist in that the vineyard is actually named “Merkin Vineyards,” which is a female pubic wig. Dare I say that is definitely another story.
Let’s take a step back. Is it really so strange to consider Arizona a viable wine producing region? The Spaniards did not think in these terms. As far back as the 1700s Spanish Jesuit missionaries began growing wines in the high desert. Properly irrigated, the high desert is comparable to Argentina’s Mendoza Valley. Those of you who know Argentine wines are well aware of their quality. More specifically, the Malbec is some of the finest in the world.
In 1973 Arizona began formally producing wines, and in 1983, formed the Arizona Wine Growers Association. The state now has 45 licensed wineries in three growing regions. In the north, there is Verde Valley. Sonoita and Elgin are located in the south and southwest of Arizona.
Today I am joined by special friend and fellow sommelier, Elena Boiko. We also have tasting with us, my protégé, Iryna Karakay. In fact, it was Iryna’s idea to review the Caduceus wines for our readers at Eve Wine 101. Iryna is not only a big fan of Maynard James Keenan and his music, she is also passionate about his wines.
Up first, 2012 Dos Ladrones (Two Outlaws). This is a 50/50 blend of Arizona Malvasia Bianca and Chardonnay. Both are from the Bonita Springs Vineyard. In the glass, the wine shimmers with the gleam of light gold. On the nose, Dos Ladrones awakens with life. The bouquet is intense and complex with a pleasing array of white flowers, pear, peach, lemon, honeycomb, and a whisper of vanilla. On the palate, the wine is nicely textured with good weight. Showing great balance and complexity, notes of honeydew, cantaloupe, and white fruit fill the palate. There is also the slightest hint of gooseberry on the back palate. The finish is acidic and showing solid minerality. The alcohol content is 14.1% with a bottle price of $40.
“The 2012 showed very good fruit,” Iryna spoke softly as her lips broadened into a smile.
“Dos Ladrones exemplifies the best of both varietals,” I was quick to add. Elena, with what dishes would you pair this wine?”
“Definitely with bruschetta and cheese,” she replied. “Stuffed chicken breast would also go nicely.”
Our next selection was named after Keenan’s wife, Lei Li. The 2012 Lei Li Nebbiolo Rose is 100% Nebbiolo grapes from the Bonita Springs Vineyard. In the glass, our wine is a light crimson illuminated by hues of pale reddish purple. The nose is filled with a floral bouquet that is accented by tropical fruits. On the palate, the Lei Li is complex and with good body. It is nicely balanced with plenty of fruit. The palate is dominated by passion fruit and melon, with an assortment of tropical fruits subtly making their presence known. The finish is savory and memorable. The alcohol content is 13% with a bottle price of $40.
“This is one of the tastiest rose wines,” Iryna smacked her lips. “Very savory.”
“The Lei Li exemplifies the type of rose that Arizona has to offer,” I replied.
“Like most rose wine, the Lei Li is very versatile,” Elena was quick to point out. “I would serve this wine with a cheese platter. I know my girlfriends would enjoy this pairing very much.”
Moving right along, our next selection, 2012 Kitsune Sangiovese Grosso is 100% Sangiovese grapes from Cochise County. In the glass, Kitsune is a light and inviting cherry red. On the nose, there are soft aromas of cherry and violets, laced with vanilla and oak. On the palate, the wine is velvety and filed with ripe tannins. There are ample amounts of fresh fruit, with cherry prevailing. There are also notes of strawberry followed by hints of clove. The finish has bright fruit and spice. The alcohol content is 14.3% with a bottle price of $55.
“Arizona Brunello,” Iryna clearly displayed her pleasure.
“Good fruit and spice,” I shared my surprise. “An all around, a good wine.”
“Definitely a food friendly wine,” Elena was quick to add. “I would pair it with hard cheeses, rich roasted meat, and sausages.”
“Meatloaf,” I broke in.
“Meatloaf?” both women chuckled, openly displaying their amusement.
Our last selection, 2011 Anubis proved to be an interesting wine. It is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Petite Sirah. The grapes all hailing from Luna County. In the glass, the Anubis is dark and cloaked in mystery. Much like its Egyptian god namesake. The wine simply calls out in temptation. The nose is permeated by scents of cherry, toffee, and honey. On the palate, the blend is full bodied. In fact, probably the most full bodied of the Caduceus wines. Quite flavorful, the palate is dominated, yet not overwhelmed, by cherry, licorice, leather, and oak. The finish is long, flavorful, with whispers of oak. We did allow the wine to decant for a good hour. The alcohol content is 14% with a bottle price of $50.
“Definitely different from the other Caduceus reds I have had in the past,” Iryna paused on the moment. “I like it.”
“I agree,” I flashed her a quick grin. “I also prefer a fuller bodied wine.”
“I also alike the fullness of the Anubis,” Elena paused to collect her thoughts. “Most definitely a red meat wine. A big porterhouse steak would be lovely.”
I mentioned earlier that the Anubis was an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Sirah from Luna County. Why did I find this so intriguing? Luna County is in New Mexico, but that my friends is a different story …