More Desert Red: Arizona Stronghold Mangus 2009

az“They make wine in Arizona?” Good wine?”

This is what I expect to hear when I bring up Arizona Stronghold, Page Spring Cellars, or for that matter any other Southwest winery. After all, the hot, dry desert climate is known for producing cactus, not vineyards. But there’s this little thing called “micro-climate” that I’ve talked about before, and that makes it possible to produce decent wine in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, or Texas.

Here’s how it works. A region’s topography (hills, valleys, mountain barriers), altitude (the higher, the cooler), proximity to water (an ocean, large lake or bay), and even latitude (distance from the Equator) can combine to create conditions that are conducive to grape-growing. In southeastern Arizona’s Cochise County, 4300 feet of elevation and a large diurnal temperature shift (read, “big difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures) make it possible to grow grapes such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Viognier.  Cochise County is also known as the last stronghold of the Apache nation — hence the winery’s name.

AZ Stronghold is a collaboration between two seemingly strange bedfellows. Eric Glomski is a very respected winemaker, most recently from David Bruce Winery in Santa Cruz, California. He hooked up with Maynard James Keenan, known to hard rock fans as the singer for the band Tool. Huh? Yes, Keenan is very committed to growing great grapes and making great wine, and it doesn’t hurt that he brings a showbiz flair to the enterprise. He’s produced a film called “Blood Into Wine” that’s been touring the country. Keenan also brings out a whole new crowd when he shows up at tastings and signings. That’s good! We can use some drama and theater in the wine business.

So let’s get to the wine. I recently tasted Arizona Stronghold Mangus 2009: actually, I drank it with a pulled pork sandwich while staring at the Super Bowl (or the Super Bowl commercials). Mangus is the second blend they’ve released, following a Rhone blend called Nachise. (In case you’ve noticed a pattern here, the wines are all named for Apache warriors.) Mangus is the winery’s Super Tuscan blend, and includes 64% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot. The Italian Sangiovese certainly leads the way in this wine. The nose hit me with bright cherry fruit and some cinnamon spice. The palate packs more bright fruit and tangy acid, combining New World softness with Old World bite. Cherry, strawberry and rhubarb all show up on the palate, but with medium body that never gets jammy or over-rich, Mangus is a great food wine. Ir was also a great wine for the occassion — all that pounding and hitting called for a wine with some punch.

I know that Arizona Stronghold is now available in other states, and they’re priced between $20 and $30. Don’t be afraid to give them a try — put them in a tasting with similar varietals and see how they hold up. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Cheers!

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7 Responses to “More Desert Red: Arizona Stronghold Mangus 2009”

  • I need to say thank you a lot for your work you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same effective job from you later on also.

  • This is Informative. Cheers.

  • Mark:

    I thought this wine was very good. Espacially since I picked it out for you! I couldn’t get over the aroma. The berry smell was amazing. I never had an Sangiovese wine before. I liked it and reminded me a little of South America Malbec.

    Glad I found your wine blog, I think that would be the perfect job if the food network sent us all over the world for wine reviews.

    I can’t wait to get together and plan our Sonoma Valley trip.

    Cheers,

    Mark

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