When you think of American wine, what comes to mind? California? Absolutely. Oregon and Washington? Very likely. Arizona? Well, maybe not so much. But if Scott Dahmer has his way, that’s going to change. Dahmer, a Canadian expat and the owner of Aridus Wine Company, is one of a handful of winemakers in the state who are steadily forging a reputation for producing great wines. Here, he singles out the varieties that he believes will put Arizona on the wine map.
Syrah is a staple in Arizona — every winery and vineyard in the state has a syrah because it grows so well here. An Arizona syrah is a bit more concentrated than one from, say, California. I find that the syrah in California, Oregon and Washington, which has that coastal fog influence, doesn’t have as much intensity. Here, with all the sun we get, the grape skins get a bit thicker, a bit more leathery, which gives us more concentration when we’re fermenting.
This is my personal favourite. It’s amazing. Lawrence Dunham, who happens to be our neighbour, is making a fantastic petite sirah. I’m really looking forward to our crop because I know it will be similar to his. Syrah and petite sirah are not related at all, by the way — they just sound the same. Petite sirah is more similar to a zinfandel.
Our Grenache comes off very light, which is different than a California Grenache or even a Spanish Grenache. That’s because we pick it early to get the right Brix level, or sugar content level, in the grapes; the more sugar you have, the more alcohol you’ll have. Arizona Grenache is almost like a Pinot, with a delicate, more floral style. One of our neighbours, Sándor Vineyards, has just bottled a Grenache rosé and oh my gosh, it’s just phenomenal. I’m considering doing a Grenache rosé for ourselves this year because his has turned out so well.
As far as white wines go, I think this is the one that’s going to put Arizona on the map. It’s a flower bomb, just so amazingly floral and citrusy, with a beautiful bouquet. I have people come into the tasting rooms to try our dry Malvasia Bianca and they say, “I just want to wear it like perfume.” Yes, it’s that floral. We brought out Malvasia to California for some events and touring and the people there had never heard of it — but they loved it.
This is a French variety with stone fruit tasting notes, and it’s a keeper. I’ve planted it at Aridus, but probably won’t get a crop from it for another year or so. For Oktoberfest last year, we didn’t do beer — we did Viognier. We had six different wineries donate their Viognier, all from the same year, and we had side-by-side tastings, pairing the wine with bratwurst and sauerkraut. It was a hit.