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Wine Blog Afficianado

Brian Kasper

“The Godfather”

“The Godfather”

Checkout the “Godfather Wine Tour“, curated by Brian Kasper. 

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Hello. 

My name is Brian Kasper and I’m here to talk to all of you about wine, specifically Arizona wine. I do not consider myself an expert but I am knowledgeable about wine. People ask how I came to know so much about wine. I laugh and tell them “because I drink a lot of wine”. After all, a good scratch golfer with a low handicap didn’t get there by watching YouTube videos. No, he or she plays a lot of golf. Now, I should also tell you that I have also taken a number of wine classes over the years.

But first, a little background on how I discovered wonderful wine. I grew up in the Pittsburgh, PA area. Mateus wine was considered a fine wine in Pittsburgh. No, you don’t go to Western PA for wine. Maybe beer, whiskey or bourbon, but not wine. But in 1972, I moved to the Phoenix area and made friends with a couple from California who were into good wine. I went with them on a wine tasting trip to Napa and WOW! I discovered what great wine is. In 1972, Napa Valley vineyards were in their infancy. The wineries offered free wine tasting and not just sips. They would serve 5-6 different wines at 3-4 oz a pour. You were drinking close to a bottle of wine at each winery. Looking back, I’m amazed we managed to drive from vineyard to vineyard. But I was definitely hooked on wine. 

Early on I favored whites over reds 80/20. But my last 20 years that has switched to 80% reds to 20% whites. I just find reds to be more complex and interesting. But to each his or her own. If I asked you where most of your wine comes from you would probably say California. I too enjoy California wines but I also drink a fair amount from Oregon and Washington. I also enjoy drinking wine from all over the world…France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Germany, South Africa and others. It’s good to be an adventurous wine drinker. 

Over the last 10-15 years, I’ve added another location that’s producing delicious wine – ARIZONA. Arizona has 3 AVAs (American Viticultural Area)…Sonoita/Elgin, Willcox and Verde Valley. The first 2 AVAs are located in Southeastern AZ and produce the bulk of Arizona grapes. Most of Arizona’s wine success is from grape varieties native to Italy and the Rhone valley of Southern France. Some of the better known grapes are Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Mouvedre, Pinot Gris, Sangiovese, Syrah and others. But one of the great successes of Arizona vineyards is their art of blending grape varieties, in particular their red blends. One of the grape varieties that is not Arizona friendly is Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir likes cool moist regions and even snowy locations (the Northern Rhone valley). 

Obviously, that doesn’t describe Arizona though some AZ vineyards are giving Pinot Noir a try. Some of the vineyards in the Verde Valley AVA are Page Springs (one of the first in NAZ), Caduceus, Merkin, Chateau Tumbleweed and Alcantra. I’ve enjoyed all these wineries’ wines but am particularly fond of Caduceus and Merkin both owned and operated by Maynard James Keenan. His Merkin Restaurant is a favorite for lunch high on a hill overlooking Old Town Cottonwood and surrounded by his vineyard. I usually order the gnocchi and a bottle of his Chupacabra wine, a wonderful red blend. 

One of the other advantages of heading north to Cottonwood is that many of the Southern Arizona wineries have wine tasting rooms on the main street in Old Town Cottonwood. So you don’t need to drive 200+ miles to enjoy wines from SAZ. A wonderful time can be had sipping wine at the tasting rooms and wandering around the unique stores on Main Street. 

Goodbye for now. This has been a quick overview of Arizona wines. I’ll be doing deeper dives in future posts. 

Thanks, Brian

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