“Lightning can strike anywhere,” Maynard Keenan tells me. He is referring to the spotlight recently focused on the Arizona wine industry. “[But establishing] credibility and sustainability for our state has little to do with lightning strikes,” he adds.
The collaboration begins
To keep the fire burning, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards’ Winemaker Tim White hatched a plan one day while assembling one of ASV’s high-end Rhone blends. White envisioned bringing together two northern and two southern Arizona wine producers for the purpose of pushing Arizona onto global radar, an idea he suggested at a bimonthly winemaker “research” gathering. Among those in attendance with White were Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards, Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks and Keenan of Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, and Four-Eight Wineworks, all of whom emphatically agreed to join. The collective curriculum vitae of this group should say something about the ambitiousness of the project, which they have dubbed “Kindred.”
“We’re at a point in our evolution as a wine state/region where we’re all starting to get some well-deserved recognition for the collective efforts going into our various projects,” says White. “If we could all just remember occasionally to take a step back and sit down to listen to each other… That’s what this collaboration is about. No individual is greater than the whole!”
After speaking with producers in other fledgling wine growing areas around the United States, Keenan adds, “They’ve expressed, almost unanimously, that the voice must be unified. No ‘king of the hill’ approach will be taken seriously… This project is an attempt to start the unification process between northern and southern Arizona.”
For Callaghan, “It’s just a fun thing to do, and a reason to get together with Todd, Tim, and Maynard. All of us love wine and have quirky senses of humor,” he says, then concedes with tongue-in-cheek, “Except for Maynard, that is—he’s pretty mainstream.”
With their quirky senses of humor, however, comes an intense sense of respect for one another and a passion for the nascent Arizona wine region. White believes this unified sense coalesced on one particular evening in Cornville, when the group tasted through 20 to 30 wines from Arizona, California, Washington, Italy, and France. “I would like to believe that everyone kind of had that ‘Aha!’ moment that evening… about the importance of standing unified to represent our state.”
Coming to fruition
Kindred’s first release will be a blend, to which each winemaker has contributed a barrel. Bostock offered up his 2011 Cimarron Vineyard Tempranillo which was grown in Willcox, halfway between Tucson and Lordsburg, N.M.
Callaghan delivered a barrel of his 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from his Buena Suerta Vineyard in Elgin, just outside of Sonoita, to the ASV facility in Camp Verde. Due to a bud-killing frost on May 1, 2011, Callaghan had limited choices. In fact, this Cabernet was the only wine that Callaghan had more than one barrel of. He had two.
Keenan offered up his 2011 Bonita Springs Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, grown just north of Interstate 10 and Willcox. Keenan said this selection was based upon, “One part intuition, two parts volume on hand and one part neutrality. This year I peeled off a Cab Sauv that I felt would play the role of puzzle piece rather than stand-alone expression of this particular site. Or so I thought. I have a second barrel of the same wine, and it’s actually blossomed from blender to barrel designate. Who knew?”
White offers us a glimpse into his winemaking process as he describes the barrel he chose. “My decision was to contribute a barrel of our Arizona Stronghold ‘Old Vine’ Cabernet Sauvignon. I wanted to contribute something strong that would complement, but not dominate, the blend. When the others decided what they were going to contribute, I thought this would be a good component. [The ‘Old Vine’] wasn’t as dense and broad as some of the other Arizona Cabs we had, but it always has intriguing elements of spice, red fruits and herbal notes that exist somewhere between green peppercorn and eucalyptus. We put these four barrels together and came out with a wine that isn’t like any of the wines we put out under our individual labels. We accomplished exactly what I was hoping for—a quality wine that represents the project for the unique characters involved.”
Into the future
While White paints a picture of a revolving door policy for future Kindred collaborations, the current lineup is already working on another wine, a 2012 GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre). For visitors to southern Arizona, the Kindred 2011 Arizona Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon will be available at Dos Cabezas WineWorks in Sonoita and Callaghan Vineyards in Elgin. In the Verde Valley, this release will be available at the Arizona Stronghold Vineyards tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood and at the upcoming FOUR-EIGHT WINEWORKS tasting room in Clarkdale, which is slated to open in September 2013.
By Nathan Brugnone
Originally published in Arizona Vines & Wines Summer 2013