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5 Arizona Wines to Buy the Skeptic Nathan Claiborn

A lot of people don't know that wine is being made here in Arizona and many who do know it look askance at the fact if not outright scoff at Arizona wine. But the truth is that really fantastic wine can be found within our great state's borders. So for those of you who have a skeptical wine lover on your holiday shopping list I suggest buying them one or more of these eye opening and surprisingly good Arizona wines to change their minds.

Winemaker Time White's Arizona Stronghold Chardonnay

Inside of the nifty, colorful packaging sits a solid, enjoyable Chardonnay by Arizona Stronghold. Fairly ripe with passion fruit and mango notes along with balanced acidity, this Chard deserves a seat at the table next to many Chardonnays from California in the same price range. You can find Arizona Stronghold's wines all over the place, I've even seen this one at Fry's, usually priced around $17 to $20.

Rob Hammelman's Sand-Reckoner Malvasia

You can't go wrong with any of Rob Hammelman's Sand-Reckoner wines. This full bodied and fragrant white Malvasia is for your friends who like to drink the big, fat, ripe California Chardonnays. Its nose is full of fresh flowers and ripe stone fruit, and the palate is rich, creamy, and a delightful mouthful. This one you'll have to search a little harder for but it's worth it, usually in the $25-$30 range.

Kent Callaghan's Callaghan Vineyards Mouvedre

Kent Callaghan is the grisly veteran of Arizona wine and his experience and hard work pay off with this Mourvedre. This wine appeals to the Pinot Noir lover in particular. It's light on its feet and bright with a pleasant white pepper spice. It'll pair nicely with a wide range of food thanks to the relatively high acid level. Callaghan's wines can be found most reliably at AZ Wine Merchants where the Mouvedre goes for $24.

Maynard James Keenan's Caduceus Cellars 'Kitsune' Sangiovese

Caduceus is probably the most famous label from Arizona thanks in large part to the high profile of rock star turned winemaker Maynard James Keenan. Its fame notwithstanding, Caduceus makes some seriously good wine. Their 'Kitsune' is 100% Sangiovese Grosso, which is the same clone used to make Tuscany's famous Brunello di Montelcino. A bit riper than its Italian counterpart this wine still has the bright cherry and cedar notes for which Sangiovese is known but has a bigger mouthfeel and is generally richer. Caduceus is a bit spendy at around $55-$65 retail, but if you're splurging on someone special this wine will not disappoint. Look for it at most of your specialty wine retailers.

Todd Bostock's Doz Cabezas Wineworks 'El Campo'

Finally, what I consider to be one of Arizona's iconic bottles. Dos Cabezas 'El Campo' is a field blend of a bunch of different grapes from the famous Pronghorn Vineyard in Cochise County which sits way up at 4800 feet above sea level. Sturdy, even a bit rugged with enough tannin to age for 10 or more years 'El Campo' is a special gift that should definitely turn an ardent Arizona wine skeptic into a true believer. I've seen it at several Valley wine shops including AZ Wine Co, typically for around $50.

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