As Californians we are spoiled by the selection of wine produced in our home state and often overlook some outstanding choices from other regions in the United States. Arizona is one of those states that has some excellent wineries specializing in the Rhone varietals due to terroir and climate. In 2014 a new regulation changed the way wineries can conduct business in Arizona. Prior to this modification, the tasting room could only be located on the winery’s premises. Now wineries are permitted to have tasting rooms off site. Since this change wine tasting rooms are beginning to pop up around the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas. One is the Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Wine Gallery, which has opened a charming adobe hacienda styled tasting room in Scottsdale.
Coming from a background of finance and strategic planning, Curt Dunham and his wife, Peggy Flandaca had been collecting wines for a long time before making the leap of purchasing land in southeastern Arizona to begin growing their own grapes. Their vineyard is located in the Chiricahua Mountain region, an area known for its rich history. Wanting to preserve the past and set their own footprint for the future, Curt and Peggy have continued to respect the land that was originally used for growing corn, squash and gourds for the Indians by making a strong effort to be sustainable in their growing practices.
The mountainous backdrop sets up ideal conditions for growing grapes. As wind cuts through the terrain creating a cooling affect on the vines.
The vineyards were planted with Tablas Creek rootstock in 2008 and the first vintage was 2009. Currently the vineyard consists of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Viognier and Grenache. For this arid region Grenache might be called the Pinot Noir of the desert. Lawrence Dunham makes about 2000 cases per year.
The LDV label ties together all aspects of the winemaking process that Curt and Peggy incorporate into their vineyard and winery. The label consists of three circles. The first circle represents nature, the second planting and the third the making of wine. The words “Earth’s fruit comes full circle” unite the three. The labels vary in background color. Those known as Sky Island are blue because it represents the sky at twilight. Those labels with a predominately white background symbolize the snow on the peaks of the Chiricahua Mountains. The golden ocher label signifies the grasslands where the corn and squash were once grown. The brown is the soil that the vineyards are planted on and finally the purple label is indicative of the granite rock that is characteristic of the terroir in this region. It is almost as if the circles and the label come together in harmony to express the balance of the wine within.
We started our tasting with the 2012 Sky Island Viognier. This is an unoaked crisp wine with higher acidity and unique florals aromas and flavors of stone fruit.
The 2012 Viognier is aged in neutral French American oak. The heads of the barrel are French oak and the staves American. This wine has the quality of Chardonnay with some winter spices. The aromas are allspice and nutmeg.
The red wines are soft yet rich in their demeanor and pair well with grilled foods.
The 2012 R.E.D. is a blend of primarily Grenache with 8% Syrah and 30% Petit Syrah. You might say this wine is a family affair as its name is dedicated to both Curt and Peggy’s mothers whose nicknames were red and Curt’s father Robert Ervin Dunham. The wine is more garnet in color with floral aromas. It is a smooth yet lighter wine exhibiting flavors of cherry and licorice with a spicy finish. The wine pairs nicely with grilled foods.
The signature wine for Lawrence Dunham is the Petite Sirah. The 2011 Signature Petite Sirah is also known as “Liquid Midnight” because of its deep purple color. The wine is aged for 28 months in 55% new American oak. Floral aromas give way to rich flavors of dark cherry.
Both Curt and Peggy are passionate about food and wine. They are adamant that the two are inseparable therefore one will find that their wines reflect this food friendly aspect.
Quaint patios surround the Scottsdale tasting room, while inside one finds the artwork of local Arizona Artists that complement the wines that are being served. During a visit one cannot miss two mascots that might be considered fixtures at the winery. First is the kangaroo sculpture that graces a portion of the wine tasting room and keeps a close eye on your whereabouts. The other is a cuddly King Charles Cavalier Spaniel named Epernay, who is the Lawrence Dunham winery ambassador ensuring that your visit is a pleasant one.
For more information:
Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Wine Gallery
6951 E. 1st Street
Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
Tasting Room Hours
Wed: 12 – 7 p.m.
Thurs: 12 – 9 p.m.
Fri – Sat: 12 – 8 p.m.
Sunday: 1 – 5 p.m.