While Arizona conjures up desert images of parched landscapes and nothing but Saguaro cactus for miles, the Verde Valley (Spanish for green valley) in the northern part of the state has emerged as a prime location for vineyards. The Verde Valley Wine Trail is home to a few pioneering wineries, and has become an up and coming wine destination. Caduceus Cellars wines astonish with their bright fruit, good acidity, and ripe tannins, inviting a mystical exploration of how climate and soil make good wine.
The red rock countryside and lush canyons around Sedona provide the perfect crib in which to grow high quality wine grapes, hot days and cool nights make for ripe fruit, good acidity, and an elegant balance. As the vine struggles to survive in this harsh, rocky region, the fruit becomes more intense and flavorful, the perfect recipe for a great wine.
Caduceus Cellars was started by Maynard James Keenan, a rock musician known for his contribution to the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. Keenan channeled his Italian heritage, and dedicated himself to making high elevation wines of Italian and Spanish varietals, such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo, near his Jerome, Arizona home. It’s been a journey for Keenan, detailed in a 2010 documentary, Blood Into Wine, about winemaking in the desert. Once thought as a crazy dream, he poured passion and commitment into his vineyards, ultimately, that has paid off with national recognition for his skillfully crafted wines.
At a recent tasting of Caduceus Cellars wines at Silver Lake Wine, Maynard brought a fascinating cross section of his wines. From white to red, the wines were distinctive and intriguing. The refreshing 2011 Merkin Vineyards “The Diddler” Cochise County, Arizona, is a white 80% Chenin Blanc blend with layers of green apple, lemongrass, and vanilla. The delicious 2010 Caduceus Cellars “Kitsune” Cochise County is an Arizona Brunello, made from Sangiovese Grosso grapes that also make up Italy’s Brunello di Montalcino. Spiced cherry fruit, persimmon, cinnamon, vanilla, and oak flavors unfold with ripe tannins and a velvet finish. Light body but with good persistency of fruit, it pairs well with food, as demonstrated by a serving of Heirloom LA’s spectacular beet cavatelli, with fresh ricotta, fava beans, arugula, basil, royal trumpet mushrooms, topped with a saffron creme/Yukon Gold potato sauce. The 2010 Caduceus Cellars “Nagual de la Paciencia” Graham County Arizona is 100% Nebbiolo, with cherry and stone fruit flavors. The 2010 Caduceus Cellars “Sancha” Cochise County Arizona is Tempranillo with a splash of Garnacha, with dark fruit and chocolate notes.
Caduceus Cellars is a small boutique winery, only producing about 2500 cases of wine a year. With such limited availability, Caduceus wines are sold through Velvet Slippers Club memberships, the tasting room, and a handful of blends are available through a few local wine shops, such as Everson Royce and Silver Lake Wine.