Napa, Napa, Napa! It’s all about Napa right? Not anymore. Napa Valley still has seniority in the wine game, but you won’t hear wine-ing laments from younger wineries in Northern Arizona. They stand very well on their own and have something a little bit different to bring to the wine enthusiast.
Recently, I took a trip to Northern Arizona to visit two of the 13 wineries on the Northern Arizona Wine Tour Map near Camp Verde and Cottonwood.
My first stop was the San Dominique Winery also known as Garlic Paradise. Aside from my enjoyment of wine, I love garlic. I put it in or on just about everything I cook. I’ve even had the opportunity to taste garlic ice cream which was delicious, but sadly, is one of the only things not offered at Garlic Paradise.
San Dominique Winery is run out of a small shop by owner and cellar master, Bill Staltari. San Dominique Winery has the feel of an Italian general store with the products of Garlic Paradise lining the shelves and bottles of wine behind a big wooden counter.
The wine tasting list offers 17 wines to taste, reds, whites and the specialty wines. There is also a separate list of “Specialty Private Reserves” that states “Serious Inquiries Only.” It’s only $10 for four tastings, and you get a souvenir glass. I am not sure if this includes wines off the private reserve list, but I doubt it.
I tried the 1998 Cabernet, 2005 Cabernet and Black Cherry reds, the Arizona Blush, the Muscato of Alexandria whites, and the three specialty wines, Hot Pepper wine, Amerita, and Almondino.
My favorite red was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon; it had a light spice, a hearty bouquet and a smooth finish — no wonder it is a Silver Medal winner. The Black Cherry wine was another favorite, it is a sweet summer wine made purely from black cherries — very fruity and rich.
But what really excited me was the list of specialty wines. The Amrita is an orange marsala dessert wine. It has flavors of honey and orange, and it’s not as sweet as expected. The Almondino was a rich and smooth almond-flavored, sherry-based wine. And lastly there was the hot pepper wine. This is not a dessert wine and even following the recommendation to “serve chilled” won’t cool it off! It’s a blend of Chenin Blanc and French Colombard grapes infused with hot pepper. If you buy a bottle, you get a complimentary recipe card that suggests how to use the wine to spice up your favorite dishes or that happy hour margarita.
The amount of items that include garlic are incredible — BBQ rubs and sauces, pasta sauces, salad dressings, dipping oils, sandwich spreads and meat glazes. And even if you or someone you know doesn’t love garlic, there are a few items sans garlic worth a try. And if you can’t make it to San Dominique you can always order your favorites online at www.garlicparadise.com.
Staltari cooks up dinner’s right in his shop, and every three to five weeks on a Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. he hosts dinner for a group. The dinner is seven courses for a reasonable price.
“Don’t expect to rush away,” Staltari says. “It’s at least a three hour affair where you can relax and enjoy yourself.”
He has been doing these dinners for 18 years and enjoys hosting as much as the guests enjoy eating. If you are interested in the Sunday dinner, give your email address to San Dominique Winery, and you will be emailed a menu and date of the next dinner.
Bill Staltari in his kitchen preparing to serve guests.
If You Go:
San Dominique Winery
I-17 & Cherry Road (Highway 169), Camp Verde
Open Daily: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.