Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Juniper Well Ranch Vineyard : A work in progress
Half way between Arizona's territorial capitol and the old railroad town of Skull Valley rests a little area called Tonto Flats and Juniper Well Ranch. Take Iron Springs Road North, from downtown Prescott and soon the pines of Prescott fade to make room for Juniper trees and desert shrubbery.
Unfortunately, this beautiful drive went un-enjoyed by me, because I felt unsure as to whether or not I had a room. As a freelance writer, my stays are often off the books or are squeezed in whenever, because proprietors are happy to invite me to visit and provide exposure for their establishment. Upon calling from the road about check in time, I learned that owner Linda Bonham had not told her husband Dave off my upcoming visit. Dave had no idea who I was and acted leery of my claims. Further, Linda was out with an old friend. Dave took a hard line, and it looked like my trip would be ruined after the long hot drive from Phoenix.
Thankfully, cool heads prevailed. I even ended up with an upgraded room. Dave's protective behavior makes more sense when you realize he built these beautiful cabins himself. He even molded the adobe bricks for the adobe cabin. His father Frank was a lifelong and prolific Western and Young Adult author. Frank Bonham purchased this historic ranch property in the 1980s. It was once the home of a former Arizona state Senator.
For our visit, we reserved the Adobe Cabin but thanks to the earlier mix up, traded up, to the Granite Rose cabin instead. A large cabin, with a loft, it could easily sleep 5-7. A queen bed and a sleeper sofa with a nice kitchenette, dining table, and fireplace fill the downstairs living area. Up the ladder, the loft perfectly fits a small kid-sized bed (my 4 year old loved it) and a full sized bed with a terrific view.
Cabin is a broad word that can describe a variety of dwellings like drafty mountain shacks or million dollar mansions made of logs. These Juniper Well cabins fall nicely in the middle. They are clean with large porches and rustic but functional furniture. The carpet in the Granite Rose had a few stains and was old, but the rooms were dusted and the wood furniture shined with polish. The beds were soft and the blankets silky, so we all slept well.
The Manzanita trees I mentioned earlier used to cover most of the property. Recently, when a drought hit and these trees began dying off, the owners of Juniper Well took a gutsy gamble.
tasting room on-site.
Adjacent to the tasting room their events area is gorgeous. It is the perfect location for small to mid-sized weddings and low-maintenance brides. A number of covered areas, a pond, a raised dance floor, a fire pit and seating galore fill the space that is booked for weddings the entire summer. A guest could spend all day hanging around this area.
One last thought. Never again will I look at the Juniper trees between Sedona and Flagstaff the same. I've seen the grandfather of these trees. He is big and strong and makes his successors look wimpy by comparison. This is probably the only time I will say something like this, but the trip is worth it, just to check out these trees alone. Where else can you enjoy a tree that predates the Hohokam and the Conquistadors.
Review by J. Kayne Keele Yahoo! freelance writer
Quick cool note: All the labels are from the covers of Dave's (the owner) dad's novels or inspired by the landscape.
1. 2009 Tempranillo -very light in body and in the mouth, as the wine is only 10% alcohol and this is due to the fact that they harvested during a rain. It was easy to drink if you get past the fact that is does not have a true Tempranillo grit and pepper taste. If you are not into red wine, then this one would most likely appeal to your palate.
2. 2009 Red Belly Red- this I was told is a love it or hate it wine. It is a blend of 25% Grenache and 75% Tempranillo. The grenache was added to boost the alcohol level. However, it also imparted a weird taste. If I remember correctly in the Grenache vine row, sits a very large juniper tree, and if you have every tasted juniper berries than you can guess what flavors the juniper tree could impart in the grapes. This was a very resinous wine. Kinda like a Retsina wine from Greece. The wine is flawed.
3. 2009 Merlot- This one had that nice AZ red wine smell with tons of berry tones. It was put through a Vinturi and the wine really smoothed out and a nice jammy and early quality was tasted. A very smooth Merlot with a good mouth feel and finish.
I also did some barrel tastings of a Syrah, three Cabernet Sauvignon's, a Petite Sirah, and Tempranillo. The Tempranillo showed very good promise as did the Petite. The rest were good, and will be interesting to see how they taste once bottled. If they keep on making wine, then maybe all the kinks will be worked out and they could have some very interesting wines. So good luck in the future and let's hope weather in on their side next year!
Thank you and enjoy! Please leave your comments and questions below.
Posted by Renee Keele