Social Media has introduced me to some of the most gracious and talented people in the wine industry from all over the world. Something ‘About Wine’ makes us want to connect, and share what led us to wine euphoria. Michel Ayer of Workman/Ayer reached out to me on Facebook and invited me to taste his wines. Both living in the Phoenix metropolitan area, we were eager to meet at Moon Valley Country Club, where Ayer is a member. When I arrived, he so proudly had 8 of his lovely wines lined up and I was ready to imbibe.
We were joined by Chris Nielson from Tarbell’s. Once we all got to talking we found that we have some intertwined connections. The Arizona wine circle is quite intimate!
Ayer met his wife Workman while working for Mondavi in California. Workman’s father had been an employee of Mondavi for over 30 years. As the story goes Ayer was asked to give a young lady a tour of the winery only to discover she already had the ‘in’. It was a great test of his knowledge and ability to share the Mondavi experience. I guess he passed!
Let us get to the wines. Workman/Ayer makes Rhone-style blends to include Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre. We tasted through each vintage exploring the nuances. Each wine has a subtle difference keeping it unique from the prior year. We tasted 2010 vintage wines up to 2014. Some are still not released. One of the most thrilling things about being in this industry is getting the chance to taste wines not yet released. You get the opportunity to feel the wine early and imagine what it will taste like when it is truly ready.
The 2010 Viognier, although blocked from MLF, definitely displayed signs of possible exposure with its creamy butterscotch notes. Both 2013 and 2014 Viogniers have a very lovely earthy grip on them with floral notes and a light mouthfeel. They make wonderful Summer wines! The reds vary in percentages of GSM, giving each wine its own individuality. However, the similarity between them all is their herbaceous nature. In my opinion, these wines drink like the very elegant Aussie blends of Syrah and Grenache. The 2012 wine received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and 90 from Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine. My favorite was the 2013 wine, to be released next year. It boasts a rich tannic structure with valiant flavors of white pepper, dark fruit, and smoked meat. The 2014 wine, a few years premature from being released, is already showing signs of stardom. WorkmanAyer is a small batch producer so put this one on your radar or you will miss out!
Most of the grapes used to make the Viognier are grown in the Stolpman Vineyard in Ballard Canyon. The GSM grapes come from a mixture of Los Alamos, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez, and Los Alamos. I’ve spent some time tasting wines in Santa Barbara County and there is a special place in my heart for the vineyards of that region. The majestic rolling hills and the sleepy feel of the surrounding villages are embedded in my mind.
Albeit Ayer makes his wine in California, he lives in Arizona and would love to establish more of a presence here. You just might be seeing his wines on the shelves of boutique wine shops like Hidden Track Bottle Shop. If you are interested in purchasing WorkmanAyer wines now you can go directly to www.workmanayer.com . If you purchase before the end of August you can enjoy 15% off your wines using the coupon code: AUGUST15
If you are interested in having your wines reviewed by About Wine, or in setting up a wine tasting or class in your restaurant or home email Darla Hoffmann, Certified Specialist of Wine and Owner of About Wine at Aboutwine@mail.com
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