Thursday, February 4, 2016

Get Your Sips on Route 66: Kingman Arizona Wineries

Stetson Winery You Are Here Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

Northwestern Arizona wine country.  It just kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?  The Route 66 town of Kingman, Arizona might seem like an odd place for wine tasting, but right now they’ve got two exceptional wineries and the hope and goal are that there will be a few more wineries opening in the near future so that Kingman will become a full-fledged wine country with multiple Arizona wineries.

The two wineries in Kingman, Arizona which are open to the public currently are Cella Winery and Stetson Winery.  These two Arizona wineries have a connection, but are very different, providing variety and contrast for wine tasting.

Cella Winery Glass Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

Cella Winery was the first of the two wineries to open in Kingman.  Cella Winery is owned by Carlos Cella.  Cella’s parents were from Tuscany but immigrated to Argentina after the war.  Growing up in Argentina, Cella made wine, cheese, and tomato sauce with his family when he was a kid.  At the time, he viewed wine making as a chore, not a pleasure.  As a young adult, Cella moved to California, where he owned a body shop for 35 years.  When he retired, he decided to return to the traditions of his family and make wine.

Cella Winery Grape Crusher Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

Cella is old school when it comes to making wine.  Almost every step of the process, from vine to bottle, is by hand.  The only electric machine he uses is a destemmer.  All of the grapes that go into Cella wines are crushed in a small hand-operated grape crusher.  Every bottle is corked by hand.  Every bottle is labeled by hand, which you’ll notice if you look carefully at the bottles that line the shelf as the labels aren’t perfectly straight or perfectly aligned.  All of the wine is made in the garage behind the tasting room.  The operation is similar to what you would expect in an Italian home making wine for personal use, except Cella’s wines are award-winning.

Cella Winery Wine Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

Cella Winery is also not pretentious.  When explaining to a customer that blends are not fermented as blends, but rather are rather single varietals that are blended before bottling, Cella demonstrated by creating a blend from various bottles right in front of us.  He was so confident in his off-the-cuff blend that he let us all taste it.

Cella makes both estate wines made with grapes grown on his 10 acres in Kingman which were planted in 2008 and California wines made with grapes from his 25 acres in Temecula which were planted in 1990.  The estate wines include a Malbec, Zulma’s Moscato, which won first place at the 2015 Kingman Wine & Food Festival, a competition of Arizona’s best wineries, and a Late Harvest Chardonnay, a sweet high-alcohol wine.  The California wines include the Ruby Blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel, a Syrah which won second place, and the Gina Mia White Blend of Viognier, Muscat, and Chardonnay.

Carlos Cella Cella Winery Tasting Room Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

We’re used to starting with the lighter white wines and moving on to the bolder and heavier red wines when wine tasting.  It’s a little different at Cella Winery.  It’s best to start with the red wines, then finish with the white wines, which are on the sweet side. 

Cella’s love for his craft is easily apparent, and it is also contagious, especially when you see how much work and personal attention goes into the wines of Cella Winery.

Stetson Winery Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

A short drive away from Cella Winery is Stetson Winery, Kingman’s second winery which opened in 2012.  Stetson Winery is owned by Don and Jo Stetson.  Don Stetson and Carlos Cella used to be partners, but they had conflicting ideas.  Even though Stetson and Cella split to create their own separate wineries with completely different visions, they are still friends and the split has created the beginnings of a new Arizona wine country.  

Stetson Winery Tasting Room Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

Stetson Winery is both a winery and event center.  The wine tasting room is in a large space that can also be used for weddings, holiday parties, and other events.  The grapes used to make Stetson’s wines are not grown on site.  The grapes for the three white wines and one rosé are from Southern Arizona near Willcox.  The grapes for the four red wines are from Paso Robles and Napa Valley.  However, Stetson’s Zinfandel, Unbridled, coming out in February 2016, is made with grapes grown on the property.  We got to taste a preview and it is good.  Stetson Winery contracts with vintner Eric Glomski to craft their wines.

Stetson Winery Wines Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

Stetson Winery embraces Arizona’s Wild West past and Kingman’s Route 66 legacy with their fun wine names and labels.  For instance, the Cultured Cowboy Chardonnay, a smooth Chardonnay with a pear flavor, features the silhouette of a cowboy holding up a glass of white wine.  The Root 66 Red is a play on grape vines growing along Route 66 and is a slightly spicy blend of six varietals.  One of my favorites was the Pink Pistol, a rosé blend with aromas of rose water and watermelon, and the perfect shade of rose petal pink.

Stetson’s wines are like Napa wines but for half the cost.  The Hop in the Cab Darlin’ Cabernet Sauvignon made with Napa Valley grapes is a very bold Cabernet.  But unlike the bottles of Cabernet that sell in Napa for $60 or more, Stetson’s sells for $29 a bottle.

Unbridled Zinfandel Stetson Winery Route 66 Kingman Arizona Wineries

While Stetson currently only has one wine made with grapes grown on the property, they are planning on making more locally grown wines and will introduce a new wine every year.

There is already another winery in the works in Kingman.  If Kingman can get five or six wineries making good wine, Kingman will have a bona fide wine country to attract wine lovers to this Route 66 town.  They’re certainly off to a good start with Cella Winery and Stetson Winery

Thank you to Go Kingman for hosting the Kingman portion of our trip along Route 66 and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Cella Winery and Stetson Winery are two Arizona wineries in Kingman, Arizona off Route 66 and the start of a new wine country in Arizona.