Arizona’s Largest Local Wine Festival Finds New Home at Kierland Commons

The Arizona Wine Growers Association (AWGA) will partner with azcentral, and the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance (SAACA) to present the Grand Wine Festival, Saturday, Nov. 16, 11am–8pm. The largest celebration of Arizona wine in the country, the Festival will feature more than 30 Arizona wineries, paired with live music and dance performances, art installations, food vendors and other local artisans.

Now in its 11th year, the Grand Festival has relocated to Kierland Commons as part of Kierland POP: Art in Unexpected Places to accommodate for growing crowds, a wine marketplace and a record number of wineries from across Arizona.

According to Kate Marquez, SAACA executive director, “The Festival is delighted to be moving to Kierland Commons. The move truly reflects our team’s combined efforts to better tell the story of Arizona wine as we raise the bar for local wine enthusiasts.”

In addition to sampling, the Festival will also offer attendees the opportunity to purchase full bottles of wine in preparation for the holiday season, including several Festival exclusives that are not available in stores. Attendees will also enjoy live entertainment, an open-air artisan’s marketplace featuring artists’ original works, and delectable treats from gourmet specialty food vendors. The event main stage will host live music throughout the day.

Among the more than 30 participating Arizona wineries will be recognized favorites such as Alcantara Vineyard, Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards, Callaghan Vineyards, Dos Cabezas WineWorks, Keeling Schaefer Vinyards, Page Springs Cellars and Pillsbury Wine Company. Relatively newer winemakers will also make an appearance, including Birds and Barrels Vineyards (2015), Garage-East (2016) and Rune (2013), along with wineries that do not have established tasting rooms, such as Heart Wood Cellars, High Lonesome Vineyards and Woods Bay Winery — the Grand Wine Festival will offer the rare opportunity for guests to taste and buy their wine onsite (full glass and full bottle sales are available for purchase, in addition to the tasting pours with entry). To learn more about the wines being poured at the 2019 event, visit AWGA online.

“Each of the wines poured at the Grand Wine Festival is a testament to the AWGA’s members mission to make outstanding wine, and our deep love for the region,” says Kris Pothier, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association. “As consumers taste our wines, they’ll recognize the quality and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle and understand the great potential of Arizona as a wine growing region.”

Festival tickets, which include a commemorative wine glass and eight wine tasting tickets, are available for purchase for $35 in advance of the event ($30 if you purchase by Oct. 31) and $45 day-of. Additional tasting tickets can be purchased onsite. Designated Driver tickets, which include full festival access but no tasting tickets or wine glass, are available for $15. For additional information about the Grand Wine Festival or to purchase tickets, visit

Discover AZ Wines: A Lot To Celebrate In Wine Country

ByPeggy-headshot Peggy Fiandaca

Though the vineyards are dormant at this time of year and vineyard managers are beginning to think about pruning, there is a lot to celebrate in Arizona wine country. Arizona wines are being recognized at national and international competitions along-side some of the best in the world. Winemakers are bringing home the medals for Arizona grown and produced wines. But visitors and residents alike still are surprised that great wines are made in Arizona.

Thankfully, Arizona chefs have recognized the quality of wines being produced by vintners statewide and are showcasing these wines on their wine lists. In fact, the owners of the new Southern Rail restaurant in Phoenix have over 40 Arizona wines on their current wine list. Pavle Milic and Chef Charleen Badman of FnB restaurant in Scottsdale were early supporters of the growing Arizona wine industry. So much so that over the past three years, Pavle jumped into every aspect of grape growing and wine making to create his own wine brand Los Milacs. He has released three wines named after his children Hannah, Oliver and Lorenzo.

With all the excitement surrounding the Arizona wine industry, it is interesting to note that not all Arizona produced wines are made from grapes grown in the state. There are still many wines that use grapes grown elsewhere. People assume that an Oregon Pinot Noir is made from Oregon grapes and a California Chardonnay comes from grapes grown under the California sun. Why wouldn’t people make that same assumption that an Arizona wine is made with locally grown grapes? A new bill (HB 2317) introduced by Representative Brenda Barton would require a label that states a wine is produced in Arizona have at least 75% of the grapes to produce the wine be Arizona fruit.  If passed, consumers would be assured that an Arizona wine is made with grapes primarily grown in this state. Why does this matter? Because Arizona grapes show characteristics that are unique to our place and place is what you are experiencing from wines you sip from all over the world!

Next time you are out enjoying one of the fabulous local restaurants order an Arizona wine. By doing so you will be supporting a growing local industry and hopefully finding a new favorite wine made from local grapes.

It’s The Holiday Season – Let’s Entertain

ByPeggy-headshot Peggy Fiandaca

Everyone entertains at the holidays. Holidays are meant to be spent enjoying your family and friends not breaking out in hives from stress. For most people, a holiday may be the only time they will entertain during the year. The key to holiday entertaining is preparation. Having a plan in place will reduce the stress tremendously. So decide early which holidays you will host and begin planning early. It is not like you don’t know what day of the year the holiday falls on well in advance.

Here are some tips for stress-free holiday entertaining.


  • Choose your holiday well in advance and make sure everyone knows that you are claiming that holiday.
  • Decide who will be invited. Determine if any of your guests have food limitations. Nothing is worse than having to run to the emergency room because Aunt Louise had a reaction to nuts.
  • Determine if you are going to do a sit down dinner or buffet.
  • Delegate some of the items so you do not have to do everything yourself. People like to be able to contribute to the holiday celebration. There is nothing wrong in being specific when delegating so you don’t get three different green bean casseroles. If someone doesn’t cook, assign them to purchase the rolls or flowers for the table. Again, you might be specific and people appreciate that.
  • Week before I set the agenda. If I am using certain recipes I pull them all together into a notebook and make my shopping list.
  • Develop a party schedule. I will outline very specifically everything that needs to be done with specific tasks and timeframes. Details include oven temperatures and when dishes go into the oven and the time it comes out. I have learned that when things get crazy I don’t want to depend on my memory.
  • Set the party stage the night before by setting the table or buffet table, creating centerpieces, and ensuring that everything is in place. I also put sticky notes with the name of the dish on all serving platters and bowls.
  • When setting the party stage, think about putting things in different locations so people move around. For example, I set up coffee and desserts in one location, drinks and wine in another, and buffet table or dinner table in another. It is a great way for people to mingle easier.
  • Don’t make your menu too complicated. Everyone should be known for a signature dish and the holidays are a perfect time to showcase that favorite dish. I am known for my lasagna and every holiday, people want my homemade lasagna. People don’t realize that it takes almost all day to make but I do it because I love to make my guests happy. But choose a menu that will allow you to enjoy the holidays too.
  • If you are having a small group for dinner, do not serve dinner on paper plates. Even if it is just family, please show them you care and serve dinner on a real plate with real silverware. It does not take long to wash dishes and it is better for the environment. Some of my best conversations have occurred with my aunties or girlfriends while doing dishes after a holiday event.

And most importantly choose Arizona wine to serve this holiday season.


Discover AZ Wines: After The Harvest

ByPeggy-headshot Peggy Fiandaca

October marks the end of the Arizona grape harvest. As reported by many in the industry, harvest was good. Terrific weather throughout most of the growing season statewide has resulted in better than average yields and high quality grapes. After the harvest flurry, the work turns to winemaking.

Did you know that there are almost 100 farm winery licenses operating in Arizona? If you haven’t visited wine country in recent years, fall is the perfect time to visit the many of new tasting rooms.

Historic Downtown Clarkdale has its first tasting room called Four Eight Wineworks located in the former National Bank. The building was refurbished, keeping its early 1900’s charm and serves as an “incubator, passion vortex, and metaphorical leg up” for start-up wineries as the company’s website proclaims. The project is the creation of Maynard Keenan, owner and winemaker of Caduceus Cellars and showcases wines from Tim White’s Iniquus Cellars and Joe Bechard’s Chateau Tumbleweed wines.after-harvest

Northern Arizona is home to many beautiful vineyards and wineries offering wine tastings or tours in Williams, Prescott, Page Springs and Chino Valley as well as wine tasting rooms in Downtown Cottonwood, Jerome and Clarkdale to name just a few. Picturesque fall colors in vineyards are all within an hour and half from Phoenix.

Just one hour east of Tucson, you can sample award-winning, unique and fascinating wines from the largest grape-growing regions in Arizona. From big, bold reds to vibrant, crisp whites, there is something for everyone in Southeastern Arizona’s wine country. Visit Wines of Willcox for a great map and information about the region or attend the Willcox Wine Country fall festival October 18-19 in historic Downtown Willcox’ Railroad Park.

Lastly, I am thrilled to announce the opening of our wine tasting room, wine retail and gallery featuring Lawrence Dunham Vineyards’ estate award-winning wines in Downtown Scottsdale. We are bringing the essence of our vineyard in the Chiricahua Mountain foothills to Scottsdale. Visit for grand opening events and tasting room hours.

If you can’t get to one of the great Arizona wineries around the state, The Festival at the Farm is the place to meet grape farmers, wine producers and try dozens of Arizona wines close to home. Wineries from around the state will be pouring their wines on November 15; 12-5pm at the annual festival. The picturesque setting of Phoenix’ historic The Farm at South Mountain provides a beautiful backdrop to enjoy music, a boxed lunch under the pecan trees, workshops, specialty local products, silent/live auction and, of course, great Arizona wine. The evening before (November 14; 6-8pm) winemakers and wine enthusiasts gather to celebrate Arizona wines as The Arizona Republic announces the award-winning wines from the annual competition. Enjoy passed and stationed hors d’ouevres paired with the award-winning wines at Quiessence at The Farm restaurant. Cost for each event (including food, wine tastings and entertainment) is $75. Purchase tickets early for discounts at

There are so many more events happening in wine country statewide this fall and winter. Visit the Arizona Wine Growers Association website for a complete listing


Discover AZ Wines: Harvest Time

ByPeggy-headshot Peggy Fiandaca

It is almost harvest time in Arizona’s wine country. Veraisan is in full swing, which is when the grapes turn the lushest shade of purple. Wineries are scrambling to make room for the upcoming vineyard bounty. Everyone is reporting a good grape set and if all goes well, a good harvest, which should begin mid-to-late August. Vineyards located at low elevations such as Charron Vineyards in Vail, Arizona (just southeast of Tucson) will start bringing in their grapes in early- to mid-August and the higher elevation vineyards will be harvesting into October.LDV Summer 2014 134-sm

Arizona’s monsoon weather starts in southeastern Arizona and it got a late start this year. Vineyards watch these weather patterns very closely and can have a tremendous impact as the grapes ripen on the vines. Depending on the monsoon season and if damage occurs, many of the wineries are optimistic that 2014 will deliver another bumper crop.

There is no better time to visit an Arizona vineyard than right before or during harvest. The vineyards are full of grapes, which is a sight to behold. Many of the wineries are hosting late summer events. And of course, Arizona’s wine country is much cooler with afternoon rains, cool breezes and lower temperatures.

Tasting wine and visiting the vineyards are not the only reason to visit Arizona’s wine country at this time of the year. Other specialty crops like peaches and apples as well as sweet corn and vegetables are available for the picking. Southeastern Arizona produces some of the best sweet corn that rivals the corn from my childhood in Illinois. Apple Annie’s Orchard is just one of the examples of incredible you pick’em experiences that your family can enjoy.

Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Grape to Glass Symposium

Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Grape to Glass Symposium

Lawrence Dunham Vineyards has two events to celebrate the upcoming harvest – Fifth Annual Grape to Glass Symposium August 2 and Farm to Table Culinary Weekend with Chef Joshua Hebert from Posh Restaurant in Scottsdale August 15-16. Both require registration and are limited in participation.

Tickets are on sale for the annual Festival at the Farm at South Mountain November 14-15. To learn more and purchase tickets visit Visit the Arizona Wine Growers Association website for more events in Arizona Wine Country

Keep your money in Arizona and buy local wines made from Arizona grapes.

Discover AZ Wines: Summer Escape To Wine Country

Journey With Us To Discover AZ Wines

By Kathryn M. Miller –

There is a long and rich heritage of agriculture in Arizona, but in recent years, there has been a surge in one industry in particular – the grape growing and wine making industry. Arizona is an up-and-coming player in the wine arena. In 2011, Arizona had an estimated economic impact of $37.6 million supporting over 400 jobs.

What began in 1973 south of Tucson in the Sonoita/Elgin area has turned into 45 licensed wineries throughout Arizona today. There are three major growing regions, all in the high desert: Sonoita/Elgin, Willcox and Verde Valley. You may have heard of some of the wines that come out of these regions, some of them perhaps not. But we aim to rectify that.

In March, CST will debut a new feature, Discover AZ Wines. In the months ahead, we will take a journey through Arizona’s wine regions and learn about the vineyards and wine makers that are producing wines that are popping up not only at local markets, but around the country, not to mention presidential wine lists. Along the way, our guide will be Peggy Fiandaca, owner (along with husband Curt Dunham) and marketing director of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, as well as the president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association. The Association represents all of the wineries and vineyards statewide. She has a passion for building the Arizona wine industry and understands the economic potential the industry can play.

Fiandaca will share not only her passion and knowledge of the industry, but the culture and community of wine growers and wine lovers. We’ll also share original recipes, wine-pairing suggestions and a wealth of information on wine-related events happening in town and around the state.

We hope you’ll join us on this delicious journey of discovery. Until next month, Cheers! |CST

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