Discover AZ Wines: Great Wine Begins In The Vineyard

Peggy-headshotBy Peggy Fiandaca

Great wine begins in the vineyard. Terroir is the French word that refers to all things that can impact the vineyard – climate, soils, elevation, water, wind, etc. Finding the perfect spot, then planting the right grape varietals and maintaining the vineyard’s health is critical to producing that great bottle of wine.

How does the terroir influence wines? My vineyard is at almost 5,000 feet in the Chiricahua Mountain foothills. The peaks of the Chiricahua Mountains reach 10,000 feet behind the property. The mountains create their own weather that impacts the vineyard. As the vines mature and reach deeper into the Rhyolite granite, they are picking up the minerality from the volcanic soils. The current releases are already expressing the depth of flavors as a result of the unique terroir at Lawrence Dunham Vineyards.

“There are definitely some major differences in the three main growing regions as far as climate, soil and exposure is concerned” says Kief Manning, winemaker of Kief-Joshua Vineyards in the Sonoita/Elgin area.  Customers are pointing to the earthy and peppery notes among the Arizona reds that seem to set them apart from other places. Kief predicted, “I think as the industry matures even further we will have a better understanding of the uniqueness of the different terroirs of Arizona.”

Mark Beres, owner of Flying Leap Vineyards, grows grapes in two of Arizona’s wine regions – Sonoita/Elgin and Willcox – and finds the growing conditions very different. According to Mark, “Without exception, it is much easier to grow wine grapes in Willcox than Sonoita/Elgin. I believe this is a result of lower elevation (4,300 versus 5,000 feet), lower calcium in the soil and less alkaline water.”

Other differences mentioned by Mark include severe freeze and late spring frost in Sonoita as well as the yields are higher in Cochise County regions. All of which contribute to different taste profiles.

Sam Pillsbury, owner/winemaker Pillsbury Wine Works, says, “Arizona’s conditions make brilliant wines. Our whites are viscous, with bright fruit, aromatic, crisp. Our reds grippingly clean, fragrant, layered and complex.”

We do everything in our power to preserve and sustain the soils, water and everything else that are the essence of our unique place. We analyze the soils to ensure that the nutrients remain in balance and we augment them from time to time to ensure maximum plant health. We also believe we have planted the right grape varietals that will flourish in this terroir. We love Pinot Noir but this grape varietal will not do well on our property. We are finding that our terroir is best suited for Rhone varietals and the Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Viognier have been very successful so far.

Only time will tell how Arizona’s unique terroir will influence the wines being produced. As Chris Bianco says, “You can taste the struggle.”

Discover AZ Wines: Wine & Chocolate – A Perfect Pairing

Explore The Verde Valley Wine Country From Lights of Jerome

The Lights of Jerome Inn B&B is where the “lights of Jerome dance above every night.”  A unique, “green” one bedroom suite B&B, where the details and friendly customer service matter.  The private deck has mountain and wildlife views and guests will enjoy a gourmet continental breakfast of fresh fruits, bagels or muffins, organic granola, yogurt and signature pumpkin bread delivered each morning.

The suite features a living area, with satellite TV, DVD player, WiFi, area information, bistro dining for two, with a well-appointed kitchenette with coffee maker and Starbuck’s Espresso Roast, Aqua Pour filtered water, instant hot water and teas, toaster oven…just like home.  Guests will experience a quiet night’s sleep on a luxurious king size bed with 800 count cotton linens and enjoy a roomy bath with walk-in shower and natural amenities. lights-of-jerome2

The B & B is centrally located in the foothills near the historic mining town of Jerome, Historic Clarkdale, only minutes to the Verde Canyon Railroad, Tuzigoot National Monument and Verde River access.  Charming Old Town Cottonwood, with shops, restaurants and Arizona wine tasting rooms, is a short drive away, as is the Verde Valley Wine Trail and world-renowned Sedona.

The staff will help guests with excursion arrangements and offer discount package rates when booking area attractions. Find more information at To make your reservation, call or e-mail Teal Sullivan at 928.300.1765 or

Learn more about the wineries that make up the Verde Valley Wine Trail at

It’s Harvest Season At Javelina Leap Vineyards And Winery

Javelina Leap Vineyards and Winery processes approximately 44 tons of Arizona grown grapes equaling about 2,600 cases of fine Javelina Leap Arizona wine. When visiting, guests will be sampling wines at a fully functional vineyard and winery. Enjoy a tour of the winery and barrel room while sipping wine or relax in the Arizona room and private garden where the winery serves artisan cheese platters, deli meats and wines by the glass or bottle.

During the harvest season (August to October) visitors can watch wine actually being made. Arizona grapes are picked, de-stemmed, fermented, pressed, aged, bottled and labeled at Javelina Leap, which also boasts a 100-barrel capacity cellar.

During harvest season, the winery provides an air-conditioned Arizona Room where patrons can enjoy appetizers/tapas and a seasonal menu while looking out on the crush pad to view the crush and all that it involved daily. Harvest, punching, pressing and barreling will take place from mid-August through the end of crush – around the end of September to mid-October.

Javelina Leap is a family operated, premium boutique winery with award-winning wines. The winery is in Northern Arizona’s Verde Valley, only minutes away from Sedona in the small historic valley of Page Springs, and is open daily from 11am-5pm. For more information, call 928.649.2681 or visit

Arizona Wine Moment: Harvestfest 2010 At Sonoita Vineyards

This month’s Arizona Wine Moment was submitted by Kimberly Sisk.

One of the advertisers in your newspaper, Sonoita Vineyards, is my favorite place.  I have been a frequent visitor to Elgin wine country and there are many wonderful locations: The Village of Elgin Winery (Tombstone Rain wine) Callaghan Vineyards (Claire’s 2009) and Kief-Joshua Vineyards (they have delicious dips and will ship).

I have acquired many fun stories on wine tasting trips to Elgin country and was known by one former employee at Sonoita Vineyards as “giggles” because by the time I arrived there I was very giggly.

My favorite story is my trip to the Harvestfest 2010 at Sonoita Vineyards.  My two best girlfriends and I decided we wanted to be like Lucy in the “I Love Lucy” series where Lucy stomped grapes.  We practiced our stomping and thought carefully about our game plan.

When the day finally arrived we met at Maggie’s house.  She and I were going to do the stomping as Autumn decided she did not want to get messy.  So Autumn and I dressed Maggie up in a white t-shirt and short-short blue jeans for “dress appeal.”  We knew the group that got the most cheers would win.  It was difficult to get Maggie to allow us to continue taking another ½ inch off of the shorts each time.  But we agreed they needed to be short shorts!

We finally arrived at Sonoita Vineyards.  We signed up and drew our number.  We got number 13.  Now most people would assume that is an awful number, but not us.  My birthday is on the 13th and I love that number.  I knew then we were going to win the grape stomping contest!  We strolled around, tasted various food and wine combinations, had a glass or two of my favorites (Angel Wings and Arizona Sunset) and checked out our competition.

It was time and we watched with anticipation the groups before us.  Father and children…groups of guys and girls…older and younger…and then it was our turn. We had looked at the vat of grapes prior but it was exciting.  Now that we have the chance to get into one…we both hesitated, but knew this was our chance so we jumped in.  The music started playing and we stomped and circled and stomped and twirled and stomped and kicked.  We had the crowd cheering and getting splashed.  The master of ceremonies was not too happy because he also got a bit wet. Oops!

After all the groups went the master of ceremonies called each group up for a finally cheering and in the end the winner was announced…Group Number 13! Autumn, Maggie and I started to jump around and cheer. We were so excited.  We won $50 gift certificates each.

We decided to purchase the matching t-shirts with the saying “Zero to Naked in 1.5 bottles.” What did you expect after all the wine tasting! We proudly wore our shirts for the rest of the day.

It was the best day and we had so much fun.  This is the cheapest and best fun in Arizona! Also, Sonoita Vineyards wines are available at certain locations in Phoenix and Tucson just in case you cannot drive to Elgin right away.

Do you have a memorable story about when you discovered your favorite Arizona Wine? We’d love to hear about it! Share it with us at and let our readers savor the trip of discovery right along with you…and don’t forget the photos!

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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