Category Archives: Vino Archive

Not another Label Article

I’ve read a few articles recently on “How To Read a Wine label”. Informative, yes, but there is more to a wine label than a clever name, pretty picture and some tasting notes. A wine label is a winemaker’s promise to you, the consumer. Do any of us really care about the alcohol warning statement and are there still people out there that really need to be told that wine contains sulfites?
Well, yes according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, we do need to be told. The TTB, (as we reverently refer to them) does, of course hunt down and prosecute bad people playing with dirty money, but the department actually has a much higher calling.



It is the department’s mission to, “Collect the taxes on alcohol, tobacco, firearms and ammunition; protect the consumer by ensuring the integrity of alcohol products; and prevent unfair and unlawful market activity for alcohol and tobacco products.”
For most of us, we pick up a wine, check out its super cool, edgy graphics and its clever name. Sometimes we read the flowery descriptors, maybe note its alcohol content. But we are “LOCALISTS”! We are taking that extra step to sustain an important local industry, so we look for an ARIZONA wine! There it is. We think to ourselves, “It says Arizona somewhere on the label. Yes. This is an Arizona wine.”
Folks, Arizona wine comes from ARIZONA grapes. How are you assured of that wine’s origin?
Enter the TTB. Wine producers are required to maintain a very costly bond, copiously document production and movement of wine, pay a lot of tax and one more thing. Wine producers are required to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval, (COLA). No COLA, No sale. The TTB will allow exemptions, but they still want to know what that label says before it gets stuck on a bottle. Again, that label is a winemaker’s promise and yes he or she will be fined heavily for breaking it.
The Federal Government can write great laws, but the real work comes in trying to enforce them. reports that there are 7, 762 bonded wineries in the United States and the TTB has limited budgets for agents, just like every other Federal agency. They do a great job helping those wineries that are trying to follow the rules stay the course, but checking up on every winery is a challenge.
State governments can write their own rules. Oregon and California have some of the most rigid labeling laws in the country, all written to protect their wine industries and their respective American Viticultural Areas, (AVA). There are those in Arizona seeking to protect our state’s reputation as well. In July, HB 2317 was passed. It was sponsored by one of Arizona’s agricultural icons, Representative Brenda Barton. The bill mirrors Federal requirements for wine labeling. This is the first step in what will be the opportunity for the state to write rules that it can then assign to an agency, (Department of Liquor License & Control) to enforce.
These rules and how they will be enforced will assure the integrity of Arizona wine, so you the consumer can trust in this precious and sustainable industry. If you have any questions about a wine’s legitimacy, is just a click away.

Livin’ the Dream, Part 2

Livin’ The Dream, Part 2
Part one of this article released outlined some of privileges that Arizona farm wineries have allowing local grape growers and wine producers to compete in an industry dominated multi-national conglomerates. The privileges are grounded in business reality and though they are designed to encourage investment and support start-ups, there are contingencies that must be met as well as local and federal regulations that must be abided by. With these privileges comes great responsibility and even greater financial liability.
Arizona wineries have a responsibility, first to the consumer. There is the expectation that the

wine produced should be of good quality. It should be a stable product and its value commensurate with its price. Most importantly, Arizona wine should be produced with Arizona grapes. New legislation has been created to protect the consumer and create legitimacy within the state’s wine industry.

John McLoughlin doing punchdown

John McLoughlin doing punchdown

State legislators made their intention to protect the consumer as well as the legitimate integrated vineyards and wineries abundantly clear by requiring licensees to actually produce wine, not just purchase out-of state bulk or bottled wine. An Arizona winery will only retain the privileges of the #13 license if it is actually producing wine or growing a minimum of five acres of grapes. Roughly translated that is 4,500 vines which will eventually, (4-6 years in maturity) produce around 15 tons of grapes or 2400 gallons of juice that needs to be aged anywhere from 1-6 years. The end result for this time & capital investment is about 1,000 cases. An obviously over-simplified statement would be that a truly integrated growing and producing winery could wait 5-6 years to enjoy their first bottle of wine. This looming reality is something that the currently non-producing #13 licensees must face. Legitimize or forfeit the license.

It is the requirement of both federal and state government that a winery maintain immaculate records. At any given moment either entity may enter a licensed premise and conduct an audit. It is the responsibility of the winery to record information from the moment the grape enters the facility. This includes any additions to the wine, (yeast), movement between vessels, (racking), filtering, bottling, cellaring and of course, selling. A gap in information can generate damaging repercussions including forfeiture of a license.
Capital investment is one thing, financial liability is another.



One of the most assertive examples of the strain of financial liability is demonstrated in the inequitable taxation of wine over beer by the federal and state government. Craft breweries are taxed at a combined rate of 38 cents per gallon. A winery is taxed at a combined rate of $2.41 per gallon, over six times higher than that of a brewery. Keep in mind the above statement that a true winery has to wait five years to sell their first bottle and begin to recoup their growing and production costs. Beer can be produced and sold in week. It is a curious inequity that shows up in the final price of the wine to the consumer, who is also taxed at the point of purchase.
These are only a couple of examples of the striking reality of the accountability that is tied to privilege. There is a joke in the wine industry and wine makers laugh only because it is true, “To make a small fortune in wine, you have to start with a big one.”

Livin’ The Dream

Livin’ the Dream, Part One…
There are nearly 100 licensed wineries in Arizona. The impetus to set up shop and live the winemaking dream utilizing the state’s Series 13 license is a seductive notion that could have easily been the design of Morpheus and Dionysis themselves. This license does however come with a great deal of responsibility and obligations to not only the governing bodies that regulate the industry, but to the purchasing public as well.



For its thirty odd years, our industry is still in its infancy and is feeling some expected growing pains. The governing bodies are only now beginning to address the previously unforeseen needs of a rapidly progressing industry. Arizona’s Farm Wineries and vineyards moving into their second, third and even fourth decades of growing are experiencing challenges and expressing a desire to create legitimacy and integrity within the industry.

Dragoon Mountian Vineyard

Dragoon Mountain Vineyard

In this two part article, we will describe first, the privileges given to Arizona grape growers and Arizona wine producers. Recent legislation mandates that these privileges are contingent upon a licensed winery’s commitment to grow grapes in Arizona soil and or produce Arizona wine in house. The second article will describe a licensed winery’s responsibilities, its obligations and how the new legislation will play a key role in the preservation and strengthening of a legitimate state wine industry.
To retain the privileges of Farm Winery, production must stay below 20,000 gallons, (8,400 cases) annually. Comparatively speaking, a single tank sitting at a Mondavi tank farm will hold 2-3 times this amount. Because we produce a limited amount, we are given privileges that allow AZ winemakers to compete in the wine industry on a more level playing field.
For example, an AZ winery has the unique privilege to self-distribute. This enables sales to be made directly to restaurants, liquor stores, wine bars, box stores, and each other.
Wineries are allowed to participate in wine festivals and sell directly to the public at events such as art festivals, county fairs and charity events.
AZ farm wineries can have a tasting room and retail location separate from the production facility. This is a key privilege because generally the grapes aren’t grown in highly populated or well trafficked areas.

Lovely ladies from Leisure World in Mesa

Tasting Room in Jerome

A winery may custom crush and ferment wines for another winery that may not have the ability at its start-up to process grapes and produce wine for itself.
Wine clubs are an essential component to a winery’s sustainability with in-state shipments occurring two to four times per year. Another unique privilege. However, shipping out of state requires the permission of 49 other state agencies which in itself is a logistical and licensing conundrum.
A winery may obtain a restaurant license which allows beer and spirits to be sold, yet its percentage of alcohol sales must stay within the allowable percentage of liquor to food sales percentages allowed by the state.
Most recently, wineries were granted the privilege to distill grape products, ie Grappa, brandy and grape spirit. This opens a new door for Arizona wineries to produce products such as vodka, herbed spirit, (gin, agave, rum-spiced spirit, whiskey style products, etc.)
Arizona wineries have a comfortable set of privileges that allow healthy competition, sustainable growth and that encourage future investment in the industry. With privilege comes great responsibility and accountability. In April, we will describe in detail some of the challenges and the cost of accountability.

Vino February 15



In the past couple of months, we’ve been writing articles giving insight to the realities of being an Arizona wine grower. Winemaking is a committed lifestyle and no one is complaining. As a matter of fact this month we’re going to celebrate the moments when the winemakers’ hard work, spirit and passion are immortalized. Competitions.

AZ wine awards

Cellar 433 Award Winning Wines

There are literally hundreds of competitions in the U.S., each with its own focus. There may be marketing goals at hand or altogether more altruistic reasons like promoting regional fruit or styles. There is a reason why certain regions grow certain grapes. It is that beautiful word, terroir. It is not only the soil. It is weather, climate, regional influence and how a winemaker can coax the varietal to most vividly express itself that is the base of a winemaker’s decision to enter a competition. Winemakers strategically choose competitions because they are seeking validity of their grape growing and winemaking from sources that they consider to be reputable and quite honestly, awards increase awareness. For example in the case of Dragoon Mountain Vineyard’s, (Arizona Angel Wines) win for an Arizona Riesling. Taking a silver medal in the birthplace of American Riesling was epic for
Arizona’a integrity as a growing region. Sand Reckoner’s 2013 San Francisco Chronicle win for the up and coming Malvasia Bianca raised the awareness of the buying public that Arizona can indeed create glorious, warm-weather, white wines. Every winemaker lives to make the best wine that they possibly can. Arizona winemakers are no exception.
In 2013 Cynthia Snapp, of Javelina Leap struck gold with her interpretation of an Arizona Grown Merlot in the Women’s International Competition in Sonoma; a telling victory for women winemakers who are pioneering new paths for Arizona’s wine industry as well.

Javelina Leap

Winemaker Cynthia Snapp

Most recently, Arizona made a grand showing in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition received over 6,000 entries from all over the world. Twenty-three wines from Arizona received distinguished honors. Many were produced from the 100% Arizona grown fruit sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyard located in Arizona’s soon to be second federally recognized AVA, (American Viticultural Area) Willcox, Arizona. Only one Best of Class medal was issued to the state. It was to a single varietal Verdelho by Fiddlebender Wines, a collection produced by grower/winemaker John McLoughlin. Notably, the single varietal Marselan took an esteemed gold, both were fruits grown at McLoughlin’s Dragoon Mountain Vineyard.
Earned national recognition is everything every small Arizona wine producer could hope for. It brings notoriety for the state’s industry and warranted validity for Arizona grown grapes. If recognition by the Chronicle was the crown, then there is one more mention that would be the center jewel. In January, the industry’s leading publication Wine Business Monthly honored McLoughlin’s Fiddlebender Wines as one of the Top 10 Hottest Brands in the United States. Their focus this year was on wineries and winemakers that were in their own right, pioneers blazing new trails for generations of wine makers to come.
This year’s honors achieved by our wine makers have shown the world that Arizona grows quality grapes and its makers do indeed make world class wine.

Vino January15

What makes you think that it will work here?

It is hard to fathom agricultural impact in Arizona as most of us are accustomed to living and working in the larger cities. Drive 15 minutes in any direction outside of any major metropolitan area and you will see a side of Arizona that many of us simply don’t think about. There is “snatch and grab” water regulation being proposed in Willcox will destroy the stability and continued growth of agriculture taking one of Arizona’s top five truly sustainable industries with it.
Over the last century an edacious monster has steadily grown and voraciously consumed California’s water resources. It has grown so large and consumed all that it can there and it has now set its sights on Arizona.


Willcox Geography

Willcox Geography

The monster is masquerading as the champion for water conservation in Willcox. Farmers and homeowners are being duped into believing that unconditional regulation of water resources will ensure its future availability. You may find this hard to believe, but legislation is being proposed that literally prohibits future vineyard development in the Willcox AVA. A glaringly obvious detail that is being glazed over is the proposal that newly purchased land may not be planted if it hasn’t been farmed in the last five years. It would become an illegal act to plant a vineyard of any size in Arizona’s largest grape-growing region. There is the tale being told of exemption, but legislation created decades ago makes this nearly impossible.
Typically in Arizona, agricultural land is purchased and farmed in sections, (three hundred or more acres.) Arizona Farm Winery vineyards are the exception. Historically they are an extension of a Vigneron’s home or family winery and typically span fifteen or twenty acres.
Under current state law, an Arizona Farm Winery may only produce a maximum of 8,000 cases of wine annually to retain self-distribution privileges. Therefore more than 25 acres of planted grapes is impractical. Traditionally, Arizona Vignerons will purchase smaller parcels of undeveloped land and this is where the problem lies. The monster’s proposed legislation will make it impossible to develop future vineyards and will bring an awakening industry to its knees.
We just need to look west of the San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Sacremento to see the devastating effects of this type of regulation. Hundreds of thousands of acres once flourishing with agriculture and commerce are now littered with dead trees, tumbleweeds and jobs are nowhere to be had. Ironic that one of the world’s largest aqueducts, the California Aqueduct carries water from northern California right through this once viable region to Los Angeles, so residents can wash their cars.
Willcox will suffer this same fate and an industry that impacts Arizona’s economy to the tune of over $43 million and thousands of related jobs.
In the argument of water conservation it needs to be noted that an average home and its single family’s use of associated amenities and services in a developed area, (grocery stores, car washes, restaurants, etc.) can consume about an acre foot of water annually. That is close to 326,000 gallons per household. Developers can squeeze up to five houses on a single acre of land. This amount of water usage exceeds even the most water demanding crops. Grapes average 24 inches of water per acre annually. Willcox has a rainfall that suits grape-growing lessening the crop’s demand to even less than one household.
Water conservation starts with the individual. This is another case of the government stepping in where it shouldn’t and the people that it is claiming to protect will end up being the victims.

Information about ADWR Water Management here:
Just a few moths ago, we had some of our residential neighbors with water problems. There were reports of dry wells and declining water levels. The ADWR has been conducting an online survey here, follow the links:



Bitter Creek Winery: Death

Bitter Creek Winery: Death

For our customers, friends and industry partners, there is a story about the 2013 state award winning

Montepulciano named “Death” that needs to be told. It is a story of the sad fate of a truly amazing wine that the world would never get to enjoy.

It was time for yet another bottling at Dragoon Mountain Vineyard. Barrels, some that had been aging for years, were being pulled down, pallets of bottles were being rolled back and forth, corks were being loaded and the fickle capsule machine was acting up as usual. The line was

pumping full speed with wine from the totes and on this

fateful night, the many seventeen hour days had simply taken their toll. John McLoughlin, and his two assistant winemakers were tasked with bottling thousands of

gallons of wine in a very short amount of time. It was also time to submit the wines for the state wine competition. It had been long ago decided that the Monte was showing so beautifully, that even though he didn’t believe he had a chance of placing, the Monte should be entered with a few others because they deserved a stage.  Death was a Tarot card that John felt personally connected to for is meaning.  Death is not the end, it really is a new beginning and when one door closes many more will open. From the beginning, John wanted this gorgeous Montepluciano from Arizona soil to be represented by this very special card and as of the day of

bottling the new labels had not arrived.

The barrels were pulled earlier in the day and John believed they each had been tasted, so they moved in line to be filtered. At about 12:30 am the assistant winemakers were tired and wanted to go home to sleep before the next inevitable sixteen hour shift. Filtering would take at least another six hours and he had to get the Montepluciano in the bottle and delivered to meet the contest submission deadline. Rather than make the assistants endure a more than twenty hour day, which he himself is accustomed to doing, he chose to bottle the Monte straight from the lowest barrel, hand label it with labels leftover from the previous bottling and get it on the road the next morning for its 4 hour journey from Willcox to Phoenix in time for the contest submission.

The next morning, the multiple barrels of Montepulciano were blended into a tank, filtered and then bottled. The

barrels had been tasted regularly over their cooperage, but wine is a living, breathing organism that can change in a very short period of time, and this is exactly what happened to one of barrels that was blended. The wine in one single barrel had diverged in flavor and characteristics from the others and this was not caught before being combined with the other barrels, filtered and bottled.

Months later, after the bottles had a chance to rest, the wine was tasted and it was apparent to John that the profile of the

Montepulciano bottled on the line was different.  Though still a great wine, it was not the same profile as the

Montepulciano sent to the competition. John did not want to label the wine that was different than original.

Dragoon Mountain Vineyard is a functioning vineyard of over 150 acres of vines in the ground. It relies on a well for its water supply and fate dealt a painful blow by taking our well’s pump at the end of harvest. It would cost over $60, 0000.00 to repair and we did not have the money.

As fate was cruel, she wasn’t heartless.  We were approached at that time by a buyer looking specifically for a stand out red wine to add to her private label line. John had no other wine ready and offered her the Montepulciano that he was resting. Because the wine was ready to go, but never regained its

original splendor he could offer it to her now. While it was

heartbreaking that the award winning Montepulciano would never carry the label of “Death”, it was still a good wine given a happy home under a private label that paid for the

continued viability of the vineyard that produced such

wonderful fruit in the first place.

This story is no secret around the winery and the reality stings when we think of it, but there have been some

irrational rumors we have become aware of that talk of foul play and deception. The reality is far less dramatic and

newsworthy as rumors, but while personally saddening at the time, “Death” truly lived up to her name by paying for the pump and opening a new door in the continued future of Dragoon Mountain Vineyards.

The Grower’s Cup award has since been relinquished to the AWGA, and we hope to possess that award again very soon.

We are happy to receive any questions or comments from our loyal patrons and you may contact us via e-mail through

May Vino


Dragoon Mountain Vineyard

Dragoon Mountain Vineyard in Willcox, AZ

By Marge Graziano

Spring has come; the grass has ris’; I wonder where the grapes is!  Really bad English, but a great time of the year to experience the fruit of the vine.  This is when a glass of wine outside on the patio is just downright enjoyable.  Wine festivals abound all around Arizona; getting on the Cellar 433 website will let you know where they are, both in Northern and Southern Arizona.

The vineyard is now budding and beginning to stretch its leaves and tendrils along the wires that will soon be laden with vines and heavy with fruit in anticipation of harvest.  Great time now to enjoy the fruits of last year harvest.  Chilled white wines compliment almost anything from the grill or salads, fruits and cheese and crackers or bread.  Seek out the unusual whites and white blends at the festivals you attend, or the wine stores.  Refreshing is the word!

Back to the basics, which are the vines.  Most vines will produce grapes at about three years, (remember that is three years in the ground – and about 1-3 years spent as clones on grafted root stock when planted), and continue to produce each year reaching a peak at about 15-20 years.  There are old vines over 100 years in age, but that is rare.  Good vineyard maintenance will extend the life of the vine and the quality of the grapes.  There is a special joy in making wine from old vines as the grapes add depth and complexity of flavor to blends that is not always found in young fruit.  Wines made from old vines are not always available and when found are very unique and special.  Serious wine makers seek out these old vines and appreciate the opportunity to play with the blends they can produce.  Years ago there were many vineyards in Arizona, mostly table grapes.  Arizona, at one time, was the second largest table grape producer in the US.  Today all those vineyards where my children and I picked grapes, and dried them on window screens into raisins, are gone.  Who would have thought 45 years ago, that one of my children who helped me harvest grapes, would be growing grapes in the largest vineyard in the State of Arizona, making wine, and helping reunite people and wine.

Dragoon Mountain Vineyard

John McLoughlin in Dragoon Mountain Vineyard

Today, in the US, we are just beginning to go back to our wine roots.  Europeans brought their traditions of wine with them to the US as immigrants.  Wine was meant to be enjoyed with food and friends around the table.  Prohibition literally killed the legal wine business in America.  Age limitations on alcohol consumption further hurt the industry and invited control and corruption.  The controls are still there, but the customs from Europe are returning.  People are re-discovering the marriage of food and wine and the way people come together around the dinner table.  The Arizona Wine Industry is the proof of the pudding, as my dad used to say, and is evident with the growth of vineyards and the abundance of wineries and tasting rooms around the state.  Arizona wines are holding their own against California, Washington and Oregon, known as some of the best growing areas in the Western US.   Look for more weekend wine experiences from our Arizona Vineyards.  Sonoita has been a great destination for many years in Southern Arizona with many wineries and tasting rooms and B & B’s and accommodations.  There are many experiences available along the Verde Valley Wine Trail which winds from the I-17 along the 260 up to Jerome.  Yavapai College now offers a 2 year degree program in wine and vineyard management, and has a vineyard as part of the curriculum.  UC Davis they are not, but what an auspicious start toward the future of the Arizona Wine Industry.

QUINFO:   Many wineries have tasting rooms that also offer small snacks to full dinners available.  There are wine trail maps available at most of the tasting rooms.

Questions or comments?  Call me at 480-518-3844.


February Vino

Arizona Angel Wines

Arizona Angel Aritage Red

Arizona Angel Wines

Arizona Angel Aritage Red


By Marge Graziano

Easy to pick up most anything today at the store, especially if we are familiar with what we are buying. A bottle of wine is no different than a box of cereal. Corn Flakes are corn flakes, right? Do you even wonder where the corn was grown or how it got into the box on the shelf? The name of the grape, or the trade name, or familiar name of the wine is what we see right off. However, behind the name of the grape is only the “cover of the book” The wine label is the introduction to what is beneath the cork. That mysterious liquid, that unless it is Champagne, will not explode and throw liquid all over you, walls and the floor like soda pop will, if you turn the bottle over, shake it a little and even up-end it! Wine is patient and understanding and can hardly wait to flow with slippery legs to the bottom of your waiting glass. As you swirl the glass to aerate the wine, especially reds, do you ever wonder: “Just what the heck is in this stuff, anyhow?” Along the journey the grape has made over centuries, the juice has spent time in clay containers, wooden barrels, glass bottles, boda bags (I am sure somewhere along the way someone on a camel carried his juice in a leather bag), plastic, stainless steel, maybe canvas bags, and even in the individual grape on the wine, which containing natural wild yeast, will ferment itself. The Label on the bottle is the map to the liquid inside. I will briefly take you down the label road. If you like the road I have mapped for you, pick up “WINE FOR DUMMIES”, 2nd Edition by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan. So, rev your engines, here we go!

EVERY bottle of wine must have a label. The label tells us where we start and finish, the legal rules, mile markers, the pit stops, the terrain, road conditions, speed limits, rest areas, vegetation, and the good and bad stuff along the way, such as legalities we must be aware of, to name only a bit of the info we get. When we encounter detours, it all gets very complicated, so we need the map and a compass.

The BACK LABEL is the name of the wine and is meant to attract attention with color, drawings, photos, logos, fancy names, etc., kinda like a book cover. The FRONT LABEL is the meat of the book. The government has yet to define front label from back label. Certain stuff must appear on the front label, however, will the real front label please step forward. Truly, the front label is the info on the wine, legalities and all, but the back label, with all the pretties, is what we see facing us on the shelf. Confused? Remember, the front label, now facing backward, is where the ability to read comes in. Mandatory is the following: a brand name, indication of class or type, (is it table wine, dessert or sparkling), percentage of alcohol by volume, (Table Wine can be less than 14%), name and address of the bottler, net contents in milliliters, (standard is 750 ml,-=25.6 ounces), the phrase CONTAINS SULFITES, and of course the blessing of the government warning us of not drinking while pregnant, or some such notice, that most people ignore. If that bottle comes from outside the US and is sold in the US, it must have the phrase “imported by”. Wines made in Canada, Europe, and other wine producing areas all have their own sets of Government rulings regarding labels. The EU wines fall into a European category called QWPSE (Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region), known as an Appellation of Origin, (and that my wine loving friends is fodder for another article another time). Wording on Labels is, at times, meaningless, ambiguous and confusing. The year, with vintage or not), is optional. Reserve, a favorite meaningless word appearing on many American labels, is a shell game conveying prestige that the wine inside the bottle is special! (It may not be). In some countries it means extra aging. Estate Bottled is a sweetheart word that says the company that bottled also grew the grapes and made the wine. It does not mean that the wine is exceptional, good, bad or a bargain or over-priced. The Vineyard name can define the Terroir of that vineyard as unique. If labels interest you, start collecting them! Lots and lots of people buy the bottle not for the wine, but for the label. Most every wine we make has its own label, unique to that wine. Label making and assigning that label to a particular wine is an art that requires creativity, originality, artistic ability, a good eye, a graffic designer, knowledge of what is inside the bottle, where the wine will be marketed and sold, and a lot of money and luck. Labels can be in-expensive, where you see the same label on every bottle and just a different wine name, or each bottle can own its own label, (that is where they get pricey). Labels can define if that wine is feminine or masculine. Most reds tend to be masculine, however, Sultry Cellars are all red wines and they are all feminine. Go figure!

As our short trip on the wine bottle labels comes to an end, in another article, I will invite you along as we conceive, design, and submit to the Government, wait for approval, (there are some words, pictures, and sayings, etc., that are not acceptable to the folks that approve or reject your label submission). These folks are the LABEL GODS that determine if you re-do or un-do or scrap that label and start over. We then shop pricing upon approval, and await arrival of printed labels that show up in huge rolls, alternating front and back labels. Ever wonder how the label gets on the bottle? I will take you on that circuitous day trip next month. Be sure you bring along your bottle opener, ‘cause corks and capsules are another interesting story.

QUINFO: The labels matter if you are not familiar with that wine. Once you find what you like, enjoy it every time you buy and drink wine. Want to have a wine life full of adventure and risk? Hit the Verde Valley Wine Trail in Northern Arizona; take an overnight trip to Sonoita in SW Arizona, or Willcox in SE Arizona. Grab danger by the throat and try wines at tasting rooms that you are afraid of or have never tried before. That is the fun of tasting rooms where the Soms are full of knowledge about their wines. And, buy AzLo (Arizona Local). Yes, Arizona does grow grapes and our Arizona Growers and Winemakers produce World Class Wines.

Questions, comments? Call me. 480-518-3844.

Let’s Get It Together



It all begins here.

Assistant Winemaker, Julie Jallais, (FR)


Good Grief, Charlie Brown…it is 2014!  Harvest is long gone, (a few months), soon pruning will begin and then as the weather warms, the small tendrils will reach out for the wires and before you know it, green will cover the T posts that hold the wires and row after row of vines will be stretching along the supports.  Since not a lot is happening in the vineyard, lots is happening in the winery.  All the juice from last year, and some from this year is in barrels and tanks, either aging or soon to jump into the bottles.  With so many kinds of grapes, we have a lot of different kinds of wines.  True varieties are so good for all their attributes and flavors and the fact you really, for the most part, know what you are getting.  The fun, and the mystery, enters when varieties are married.  To BLEND, is to mix, merge, combine, unite, mingle, intermingle, fuse, compound, meld together, incorporate, coalesce, amalgamate, harmonize, go well, complement, mergence, concoction, compound, and sometimes clash and divide.  Blending is somewhat like opening Pandora’s Box!  The best of intentions can sometimes go awry or truly be the beverage of the Gods.  The fun is not in the destination, but in the journey.  It is very much like taking a drive to a place unknown without a road map.



Just last night, I opened a bottle of Chardonnay and Semillon and I thought the Chard had gotten lost in its partner, as all I could taste was the  semillon, until the Chard gave me that slight hint of buttery oakiness in the finish.  Never would I have thought these two would dance well together, but they sure do.  A lovely desert wine with any kind of chocolate desert, or layer cake, and believe it or not, I had a pineapple Greek yogurt with my glass.  Read the labels as your peruse the shelves of wine after wine after wine.  Ask the specialist in the wine department about blends.  Trust your own judgment on blends of grapes that you normally drink.  A Zinfandel/Syrah blend is full bodied with the chocolate, cherry, fruity taste of the Zin that is carried along so well with the earthiness and spice  of the Syrah.  There is a certain sense of mystery in a blend as the percentages of different grapes can differ from one to another.  Even a 5-10 percent of one wine with higher percentages of other wines can affect the taste.  Live dangerously and get acquainted with grapes you have not yet met.  Seek out a blending party when you, and your friends, with direction from the wine-maker, will put together your special blended wine that will be yours alone.  If you are interested in a blending party, give Brighid a call at Bitter Creek Winery, 928-634-7033 and ask her when the next blending party will be in Jerome or in  Mesa or in Phoenix.   Be prepared that it will not happen during harvest time.



As more and more Arizona grown and Arizona made wines become available, choices will heighten for both the novice and the experienced wine-o-phile!  People around the country are still asking, “You grow grapes in Arizona?”  Yes, Virginia, we do grow grapes, and make world class wines, in Arizona.  Much of Arizona was under water at one time in the history of this State, and as the mountains rose from the movement of the earth, and then the wind and  rain washed down all the alluvial soil into the bowls that the mountains surrounded, vegetation grew.  Farmers came in and planted hay, alfalfa, corn and other crops, and as they grew well, more farmers came.  (I just took you on a journey of many millions of years to get you where we are today in Arizona).  Before too many years, farming changed, farmers grew older, sold the land to grape growers and the wine industry in Arizona took off.  For many years, Arizona was the second largest provider of table grapes in the United States.   The vintners soon found out that the soil was great in most parts of Arizona and excellent in some areas.  Under the ground in Willcox is a large glacial aquifer that provides water to the thirsty crops, including the vineyards.  Exceptional water and nutritious soil are only part of the great combination of, hot summer days, cool nights, wind, four seasons with a freeze, rain and snow,  and the grower completes the circle of life.



QINFO:  Let me go back to the blended desert wine I spoke of earlier.  It is called MADERIZED which is the brownish color and slightly sweet, somewhat caramelized and often nutty character that make it so special  with deserts.


Want to know more about wine?  There is a little pocket book, (I have a 1999 edition), that is available from Wine Spectator, called  “Wine Spectator’s POCKET GUIDE to WINE”.  Very basic, but a great guide to start with as you enter the fascinating and rewarding world of wine.



Questions or comments?  Call me 480-518-3844.