Tag Archives: az wine

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.

Upcoming Events

April 9, 2016


at Eastmark Great Park

Fiddlebender Wines at AwesomeFest

Join us in the wine garden with Fiddlebender Wines!

Enjoy Circus Master with Acts, Ferris Wheel, Giant Slide, Zip Line, Neon Face Paint, Interactive Trapeze, Aerials, Ground Aerobatics, Velocity Circus Roaming Acts, Food Truck Delights, Beer and Wine Gardens, and more! Fiddlebender Wines will be featured in the wine garden, hop in for delicious AZ Wine!

April 16 &17, 2016

Southeast AZ Winegrowers Festival

at Kief-Joshua Vineyards

370 Elgin Road Elgin, AZ

In celebration of the 32th anniversary of Arizona’s original and only American Viticulture Area (AVA), Kief-Joshua Vineyards will be hosting the Fifth Annual Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival, featuring 20 Arizona Wineries in one location, on April 16th and 16th, 2016, from 11 am to 5 pm. Tickets are on sale now at https://www.winegrowers.eventbrite.com

The day will be filled with new wine releases, fabulous winemakers, great wine, food vendors, a professional two-day chili cook-off and live music.


May 7 & 8, 2016, Mother’s Day Weekend

30th Annual Prescott Fine Art & Wine

30th Annual Prescott Fine Art & Wine Festival

Prescott Fine Art & Wine

The Festival is held on Mother’s Day Weekend every year, which makes it a wonderful destination event for Mother’s Day! Come experience a beautiful weekend under the shade of the big trees of Prescott’s Courthouse Square.

In addition to spectacular collectors’ artwork, the Festival presents an Arizona wine garden and marketplace featuring ten of Arizona’s finest Vineyards & Wineries. Each day guests can purchase their wine tasting tickets for $12 and receive their souvenir wine glass. Over the two day festival, Mountain Artists Guild is hosting a silent auction of two distinct lots of Arizona wines, each valued at over $500. All proceeds from the silent auction will benefit the Mountain Artists Guild. There is also a variety of delicious food, packaged cottage edibles and prepared gourmet delights from surrounding restaurants. Located along Montezuma Street and Prescott’s infamous Whiskey Row, haunt of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, the Festival site is within easy walking distance of restaurants, parking and both modern and historic hotels. This event attracts people from all over the country who enjoy fine art and wines.

Set your GPS to 120 S. Cortez Street-Prescott for the Festival and to 135 S. Granite Street-Prescott  for parking!

For questions please call Cellar 433 at 928.634.7033


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.


Winemaking in Arizona

If 15 years ago, you would have told me that wine was going to someday be a blooming industry in Arizona, I would have likely told you that you were delusional. But in the midst of adversity and challenge the vine has thrust forth from the soil and given us fruit that is rich and amazing. Couple that with the artisan winemaking skills of our winemaker and a star is born.

Winemaking in Arizona is discovering a new art in a very old art. That being the resourcefulness and determination of dessert cultivation mixing with the ability to mix and make wine creations that thrill the pallet and inspire a greater appreciation for the art of making wine. More soon…

In Accordance: 2nd Bottling

In Accordance, 2nd bottling

In Accordance, 2nd bottling

Wine Name: In Accordance, 2nd Bottling


Appellation: Arizona


Alcohol Content: 14.14%


Blend: 35% Tempranillo 35%Barbera 10% Zinfandel 10%Pinotage 10% Alicante Bouschet


Description: As is appropriate, Alicante Bouschet bestows ripe fruit and caramel aromas. Smooth,  balanced tannin and acidity let flavors of dark berries and bramble. Less conformity, more harmony.


Winemaker’s Notes: Alicante Bouschet is a teinturier, a grape whose flesh and juice are red. enhancing this wine’s color wasn’t the reason for the addition.On its own, there are no real stand out distinctions and is often coarse, but in this flavorful, savory red blend it brings complexity and depth.


Pairings: Meaty lasagna or tapas menu of grilled vegetables and cured meats and aged sheep’s milk cheeses.