Dick Erath, founder of Erath Vineyards in Oregon, has acquired 200 acres of land near Willcox, giving the Arizona wine industry some added attention. Although Erath remains actively involved with his Oregon Winery, he has sold it to Chateau Ste. Michelle and has purchased this land as a retirement project.
Erath, who has been winemaking as far back as 1963, was looking to escape the bitter cold Oregon winters and has been returning to the Tucson area every year since 1995. He started acquiring land in 2004 and 2005, planting the first 20 acres of vines in 2006, and followed with an additional 20 acres planted in 2007. A pioneer at heart, he became interested in growing wine in Arizona because he said it reminded him of Oregon 30 years ago. He chose Willcox after careful consideration, observation and testing of the soils, believing that the combination of climate and soil gave the area a slight advantage over Sonoita.
Erath plans to produce red table wines from his Arizona vineyard. He is currently growing Tempranillo, Grenache, Primotivo and Mourvedre grapes, utilizing plant materials from California. Erath is optimistic about the future of the Southern Arizona wines, saying that “I think the tourism will evolve as the wines evolve. I’ve seen it happen in Oregon and I don’t know why it can’t happen here in Arizona”. He’s definitely creating a buzz with articles about his new venture being published nationally, from the New York Times to Wine Spectator Magazine. He could be just the spark to give Arizona national recognition. Encouraging others in the industry to get involved, he states “There’s other land in the area. It’s a very exciting time down there.” Openly welcomed by other winegrowers in the state, Kent Callaghan, of Callaghan Vineyards in Sonoita, states “This is a huge opportunity . . . And something like [Erath’s arrival] could make a lot more people notice us.”
Article By Josh Moffitt.
Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Summer 2008 Issue