In this issue, we are introducing a new column-Callaghan’s Round Table. Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards contributed an article to us that included a round-table discussion between some of his favorite Arizona winemakers. It was so long that we’ve decided to break it up over the course of the next few issues.
Question #1: “What is your background? How did you get involved in the Arizona wine industry?”
Ann Roncone/Lightning Ridge Cellars
My background is Mechanical Engineering. I was a garage winemaker for a handful of years and the hobby I loved finally took over as what I wanted to do full time. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area was terrific for high tech jobs, but not for wanting to develop a vineyard. Land prices were far too high to make it feasible. My husband had done his grad work at University of Arizona, so he knew Tucson. From there, we learned of the Sonoita/Elgin wine country and that it was Arizona’s only AVA, so [we] decided to check it out. We made a trip to Arizona’s wine country and enjoyed local estate wines enough to decide to purchase land. Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards was tremendously helpful in helping us with vineyard development. Now, having an Arizona vineyard for 8 +years, I couldn’t be happier with our location and vineyard.
Rod Keeling/Keeling Schaefer Vineyards
There was no epiphany per se. There was an afternoon in 1994 when the chairman of [Downtown Tempe Community, Inc] that I worked for took me to the one of the first wine bars in the area: P.F. Chang’s. They were one of the pioneers of premium wine by the glass before there was this proliferation of wine bars.
We went in, and although I’d had a lot of wine before that, I soon realized that I had never really had any good wine. He bought me a glass of Grgich Hills Zinfandel, and it was about 8 or 9 bucks a glass, which of course I would have never bought for myself at the time. And I was shocked at how good it was. Of course, it may not have been the best wine in the world, but it was far superior to anything I had ever had before. We talked about it a little bit and he told me the story of how he had restaurants over in California – this is Roger Egan – who is now our partner in the Rock Creek Vineyard (just south of Keeling Schaefer Vineyards). We had this wine and I thought, “Maybe I could make this stuff,” so I started with kits.
I bought some kits, the type you can buy at the hobby store, and, of course, the wine was horrible. And we graduated from there. The next year I decided I needed fresh fruit, so we hooked up with some of the farmers in Willcox, Al Buhl specifically. I went down and bought maybe 100 pounds of fruit and we made a Sauvignon Blanc and that was my first real step around 1999.
James Callahan/Aridus Wine Company
I started off serving in restaurants and acquiring a taste for Italian varietals at first. All of the regions, varietals, history and winemaking styles vary so much in Italy, that it opened up a whole new world to me. After serving for a few years, I pursued my Level 1 Sommelier certificate while working my first harvest in 2007 with Purvine Winery in Tempe, AZ. I knew I wanted to make wine from that moment on. During the 2007 harvest I began putting the nuts and bolts together of how I [could] start my own winery in [Arizona]. It has been the impetus for my passion and I have been working towards coming “back home” to make wine since I cleaned my first tank.
Tim White/Arizona Stronghold Vineyards
I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and eventually moved to Virginia to pursue winemaking. After working as a “cellar rat” for four years and [some] extensive self-education in Virginia, I decided to look for a cellar position somewhere “out west.” I was looking more specifically for a position in Oregon when I came across an Assistant Winemaker position available at Page Springs Cellars. After flying out to interview for the position, it was offered and I accepted. In 2007, I was the Assistant Winemaker at PSC for 8 months, during which time I helped make, and solely blended, the inaugural vintage of Arizona Stronghold Vineyards wines. The following year we retrofitted a furniture manufacturing warehouse in Camp Verde to be the new ASV winery and I’ve been the winemaker here since.
Maynard Keenan/Caduceus Cellars
I have no formal enology training, only on-the-job training. I’ve been told I have some solid instincts, which have served me well over the years, so I rely on them heavily in the cellar. That… and I ask a lot of questions. Between working crush in the Verde Valley for nine years, and a couple of times at Magill Estate in Adelaide, I picked up the basics. The trick is to recognize bad habits early on so they don’t become a characteristic of your winemaking. In addition, as a musician touring the world, I’ve been exposed to some of the best wines made. Having that sense memory ingrained on my palate has helped with the direction my wines have taken.
Todd Bostock/Dos Cabezas WineWorks
I dropped in and out of college, touring the universities of Arizona… changing majors with the seasons. I started out as a studio art major, moved on to math, engineering, business, even considered astronomy. The last time I dropped out of ASU I started a printing company in Phoenix with my sister and another partner. That lasted from 1998 until 2006. During that time, I enrolled in UC Davis’ Viticulture and Enology extension certificate program. I started making some wine at home (from Oregon grapes), decided I’d probably move to California to learn more and to make wine. I tried some wines from Arizona and was excited that they tasted distinctive and of the place they came from. I started volunteering at Dos Cabezas WineWorks in 2002. Volunteering quickly turned into apprenticeship, which quickly turned into a job as Assistant Winemaker which finally led to a job as Winemaker (all within one year). I quit the UC Davis program towards the end of the second course and decided to stay in Arizona and grow grapes and make wine in the state where I was born.
Rob Hammelman/Sand-Reckoner Vineyards
I got interested in winemaking while studying microbiology at Colorado State University. Afterwards, I taught Humanities and Sciences in Phoenix for a few years. That’s where I tried my first Arizona wines from Callaghan Vineyards and Dos Cabezas WineWorks. Intrigued, I took a summer off from teaching and headed to Sonoita and worked my first vineyard job. I had my eye on starting a winery in Arizona ever since. To get more exposure to wine, I studied Oenology at the University of Adelaide in Australia and later traveled to France to work at Chateau de Saint Cosme in Gigondas before returning to Arizona.
Question #2: “What grape varieties are you excited about in Arizona?”
I’m excited about the Italian and Spanish potential here. We’ve shown we can do well with the Southern Rhone grapes. But I suspect we have quite a bit of potential to make a mark with Nebbiolo (VERY site-specific, not just anywhere), Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Aglianico.
Nine of our twenty-one acres of vineyards are planted in four clones of Syrah. While Syrah has proven to be a difficult vine to grow, due mainly to the grafting flaw that causes “Early Syrah Decline” and a high mortality rate, the fruit quality over the years has been consistent and produces our best wines. I would recommend planting Syrah on its own roots in Arizona. The 100% Syrahs we make have been our best sellers and eight have been rated by Wine Spectator: 2-86; 3-87; 1-88; 2-89. We also grow Grenache, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, which are all good. For whites, we grow Viognier and Picpoul Blanc. Our 2009 Viognier got an 89 by WS and I think it is the best white for Arizona. With our fans and other active frost protection, we are starting to improve our yields on the early budders, like Viognier and Syrah, making them a much better bet.
I only have made wines from Cochise County so I will leave the other regions up for grabs. In the Sulphur Springs Valley/Turkey Creek area, I have been in love with the Syrah, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo. Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga National, Tannat, Petite Verdot, Montelpuciano, Petite Manseng, Roussane, and Malvasia Bianca should make great wines as well. I have been most impressed by the tannic thick-skinned varietals. They can stand up to the intense sun exposure during the harvest season.
Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Grenache, Sangiovese, Malbec, Chardonnay, Syrah, Mourvedre and possibly varietals like Albarino, Nebbiolo and Nerello Mascalese.
In Willcox, Tempranillo, Picpoul Blanc and Graciano are exciting. In Sonoita, Mourvedre and Graciano.
Malvasia Bianca has a promising future in Arizona. It makes such a distinctive wine that other regions can’t easily duplicate. It’s an exotic and refreshing white, ripens at moderate alcohol levels, and pairs well with Arizona’s warm climate. Syrah from the Willcox Bench makes bold, rich wines that are approachable early on. It’s great in blends, too, adding depth, color and smoky dark fruit. Sangiovese, in particular the Brunello clone, makes a great base for a round and muscular styled savory blend. Sagrantino is being planted at our site this spring. I think it could be a great match to our soils and climate. Montepulciano and Aglianico are late ripeners that I am also excited about in Arizona.
We grow mostly Italian varietals and happily have found they do well in our area. Our signature varietals are Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Primitivo, with Nebbiolo and Aglianico coming on board with a first crop in 2013. Definitely excited about those.
MEET THE ROUND TABLE
Moderator: Kent Callaghan – Callaghan Vineyards
Kent Callaghan is one of Arizona’s most respected and admired winemakers. Kent planted his first vines in 1989, making him one of Arizona’s go-to grape growers, having had the most experience with the most types of grapes. Kent is also known as having a very experienced palate as evidenced by the extensive Wine Notes from Arizona blog he posts to regularly. We are delighted to have him as a new regular contributor to Arizona Vines & Wines.
- Vineyard, Winery and Tasting Room in Elgin
Ann Roncone – Lightning Ridge Cellars
Ann is the vineyard manager and winemaker for Elgin’s Lightning Ridge Cellars. Ann comes from an Italian heritage and proudly grows and produces Italian varietals. Lightning Ridge Cellars has two vineyard sites, one on Elgin Road and one on Highway 83, where her beautiful Tuscan-style tasting room resides. You’ll often find her husband Ron running the tasting room on the weekends, with their lovable Director of Hospitality Bruna; and you’ll likely find Ann in the winery or out tending to the vines.
Since the original publication of this bio, the second vineyard on Elgin Road has been removed.
- Vineyards, Winery and Tasting Room in Elgin
James Callahan – Aridus Wine Company
James Callahan is the winemaker for Arizona’s first custom crush facility, Aridus Wine Company. James, an Arizona native, has traveled the globe to hone his skills as a winemaker, making him experienced beyond most winemakers at his young age. He’s followed harvests to both hemispheres allowing him to learn twice a year, instead of the usual single annual harvest.
Since the original publication of this bio, James has left Aridus and moved to Sonoita to start his own winery, Rune Wines.
- Custom Crush Facility in Willcox
Maynard Keenan – Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, Four-Eight WineWorks
With vineyards scattered around the Verde Valley, Maynard is learning how much micro-climates can affect grape growing even within the same region. He’s making award-winning wine out his winery in Jerome, selling out of his tasting room (also in Jerome) and online. He’s actively involved in the new Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai College in Clarkdale, hoping to help new winemakers avoid some of the mistakes he’s made and those of his generation.
- Vineyards in Cornville and Jerome
- Winery and Tasting Room in Jerome
Rob Hammelman – Sand-Reckoner
Rob caught the winemaking bug early and has traveled the world to find his winemaking style. In 2000, he worked with Kent Callaghan and his passion was ignited and he knew he wanted to grow grapes and make wine in Arizona. His path back to Arizona took him all over the world, earning his Oenology diploma in Australia, then to Colorado at Two Rivers Winery and then to France at Chateau de St. Cosme in Gigondas. He has since returned to Arizona, purchased the Sweet Sunrise vineyard on the Willcox Bench with his wife, Sarah, and is making award-winning wines from his estate, renamed Sand-Reckoner.
Since the original publication of this bio, Rob has taken over as head winemaker at Aridus, in addition to continue to operate Sand-Reckoner. Their wines will be available at Aridus when the tasting room opens later this year. And Rob and his wife have welcomed a new son, Levi, to the family.
- Vineyard and Winery in Willcox
- His wines can be tasted at Zarpara Vineyard’s Tasting Room in Willcox.
Rod Keeling – Keeling Schaefer Vineyards
Rod and his wife Jan Schaefer produce estate-grown and bottled Rhone-style wine from 21 acres of vines along Rock Creek on the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains. Rod and Jan traveled to France, fell in love with the wines of the Rhone and knew that making wine would be their destiny. Retiring from corporate jobs in Tempe, they moved down to the vineyard and built their chateau in the vines. Their wines have garnered high ratings from Arizona Highways, Arizona Republic, Wall Street Journal and Wine Spectator.
- Vineyards, Winery and Tasting Room in Willcox
Tim White – Arizona Stronghold Vineyards
Tim is very quiet and understated, yet very important to the Arizona wine industry. Arizona Stronghold Vineyards is Arizona’s largest producer and distributed nationally and internationally. In 2003, Tim fell in love with wine after visiting family in Virginia. He studied hard and dove right in by participating in every aspect of making wine, from grape to glass. That passion eventually led Tim to Arizona where he worked with Eric Glomski and then eventually took over as head winemaker for ASV. His wines have won wine awards across the nation.
Since the original publication of this bio, Tim has left Arizona Stronghold and is concentrating on his own label, Iniquus Cellars.
- Vineyards in Willcox
- Winery in Camp Verde
- Tasting Room in Old Town Cottonwood
Todd Bostock – Dos Cabezas WineWorks
Todd started making wine in 2002, when Dos Cabezas was located in Willcox. The vines were sold (to Arizona Stronghold) and the label and winemaking moved to Sonoita. Todd has been making award-winning wines and garnering much media attention. Todd sources fruit Dick Erath’s Cimarron Vineyard in Willcox, as well as his Pronghorn Vineyard in Elgin. A true family business, you’ll find wife Kelly and sons Griffith and Parker at the tasting room, in the winery and in the vines; Todd is handing down a passion for agriculture, creating heritage from the land and producing really delicious wine.
- Vineyards in Willcox and Elgin
- Winery and Tasting Room in Sonoita
Article by Kent Callaghan
Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Spring 2013 Issue