Willcox used to be known for apples, now it is receiving notoriety for growing quality wine grapes and making fine wine. As such it is fitting that the empty Apple Warehouse you can see from the interstate is now being converted into a custom crush winery facility to process the local vinifera.
When Scott and Joan Dahmer moved to Arizona from Healdsburg, California, they thought they were leaving behind “wine country” and any dreams of having their own vineyard and winery. As luck would have it, they discovered their dreams were not in vain. While attending a Pillsbury Wine Company winemaker dinner at Quiessence Restaurant at the Farm at South Mountain, they picked up a copy of Arizona Vines & Wines Magazine and realized that there was an emerging wine industry right here in Arizona. They realized that they could join in with the “pioneers” of this growing industry. Jumping in, they acquired 40 acres of prime vineyard land south of Willcox in the western foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains near neighboring vineyards: Keeling-Schaefer, Rock Creek, Sandor and Lawrence-Dunham. Turkey Creek winds through their land providing a majestic setting for what they envision to be their home during their retirement years.
When it came to designing the vineyard and winery, they looked back to where they came from and hired fourth generation Napa Valley winemaker and consultant, Cary Gott. Cary flew out to visit the site and meet the other local winemakers and to taste their wine. He was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the local product and was excited to get involved. It reminded him of his early years in Amador County where there was a small but enthusiastic group of people like himself focused on growing quality grapes and making quality wines. After seeing the potential for the Cochise County location and knowing the quality of wines Scott and Joan wanted to make, Cary suggested that they not just build a winery for themselves but build a much larger custom crush winery facility that would offer the state of the art equipment to other winemakers from the area, as well. This would afford them an additional revenue stream for equipment that would a required investment anyway. It would also encourage other people to plant grapes in the area by lowering the bar on the capital expenses to get started.
This is not the first Arizona winery to offer custom crush services, but it is the first built specifically for this use. It is also conveniently located in Willcox where the majority of Arizona’s wine grapes are grown. Although a lot of the equipment needed for making wine is only used for a couple of weeks each year during harvest, equipment such as the bottling line can be used all year long by many different winemakers. In addition to the winemaking facility, they also acquired a house on Rail View Ave in Historical Downtown Willcox, just down from Carlson Creek Winery’s tasting room. They plan to offer the prime location as a meeting/office space and as a communal tasting room for custom crush clients to be able to offer their wines to the public. That is an incredible additional service to offer.
Aridus is proud to offer such cutting edge services and equipment such as:
- P & L sorting, destemming, mechanical-sort (Le Trieur) and crush system. Optional hand sort will be available.
- Diemme horizontal press
- All systems to accommodate 1/2 ton macro bins
- Barrel fermentations will be possible
- Stainless steel jacketed closed top fermenters in various sizes
- Open top fermenters and porta tanks, both jacketed
- TankNet fermenting tank temperature control system
- Cold and hot glycol systems
- Air pumps and Waukesha type pumps
- Bulldog racking tools
- Barrel cleaning systems with ozone
- Steam generator for barrel sanitation control
- Concrete tanks available in 2012 or 2013
- Micro-ox capability
- Plate and frame filter with crossover plate
- Bottling line with cork and screw cap capability
- Sparkling wine (Charmat) production, pressure tanks, and bottling equipment
- Multiple inert gases
- Fork lift (multiple at harvest)
Why is this a good thing for Willcox? “If you build it, they will come.” It is a huge deal for the Willcox wine industry to have a world class winemaking facility with all the state-of-the-art equipment right in the heart of the growing region. Anyone with a desire to get started in the wine industry can now do so without having to pony up all the startup capital. They can buy grapes and make wine or they can plant vines to grow their own grapes and take them to the conveniently located crush facility to make the wine. This positions Willcox to be the epicenter of Arizona wine country.
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Article by Josh Moffitt
Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Winter 2011 Issue.