In this issue our featured winemaker is Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks. Dos Cabezas is located in Sonoita, Arizona, about an hour’s drive from Tucson. Todd’s tasting room is located near the junction of Hwy 82 and Hwy 83, situated as the first stop of the Sonoita Wine Tour, one of seven tasting rooms in the Sonoita AVA. Don’t look for his vineyard here; this is solely the winery and tasting room. His Pronghorn Vineyard is located in Elgin, near the other wineries. He also owns 40 acres in Willcox, AZ where he intends to plant vines in the future.
Upon meeting Todd you get the feeling that he is an understated man, quiet and hidden under his baseball cap. But upon asking him questions about his wines and his wine-making style, you can see him light up and his passion shine through. Todd is a serious winemaker who has been producing award-winning wines in his relatively short career. You can tell he has a gift, an almost innate sense of what comprises quality wine. As he describes it, winemaking is truly a blend of art and science with neither side taking priority over the other. The other theme throughout our meeting with Todd is that his focus is on quality wines over quantity.
Todd was generous with his time although it is very clear that he is a busy man who is at the forefront of this family business. Rather than just answering our questions, Todd gave us a lesson in aging wines by allowing us to taste many wines right from the barrel. We started with a taste (from the bottle) of his 2003 El Norte. The grapes from this wine were sourced from the historical Dos Cabezas Vineyard in Willcox, Arizona – a vineyard that was purchased by Eric Glomski and James Maynard Keenan for their Arizona Stronghold label (see inset for the history of Dos Cabezas Vineyard). This is where Todd’s winemaking career started so it was fitting that we were drinking a piece of his history.
Todd is an Arizona native, growing up in Phoenix and graduating from Sunnyslope High School. He moved onto college without a clear direction. He stayed in Arizona, attending both ASU and U of A, dabbling in art, math and engineering but nothing quite took hold to push him in a singular direction. He loved art and enjoyed the sciences so he looked for something that could combine his two interests. Not finding anything that fit the bill, he decided to leave school and began working in a print and graphic business which is where he would stay for the next five years.
He enjoyed drinking wine and decided to learn a bit more about it. Signing up for the UC Davis Extension program allowed him to learn winemaking without having to move to California to attend the classes at the university. When venturing into winemaking for the first time he knew that kit wine making just wouldn’t be satisfying, so instead Todd procured some grapes from Oregon, from a vineyard right across from Dick Erath. He made a Pinot Noir that he admits didn’t turn out very well. But, by now he’d caught the wine bug and there was no turning back!
Now the question was . . . would he have to move to California to make his wine? Then the epiphany happened when he tasted Dos
Cabezas wine in the fall of 2002; he learned that great wine could be made from Arizona grapes. This began his quest to produce high quality wines from his home state of Arizona.
He offered Al Buhl, the owner of the Dos Cabezas vineyard, his services for free, as an apprentice for six months. He would work as an assistant winemaker with Frank DiChristifano to learn the process; essentially he was trading his effort in return for knowledge and experience. Todd was an expert student now that he had found his passion. At the end of the apprenticeship period, he became the head winemaker when Frank decided it was time to retire. During this time he also dropped his formal education at UC Davis when he realized he was learning more by being on the job than taking the classes. When I asked him how he trained his palate and learned the nuances of the flavors of the grapes, he answered that it’s all through experience. You must drink wine, many different wines, varying vintages and makers, and really pay attention.
Todd worked for Al Buhl (and the other owners who participated along the way) at Dos Cabezas by acquiring sweat equity. Todd knew
he was not going to be content in the long haul just being the winemaker. Todd’s goal was to own his own label and vineyard and fully participate in the process, so in return for reducing his pay, Todd worked for equity in the business. With his parents help, the Pronghorn Vineyard site in Sonoita was planted with grapes in 2003, rounding out Todd’s plan to produce his own wines from his own grapes. To make ends meet in the meantime he continued his job at the print and graphic company, commuting between the Phoenix Valley and southern Arizona as his jobs required. Finally in early 2006 he was able to quit his “day” job and focus entirely on winemaking.
The culmination of Todd’s hard work and the desire to create a family wine business happened in the fall of 2006 when Todd and his wife Kelly, along with his parents, were able to purchase Dos Cabezas WineWorks and moved the winery to their new location in Sonoita, near their vineyard in Elgin. To help with the transition, Todd kept a contract for grapes from the original Dos Cabezas vineyard in Willcox, until his vineyard was producing enough grapes to keep up with sales.
This is truly a family affair! Todd’s son Parker helps in the vineyard as well as the winery! I was able to see an amazing video of Parker when he was around two years old. He was handling the empty bottles and placing them on the bottling machine! I’m sure that Todd will find a spot in the Bostock hierarchy for his newest arrival – a son born in July. His parents come down from Phoenix to help plant and bottle, as well as help to sell the wines. Todd is very proud that his entire family is part of the business and emphasizes that having fun is imperative to the process!
Todd’s winemaking philosophy is clear . . . quality is priority number one. Displaying his integrity, Todd explained that he understands the great responsibility he has to give his customers a wine worth the hard earned money they pay. It’s important that the quality of the wine is comparable to the cost. The wine should provide enjoyment and should be a fun experience. He is dedicated to “make the best wine” and to “be honest”. Although he’s committed to quality, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be boring and produce the same wines over and over. He enjoys blending and feels that the combination of different grapes can produce a synergistic effect, expanding the quality of the contributing grapes and creating an extraordinary wine. When deciding on a blend he has no secret recipe, instead he just experiments with what tastes best together and enjoys the process.
Dos Cabezas wines have received many accolades throughout the years. The wines have garnered high scores from Wine Spectator Magazine and by Robert Parker’s “The Wine Advocate”. Dos Cabezas wines have been poured at the White House on more than one occasion.
As for the future of wine in Arizona, Todd is excited to see the industry expand and to see the quality grow. He stresses that the local winemakers should focus on grapes that grow well in Arizona – on wines that are an exciting expression of the area. “With careful farming and attention in the vineyard and winery, wines from Arizona can stand up to great wines around the world,” Todd states. And he is confident that Arizona can stand on its own if it promises to deliver with honesty and integrity.
If you get down to Sonoita, you definitely don’t want to miss out on Dos Cabezas wines. Stop by and you’re sure to find a wine you’ll love. I can attest to that . . . we have a case of the 2005 La Montana that we purchased to serve at special occasions. When you drink Todd’s wines you can be assured that you’re drinking a glass of wine that has been created through integrity, honesty and a commitment to quality. You won’t be disappointed.
A History of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
1983 – Robert Webb plants 20 acres in Kansas Settlement, near Willcox, AZ for his RW Webb Winery
1995 – Al Buhl, founder of Dos Cabezas Winery, purchases the Robert Webb parcel and plants an additional 20 acres
2001 – Al Buhl and Sam Pillsbury partner on an additional 20 acres
2002 – Todd Bostock begins making wine with Dos Cabezas Winery
2006 – Todd purchases the Dos Cabezas WineWorks label; Eric Glomski and Maynard James Keenan purchase the vineyard, renaming it Arizona Stronghold.
Article by Rhonni Moffitt.
Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Fall 2008 Issue.