For those of you who have enjoyed the “Trinity Wines” (Page Springs, Caduceus and Stronghold) over the years you might recall some hazy memories of how the whole thing developed. Like all relationships, things have changed over time, and what was once a group of winemaking efforts that were all housed at Page Springs are now three very distinct businesses and winemaking houses. Because these changes are important not only to our wineries but the Arizona wine industry, I thought I would take a moment to lay down a brief history.
Page Springs Cellars (PSC) was founded by my family and I in 2004. Page Springs crafted our first wines at a friend’s winery in 2003 and released these as soon as we opened our doors.
In 2004, we also helped Maynard Keenan get off the ground with his Caduceus brand, and a year later we helped him make the first Merkin Vineyards wine, the Chupacabra. Initially we brought in fruit from some excellent vineyards in both Napa and the Paso Robles area. Our relationships there helped him craft wines such as Sensei, Naga, Anubis, Chupacabra, Shinola and others. This fruit sourcing continued through 2008. By 2008, Page Springs was bursting at the seams (see the Arizona Stronghold story below) so the production of Merkin, and then a year later, Caduceus began a move over to Arizona Stronghold for production. In 2010, Maynard crushed a portion of his grapes at his own winery in Jerome and by 2011 he was handling all of his production there.
In 2007, our Page Springs family owners set up an LLC called Arizona Vineyards. Our group took on Maynard as a 50% partner and we purchased the historic Dos Cabezas Vineyard (previously R.W. Webb Vineyard) in Willcox, Arizona. We now owned an 80-acre parcel with 60 acres of vines. One of the initial intentions was to supply our family winery in Page Springs and our partner’s brand, Caduceus, with Arizona grapes. We had all planted grapes in the Verde Valley, but we wanted to secure a supply now (rather than waiting 4-5 years). It also became apparent during this process that we would now have too many grapes and this led us to consider starting another Arizona brand that would be more value oriented than Page Springs Cellars or Caduceus.
Right around the same time, we also realized that there was already a small business named “Arizona Vineyards” near Nogales that hadn’t showed up in the corporation name search. In a nutshell, our name was out (and there are still a few “Arizona Vineyard” shirts around today). Because I had spent time hiking and climbing in the area, I suggested we change our name to pay homage to and express reverence for the rich Native American history in the area. Cochise Stronghold, a stunning National Monument overlooking the valley, provided the inspiration. Arizona Stronghold Vineyards (ASV) was born, and Cochise and the Chiricahua Apache became our totem wines. It was also at this time when we started talking about ASV putting Arizona on the wine map nationally.
The first three wines, TAZI, MANGAS and NACHISE were produced and bottled at Page Springs. Tim White (now ASV’s winemaker) and I initially worked together at PSC to craft these first, definitive wines that ASV still makes today (and the 2007 vintages are still drinking great!). Keenan came up with the majority of the design elements that define the label today, with me adding stylistically in addition to writing the background text. Just a few short months after we purchased the property, we were bottling and labeling these seminal wines at Page Springs for Arizona Stronghold.
Arizona Stronghold became an instant success and put a lot of strain on Page Spring Cellar’s administration and facility. The purchase of the Land’s End furniture factory and showroom on Old Highway 279 in Camp Verde relieved some of this pressure. This two-acre plot with two industrial metal buildings and one small house (that used to be a miniature golf course back in the 90s) was quickly morphed into a production space, tank room, barrel ageing cellar, indoor crushing area and a case storage facility. The 2008 vintage was produced solely here under Tim White with my assistance. Although the wine production was now, more or less, independent, ASV’s ability to function as a business was still totally dependent on PSC with shared staff and administrative and permitting structures. This made a lot of sense from an efficiency perspective but eventually became too confusing as ASV grew.
In early 2012, we set out to wean ASV off the PSC teat. This was (and is) no easy task. For five years, many quid quo pro agreements were made, equipment was purchased by one company that ended up being used more by the other, all kinds of things were shared (and we got used to sharing), employees times and salaries were allocated between the two companies, etc.. In retrospect, I think our business managers did a phenomenal job of keeping things straight – but it was apparent that it was time for Arizona Stronghold to run along its own course and Page Springs could slow down and enjoy the efforts of eight vintages of brand building and winemaking.
As I write, 80% of the “splitting” is done. Much to my overworked relief, I stepped down as the General Manager in January and Rod Young (my stepfather) took the helm and Tim White became the Director of Winemaking. There are some lingering challenges that we could not have foretold when this whole thing began, but I am confident by the middle of the year Arizona Stronghold Vineyards will by walking on its own without the help of Page Springs Cellars.
So, in a nutshell – Page Springs is my Family Winery, Caduceus is Maynard’s and Stronghold was originally a 50-50 partnership between Page Springs and Maynard. Today I am a founding shareholder, but am no longer involved in Arizona Stronghold otherwise, and I no longer direct any of the winemaking at Caduceus or Merkin. Although PSC has helped many brands get off the ground, today we only crush, vinify and bottle our own wines here at the Page Springs winery. I am immensely proud of all these projects and will continue to watch with wonder as each evolves and takes their place in Arizona Wine History.
Article by Eric Glomski
Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Summer 2012 Issue