By Marge Graziano
Spring has come; the grass has ris’; I wonder where the grapes is! Really bad English, but a great time of the year to experience the fruit of the vine. This is when a glass of wine outside on the patio is just downright enjoyable. Wine festivals abound all around Arizona; getting on the Cellar 433 website will let you know where they are, both in Northern and Southern Arizona.
The vineyard is now budding and beginning to stretch its leaves and tendrils along the wires that will soon be laden with vines and heavy with fruit in anticipation of harvest. Great time now to enjoy the fruits of last year harvest. Chilled white wines compliment almost anything from the grill or salads, fruits and cheese and crackers or bread. Seek out the unusual whites and white blends at the festivals you attend, or the wine stores. Refreshing is the word!
Back to the basics, which are the vines. Most vines will produce grapes at about three years, (remember that is three years in the ground – and about 1-3 years spent as clones on grafted root stock when planted), and continue to produce each year reaching a peak at about 15-20 years. There are old vines over 100 years in age, but that is rare. Good vineyard maintenance will extend the life of the vine and the quality of the grapes. There is a special joy in making wine from old vines as the grapes add depth and complexity of flavor to blends that is not always found in young fruit. Wines made from old vines are not always available and when found are very unique and special. Serious wine makers seek out these old vines and appreciate the opportunity to play with the blends they can produce. Years ago there were many vineyards in Arizona, mostly table grapes. Arizona, at one time, was the second largest table grape producer in the US. Today all those vineyards where my children and I picked grapes, and dried them on window screens into raisins, are gone. Who would have thought 45 years ago, that one of my children who helped me harvest grapes, would be growing grapes in the largest vineyard in the State of Arizona, making wine, and helping reunite people and wine.
Today, in the US, we are just beginning to go back to our wine roots. Europeans brought their traditions of wine with them to the US as immigrants. Wine was meant to be enjoyed with food and friends around the table. Prohibition literally killed the legal wine business in America. Age limitations on alcohol consumption further hurt the industry and invited control and corruption. The controls are still there, but the customs from Europe are returning. People are re-discovering the marriage of food and wine and the way people come together around the dinner table. The Arizona Wine Industry is the proof of the pudding, as my dad used to say, and is evident with the growth of vineyards and the abundance of wineries and tasting rooms around the state. Arizona wines are holding their own against California, Washington and Oregon, known as some of the best growing areas in the Western US. Look for more weekend wine experiences from our Arizona Vineyards. Sonoita has been a great destination for many years in Southern Arizona with many wineries and tasting rooms and B & B’s and accommodations. There are many experiences available along the Verde Valley Wine Trail which winds from the I-17 along the 260 up to Jerome. Yavapai College now offers a 2 year degree program in wine and vineyard management, and has a vineyard as part of the curriculum. UC Davis they are not, but what an auspicious start toward the future of the Arizona Wine Industry.
QUINFO: Many wineries have tasting rooms that also offer small snacks to full dinners available. There are wine trail maps available at most of the tasting rooms.
Questions or comments? Call me at 480-518-3844.