Bitter Creek Winery: Death
Bitter Creek Winery: Death

For our customers, friends and industry partners, there is a story about the 2013 state award winning

Montepulciano named “Death” that needs to be told. It is a story of the sad fate of a truly amazing wine that the world would never get to enjoy.

It was time for yet another bottling at Dragoon Mountain Vineyard. Barrels, some that had been aging for years, were being pulled down, pallets of bottles were being rolled back and forth, corks were being loaded and the fickle capsule machine was acting up as usual. The line was

pumping full speed with wine from the totes and on this

fateful night, the many seventeen hour days had simply taken their toll. John McLoughlin, and his two assistant winemakers were tasked with bottling thousands of

gallons of wine in a very short amount of time. It was also time to submit the wines for the state wine competition. It had been long ago decided that the Monte was showing so beautifully, that even though he didn’t believe he had a chance of placing, the Monte should be entered with a few others because they deserved a stage.  Death was a Tarot card that John felt personally connected to for is meaning.  Death is not the end, it really is a new beginning and when one door closes many more will open. From the beginning, John wanted this gorgeous Montepluciano from Arizona soil to be represented by this very special card and as of the day of

bottling the new labels had not arrived.

The barrels were pulled earlier in the day and John believed they each had been tasted, so they moved in line to be filtered. At about 12:30 am the assistant winemakers were tired and wanted to go home to sleep before the next inevitable sixteen hour shift. Filtering would take at least another six hours and he had to get the Montepluciano in the bottle and delivered to meet the contest submission deadline. Rather than make the assistants endure a more than twenty hour day, which he himself is accustomed to doing, he chose to bottle the Monte straight from the lowest barrel, hand label it with labels leftover from the previous bottling and get it on the road the next morning for its 4 hour journey from Willcox to Phoenix in time for the contest submission.

The next morning, the multiple barrels of Montepulciano were blended into a tank, filtered and then bottled. The

barrels had been tasted regularly over their cooperage, but wine is a living, breathing organism that can change in a very short period of time, and this is exactly what happened to one of barrels that was blended. The wine in one single barrel had diverged in flavor and characteristics from the others and this was not caught before being combined with the other barrels, filtered and bottled.

Months later, after the bottles had a chance to rest, the wine was tasted and it was apparent to John that the profile of the

Montepulciano bottled on the line was different.  Though still a great wine, it was not the same profile as the

Montepulciano sent to the competition. John did not want to label the wine that was different than original.

Dragoon Mountain Vineyard is a functioning vineyard of over 150 acres of vines in the ground. It relies on a well for its water supply and fate dealt a painful blow by taking our well’s pump at the end of harvest. It would cost over $60, 0000.00 to repair and we did not have the money.

As fate was cruel, she wasn’t heartless.  We were approached at that time by a buyer looking specifically for a stand out red wine to add to her private label line. John had no other wine ready and offered her the Montepulciano that he was resting. Because the wine was ready to go, but never regained its

original splendor he could offer it to her now. While it was

heartbreaking that the award winning Montepulciano would never carry the label of “Death”, it was still a good wine given a happy home under a private label that paid for the

continued viability of the vineyard that produced such

wonderful fruit in the first place.

This story is no secret around the winery and the reality stings when we think of it, but there have been some

irrational rumors we have become aware of that talk of foul play and deception. The reality is far less dramatic and

newsworthy as rumors, but while personally saddening at the time, “Death” truly lived up to her name by paying for the pump and opening a new door in the continued future of Dragoon Mountain Vineyards.

The Grower’s Cup award has since been relinquished to the AWGA, and we hope to possess that award again very soon.

We are happy to receive any questions or comments from our loyal patrons and you may contact us via e-mail through

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0 replies on “Monte”

you look so young!

are you over 21?