In the past couple of months, we’ve been writing articles giving insight to the realities of being an Arizona wine grower. Winemaking is a committed lifestyle and no one is complaining. As a matter of fact this month we’re going to celebrate the moments when the winemakers’ hard work, spirit and passion are immortalized. Competitions.
There are literally hundreds of competitions in the U.S., each with its own focus. There may be marketing goals at hand or altogether more altruistic reasons like promoting regional fruit or styles. There is a reason why certain regions grow certain grapes. It is that beautiful word, terroir. It is not only the soil. It is weather, climate, regional influence and how a winemaker can coax the varietal to most vividly express itself that is the base of a winemaker’s decision to enter a competition. Winemakers strategically choose competitions because they are seeking validity of their grape growing and winemaking from sources that they consider to be reputable and quite honestly, awards increase awareness. For example in the case of Dragoon Mountain Vineyard’s, (Arizona Angel Wines) win for an Arizona Riesling. Taking a silver medal in the birthplace of American Riesling was epic for
Arizona’a integrity as a growing region. Sand Reckoner’s 2013 San Francisco Chronicle win for the up and coming Malvasia Bianca raised the awareness of the buying public that Arizona can indeed create glorious, warm-weather, white wines. Every winemaker lives to make the best wine that they possibly can. Arizona winemakers are no exception.
In 2013 Cynthia Snapp, of Javelina Leap struck gold with her interpretation of an Arizona Grown Merlot in the Women’s International Competition in Sonoma; a telling victory for women winemakers who are pioneering new paths for Arizona’s wine industry as well.
Most recently, Arizona made a grand showing in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition received over 6,000 entries from all over the world. Twenty-three wines from Arizona received distinguished honors. Many were produced from the 100% Arizona grown fruit sourced from Dragoon Mountain Vineyard located in Arizona’s soon to be second federally recognized AVA, (American Viticultural Area) Willcox, Arizona. Only one Best of Class medal was issued to the state. It was to a single varietal Verdelho by Fiddlebender Wines, a collection produced by grower/winemaker John McLoughlin. Notably, the single varietal Marselan took an esteemed gold, both were fruits grown at McLoughlin’s Dragoon Mountain Vineyard.
Earned national recognition is everything every small Arizona wine producer could hope for. It brings notoriety for the state’s industry and warranted validity for Arizona grown grapes. If recognition by the Chronicle was the crown, then there is one more mention that would be the center jewel. In January, the industry’s leading publication Wine Business Monthly honored McLoughlin’s Fiddlebender Wines as one of the Top 10 Hottest Brands in the United States. Their focus this year was on wineries and winemakers that were in their own right, pioneers blazing new trails for generations of wine makers to come.
This year’s honors achieved by our wine makers have shown the world that Arizona grows quality grapes and its makers do indeed make world class wine.